Arte­facts tell sto­ries of our past


‘‘Each lit­tle ob­ject has a story, so when we've got 100,000 of those, that's the city's story’’

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists are his­tor­i­cal de­tec­tives find­ing clues in the past – this is how Jessie Gar­land ex­plains her job as a com­mer­cial ar­chae­ol­o­gist in Christchurch.

‘‘Each lit­tle ob­ject has a story, so when we’ve got 100,000 of those, that’s the city’s story,’’ said Gar­land, an ar­chae­ol­o­gist.

Next week lo­cal ar­chae­ol­o­gists such as Gar­land will cel­e­brate Na­tional Ar­chae­ol­ogy Week, shar­ing their pas­sion of un­earthing Christchurch’s his­tory hid­den un­der the ground with events around the city.

As ar­chae­ol­o­gists pair up with builders and engi­neers on the count­less con­struc­tion projects around our ‘‘re­build city’’, their job is to find and record arte­facts which may tell a story about each site.

Un­der­ground Over­ground ar­chae­ol­o­gist Hamish Wil­liams said the job was not so much about be­ing ‘‘trea­sure-hunters’’, but us­ing their dis­cov­er­ies to tell sto­ries of the past.

‘‘We find cool stuff,’’ said Wil­liams, who over­saw the SCIRT in­fra­struc­ture pro­gramme in the city.

‘‘It’s neat. You never know what you’re go­ing to get up to in a day.’’

Kiwi ar­chae­ol­o­gists’ records ad­here with Crown en­tity Her­itage New Zealand un­der the Heri- tage New Zealand Puhere Taonga Act 2014, which pro­tects his­toric sites, her­itage build­ings and arte­facts from be­fore 1900.

‘‘It’s ev­ery­bodys her­itage,’’ Wil­liams said. ’’It’s im­por­tant to peo­ple, I think.’’

Opus ar­chae­ol­o­gist TJ O’Con­nell said Opus’ ar­chae­ol­ogy team tripled as a re­sult of de­mand fol­low­ing the quakes.

‘‘Since the earth­quake in Christchurch, the ar­chae­ol­o­gists have recorded lit­er­ally thou­sands of ar­chae­ol­ogy sites.

‘‘These sites were pre­vi­ously un­known... they were dis­cov­ered be­cause of the re­build of the city,’’ he said.

Gar­land said as ‘‘New Zealand is re­ally young’’, lo­cal ar­chae­ol­o­gists had the unique op­por­tu­nity of study­ing the Euro­pean set­tle­ment.

‘‘Seventy-five to 80 per cent of what we find is as­so­ci­ated with Euro­pean coloni­sa­tion, the first 50 years of Christchurch set­tle­ment,’’ she said.

‘‘There is so much in­for­ma­tion in the way Christchurch was built in the build­ings and the way they lived their lives and how we tran­si­tioned from very Bri­tish to Christchurch.

‘‘It all shows how Christchurch went from a swamp to the city it is to­day, and that’s re­ally im­port- ant.’’

On April 1, Gar­land, Wil­liams and O’Con­nell will all speak about ar­chae­ol­ogy in Christchurch at the Can­ter­bury Mu­seum at 11am, fol­lowed by a free walk­ing tour of Lyt­tel­ton’s ar­chae­o­log­i­cal his- tory.

Other events in­clude an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dis­play at South Li­brary on Colombo St, an­other at Christ’s Col­lege of finds dur­ing the school’s re­pairs, and ‘‘Why We Dig It’’, an on­line ex­hi­bi­tion.


Un­der­ground Over­ground ar­chae­ol­o­gists Hamish Wil­liams and Jessie Gar­land will speak at the Can­ter­bury Mu­seum this week in cel­e­bra­tion of Na­tional Ar­chae­ol­ogy Week.

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