Sec­ond dig prospect

Har­ri­etville Chi­nese camp prompts more ques­tions for ar­chae­ol­o­gists

Alpine Observer - - Front Page - BY JUSTIN JENVEY jjen­vey@ne­me­dia.com.au

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.”

PHOTO Glen Thomp­son

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