Har­ri­etville digs Chi­nese his­tory

Alpine Observer - - Front Page - By JUSTIN JENVEY

EX­CA­VA­TION of a 19th cen­tury Chi­nese gold- min­ing vil­lage will start in Har­ri­etville on Mon­day.

The three-week ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dig along a 50 square-me­tre sec­tion of the east branch of the Ovens River will be the first to oc­cur on a Chi­nese min­ing set­tle­ment in Vic­to­ria.

Head ar­chae­ol­o­gist Gor­don Grimwade said those in­volved were ex­cited to be­gin the dig es­pe­cially af­ter find­ing a smaller, pre­vi­ously undis­turbed site nearby.

“Five months ago when we did a con­trolled burn through the area we ac­tu­ally found a cou­ple more in­tact sites,” he said.

“We will fo­cus a team on the undis­turbed site and another on a com­mu­nal kitchen area with five hearths and a wa­ter race that we be­lieve is stone-lined at the bot­tom.

“Hav­ing found the smaller undis­turbed site it will be a good con­trol sit­u­a­tion be­cause if it’s un­touched we should be able to work things out more read­ily and any pat­terns we find - in the­ory we should be able to be ex­trap­o­late those at the main site.”

The Un­cov­ered Past In­sti­tute formed in 2016 to in­crease pub­lic in­ter­est in Aus­tralia’s rich and di­verse past through ar­chae­o­log­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal re­search.

Five ar­chae­ol­o­gists and his­to­ri­ans will lead the Har­ri­etville dig, in­clud­ing lo­cals An­drew Swift and Diann Tal­bot.

Around 40 vol­un­teers will also be a part of the ex­ca­va­tion which will take place from Oc­to­ber 9 to 28.

“We ex­pect to find bot­tles, ce­ram­ics, prob­a­bly some metal arte­facts like hoes or pick heads, bil­lies and cook­ing pots,” Mr Grimwade said.

“From what we find we’ll be able to tell what they were eat­ing, what they were drink­ing and what they were suf­fer­ing from if we find medicine bot­tles.

“Cer­tain types of bot­tles were used over cer­tain pe­ri­ods and if you get enough and the over­lap­ping pe­riod we can get a bet­ter idea of when the site was ac­tu­ally oc­cu­pied.

“The Chi­nese bought a lot of uten­sils with them from China so there’ll be ob­jects we can tell are from here and there and oth­ers that will give us an un­der­stand­ing of dif­fer­ent trade routes.

“It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing site be­cause it’s got a com­mu­nal kitchen with about five hearths, some of which have been dam­aged in the past, but we ex­pect to find a bit of in­for­ma­tion from that.”

Mr Grimwade said ev­ery­thing found would be doc­u­mented and recorded with Her­itage Vic­to­ria be­fore some items are re­turned to Har­ri­etville to be dis­played in the town’s mu­seum.

“We’ll be able to leave some ev­i­dence there to make it in­ter­est­ing for vis­i­tors and an op­por­tu­nity to value-add to the lo­cal tourism,” he said.

“Where we’ve got the hearth sites we’ll leave them in­tact be­cause what we want to is pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for the lo­cal com­mu­nity to do in­ter­pre­tive trails there.”

PHOTO: Glen Thomp­son

DIG­GING TO CHINA: The Un­cov­ered Past In­sti­tute board mem­bers Paul Macgre­gor, Melissa Dunk, Diann Tal­bot, An­drew Swift and Gor­don Grimwade.

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