A team of archaeologists will begin excavating the former convict-period sites beside the iconic penitentiary at the Port Arthur Historic Site.
A team of archaeologists will begin excavating the former convict-period sites beside the iconic penitentiary at the Port Arthur Historic Site.

Fresh dig starts at Port Arthur site

A TEAM of archaeologists will start excavating the site of former convict-period workshops next to the iconic penitentiary at the Port Arthur Historic Site on Thursday.

The dig is part of a project between the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA) and Dr Richard Tuffin, Postdoctoral Research Fellow from the University of New England.

"These workshops were integral to the operation of the Port Arthur penal station," Dr Tuffin said.

"Over the years since the site was given up as a penal station in 1877, there has been a lot of activity that has impacted the integrity of the convict-period structures and deposits. "Everything from salvage to bushfires and the erection of new buildings have all had an impact."

The first stage of the project will involve the use of an excavator to carefully remove the upper layer of topsoil to expose the features and deposits beneath.

"After that, we use hand tools for the rest of the excavation," Dr Tuffin said.

 

A team of archaeologists will begin digging at the iconic penitentiary at the Port Arthur Historic Site on Thursday. Picture: SUPPLIED
A team of archaeologists will begin digging at the iconic penitentiary at the Port Arthur Historic Site on Thursday. Picture: SUPPLIED

The investigations will continue until November and are the latest in a suite of archaeological activities in and around the Penitentiary precinct since 2013.

The Port Arthur dig follows another at the former Picton Rd station in the Southern Midlands which recently uncovered hundreds of artefacts, including alcohol bottles.

The station and cells housed convicts whose labour was used to build the highway between Launceston and Hobart.

 

A team of archaeologists will begin excavating the former convict-period sites beside the iconic penitentiary at the Port Arthur Historic Site. Picture: SUPPLIED
A team of archaeologists will begin excavating the former convict-period sites beside the iconic penitentiary at the Port Arthur Historic Site. Picture: SUPPLIED

PAHSMA Archaeology Manager Dr David Roe said previous excavations at the Port Arthur site had revealed new things about how the site evolved, how convicts were managed and how they reacted to that management.

"We're sure that this new investigation of the workshops will add to this new knowledge, particularly by helping us to understand how convict labour was used in industrial production and what were the processes and products of their work," Dr Roe said.

The archaeological investigations at Port Arthur are also part of a wider and ongoing research project looking at the important role that labour played in the Australian convict system.

helen.kempton@news.com.au


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