Second dig prospect
Harrietville Chinese camp prompts more questions for archaeologists
THE Uncovered Past Institute will look at making a second archaeological dig in Harrietville.
The three-week ‘Harrietville Dig’ – the first to take place at a colonial-era Chinese mining settlement in Victoria – finished on Saturday but left many unanswered questions for archaeologists and historians.
“One of the fascinating things was that we found a fair bit of European ceramics and that usually suggests the Chinese adapted and started using European tableware, but we now believe that during the Depression period (1929-32) some of the unemployed were coming here,” head archaeologist Gordon Grimwade said.
“We found bottles dating from the 1920s-1930s which is a pretty fair indication of the Depression era. “We didn’t expect that. “We expected to see a change from Chinese tableware to European but not to the extent we did.
“The presence of Depression- era residents has got us intrigued to do further research.”
Mr Grimwade said if the site was occupied during the Depression years then it was populated for longer than first thought.
“Settlement followed the Buckland Riots in 1857 and certainly went through to the early 20th century and then again in the 1930s,” he said.
“We think there was probably a period of no activity between the Great War and 1930s because around World War I Chinese people were being discouraged from settling in Australia.
“If anyone knows anything about the Depression period and activity in the Harrietville area we’d certainly be interested in hearing from them.”
Mr Grimwade said the next months would now be spent documenting what was uncovered, including a number of hut sites, ceramics, materials and tools as well as ancient Chinese gaming tokens.
“The rule-of-thumb is if you spend three weeks in the field you spend at least nine or 10 weeks doing analysis and writing everything up,” he said.
“We dug up and exposed one fairly large hut site with flagstone floors but weren’t able to confirm the size of the hut, although we believe it to be quite big.
“We think there are at least 30-odd hut sites and by excavating several different hut sites you get a better picture of what the style was.
“We established the fact the water race had 400500 millimetres of silt in it and would have been a substantial water race with a good flow of water.
“Coming back here is certainly something we’re already considering but it’s just a matter of resources.”