Next stage in Chi­nese burial project


An ar­chae­o­log­i­cal team, which pro­poses to study the bones of Chi­nese gold min­ers buried at the Lawrence ceme­tery, will be mak­ing a sub­mis­sion re­gard­ing the ex­huma­tion project at the next Lawrence-Tuapeka Com­mu­nity Board meet­ing.

Univer­sity of Otago bioar­chae­ol­o­gist Pro­fes­sor Hal­lie Buck­ley spoke at a pub­lic meet­ing held at Lawrence on Tues­day night.

She and the re­search team talked to the com­mu­nity about the peo­ple buried at the edge of the Lawrence ceme­tery, who were likely Chi­nese min­ers, or who may have been their life part­ners, or pos­si­bly im­pov­er­ished Euro­pean set­tlers who lived in the com­mu­nity.

‘‘Peo­ple seemed very in­ter­ested and there were a lot of good ques­tions. No one raised any con­cerns or is­sues at the meet­ing,’’ Buck­ley said.

About 20 peo­ple at­tended, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the Chi­nese com­mu­nity, Clutha Dis­trict Coun­cil, the com­mu­nity board, and re­tired Angli­can min­is­ter Vivi­enne Gal­letly, for­merly of Mil­ton, who has been in­volved in a Mil­ton ex­huma­tion project with Buck­ley.

Buck­ley’s team re­cently dug up the re­mains of early set­tlers at the St John’s Burial Ground and, us­ing sim­i­lar tech­niques, is hop­ing to study the health and lives of the Otago gold­fields Chi­nese com­mu­nity through their bones.

How­ever, to give peo­ple fur­ther op­por­tu­nity to voice any con­cerns or their sup­port, or ask more ques­tions, the re­search team agreed to at­tend the pub­lic fo­rum at the Lawrence-Tuapeka Com­mu­nity Board meet­ing on Novem­ber 15, at 3pm.

In a state­ment, the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal team mem­bers say they hope the com­mu­nity will share their ex­cite­ment ‘‘about the great op­por­tu­nity to dis­cover a rich vein of in­for­ma­tion about the lives of th­ese pi­o­neer­ing set­tlers’’.

If the project gains sup­port, Buck­ley says it will pro­vide ‘‘a fas­ci­nat­ing coun­ter­point’’ to the bi­o­log­i­cal an­thro­pol­ogy re­search that she and her col­leagues were cur­rently un­der­tak­ing into the lives of the Euro­pean set­tlers buried in the ceme­tery near Mil­ton, and the peo­ple of Wairau Bar in Marl­bor­ough, who were likely our coun­try’s first colonists.

In his­tor­i­cal terms, New Zealand is only a re­cently set­tled coun­try, so there were many les­sons to be learned from th­ese three par­al­lel projects, she says.

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