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