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ASHA NEWS



Catherine Tucker

This cutlery fork that was recovered from excavations of a large rubbish pit at Pentridge Prison, located to the north of Melbourne. The assemblage is thought to date to the mid-nineteenth century and this particular artefact was chosen as a representative example of the many cutlery items recovered during the excavations. It is a utilitarian object that has been modified for use specifically at the prison and was probably used by the inmates.

The metal is now heavily corroded but it has a shaft that extends all the way to the end of the handle. Over the metal handle there are two identically shaped bone lengths that are attached to each side of the fork shaft by three small evenly spaced nails. The bone handle is 14mm wide at the fork end and 20mm at the handle end and is 84mm in length. These dimensions are the same for all of the forks in the assemblage indicating that the cutlery was most likely mass produced in specialist factories rather than made in one of the prison workshops.

On one side of the fork there are roughly carved roman numerals – XXV (25) and numbers such as these were found on all bone handled cutlery in the assemblage. The highest number recovered was LVIII (58), meaning that there were at least 58 objects in the original set. The numerals are deeply incised on the handles and the roughness and variability in style indicate that these marks were probably made at the prison.

These numbered utensils are particularly identifiable as prison or institutional artefacts, places where it was important to keep track of sharp objects, and they reflect the processes involved in managing inmates in nineteenth century prisons.

Catherine Tucker is a part-time PHD student at LaTrobe University who also works as a consultant archaeologist, mostly in Victoria.

 





Dr Richard Tuffin, Project Archaeologist, PAHSMA

In the last round of grants awarded by the Australian Research Council, a multi-disciplinary team of researchers was awarded funds for a three year project examining landscapes of convict labour. Titled Landscapes of Production and Punishment: the Tasman Peninsula 1830-77, the project commences in April of this year and will see archaeologists, historians and demographers from the University of New England, the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, University of Tasmania and University of Liverpool, use the physical landscape and documentary record to engage with the organisation, processes and outputs of convict labour on a scale never-before seen.

The grant is a recognition that the Australian convict story is concerned as much with labour and production as it is with punishment and reform. The gaols, hiring depots, penal stations and work camps, as well as the domestic residences and places of work to which assignees and passholders were tied, remain today as physical expressions of the otherwise invisible forces which shaped convict labour management. Built and continually developed by prisoner labour, these places held workforces governed by an extraordinary mixture of punishment and production aims. Barracks, wards and separate cells held prisoners in between – and sometimes during – their bouts of work. The flogging yards, solitary cells and stone-breaking yards received the unwilling. Interior and exterior spaces were designated as work sites, where shoes were made, metal wrought, stone quarried and timber harvested. These spaces, as well as the men and women within them, were controlled by the built and regulatory environment which surrounded them. Factors at the global, colonial and local scale acted upon these landscapes, affecting their formation and development, as well as the processes and products of prisoner labour within them.

That landscapes of convict labour were formed and shaped by multi-scale forces should not come as a revelation. Setting the places and spaces we study within their proper social, political and economic contexts is just good historical archaeological practice. Archaeologists and historians have commonly worked in synchrony to examine the bigger questions about our convict past, in particular during the post-1980s debates about the relative merits of qualitative and quantitative data to convey the complexities of convict lived experiences. The two fields have particularly worked well together to recover lost convict life narratives. Recently, however, there has been a notable divergence. Historians have tapped further into the massive potential of the datasets, examining and analysing the life-course data of thousands of convicts to draw new conclusions about the lives of prisoners before, during and after their incarceration. There has not been a similar big picture approach from historical archaeologists, who have retained a focus on individual sites and data types. Often a pragmatic response to the very real limitations of funding and time, it has meant that archaeologists have not been able to help shape the direction of the wider debate.

Focussing on the convict stations and sites of the Tasman Peninsula, this ARC project will illustrate how the physical record can be linked to the ‘big data’ approaches taken by the historians. A foundation of the project will be the archaeological surveys of the Port Arthur hinterland and the area around the former Cascades Probation Station (Koonya). Following the successful application of the technique to better understandings of the Coal Mines and Port Arthur Historic Sites, high definition airborne remote sensing (LiDAR) will map the sites associated with the extraction, transport and refinement of the area’s materials during the convict period: the roads, paths, tramways, building sites, saw pits, working platforms. For the first time we will comprehensively and accurately visualise the labour landscape within which Port Arthur and the Cascades Probation Station were situated. This will add to existing and augmented studies of the production centres of the Coal Mines and the Tasman Peninsula’s other probation stations.

The project will show how we can really only begin to understand the experiences of convicts and gaolers alike through an engagement with both the changing physical realities which defined their lives, as well as the intent of the evolving convict system as defined in the historical record. Mapping landscape change across time will be a core focus of the archaeological process, the change reflective of the multi-scale influences shaping convict labour management. This will require a close and thorough reading of the historical sources, through which the form of these influences are best expressed. This project will draw upon the trove of statistical data and correspondence records, allowing better understanding of how the labour landscape developed, as well as the quantities and movement flows of men and materiel. The close linking of the data to the physical landscape will also provide the opportunity to ground-truth the archive. A key component of this will be the analysis of thousands of convict records – many of them previously unavailable in transcript form. The incidental life narratives embodied within such documentary sources can be used to place the people back in the landscape, helping us understand how the built and regulatory environment shaped and was shaped by their experience, at the same time as moulding labour relations between prisoners and administrators.

In addition to the research outcomes throughout the project’s life, we intend to produce a research roadmap for engaging with places of convict labour, providing a model for similar approaches. It will also feed into the continued interpretation of the Tasman Peninsula, an important consideration as the number of visitors coming to the World Heritage-listed site of Port Arthur are only increasing. Through such interpretive means, we can further an understanding that convict places like Port Arthur sat at the heart of complex systems of production and punishment.

Professor Martin Gibbs, University of New England

Professor Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, University of Tasmania

Associate Professor David Roberts, University of New England

Professor Barry Godfrey, University of Liverpool

Dr David Roe, Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority

Dr Jody Steele, Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority

Dr Richard Tuffin, Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority

Susan Hood, Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority




Dr David Roe (Archaeology Manager) and Richard Tuffin (Project Archaeologist) PAHSMA

Last year was a big year for archaeology at the Port Arthur Historic Site. Over a seven month period, we managed to excavate the full extent of the area at the rear of the Penitentiary. Converted between 1854-56 from an 1840s flour mill and granary, the Penitentiary we see today only represents one small part of the former precinct. Once fronted by a parade ground and flanked by workshops and commissariat stores, the building had been situated within a busy precinct where facilities of incarceration, punishment and welfare operated beside industrial and administrative infrastructure.

The 2016 archaeological excavation focussed on the service-related aspects of the precinct: the ablutions and laundry facilities, exercise yards, shelters and stores which were vital to the operation of the larger building. As such, the investigation provided an opportunity to examine the management of convict welfare and, in particular, how this evolved across the life of the Penitentiary. The ablutions yard was excavated during January–May 2016, with the laundry area investigated during November–December.

See image above: Orthophotograph of the full area of excavation, showing deposits and features related to the first phase of occupation (ca.1856-ca.1863)

The archaeological investigations were necessary from a conservation, research and interpretation standpoint. With conservation works ongoing within the Penitentiary precinct since 2011, a decision was taken to use open-area research excavation, instead of undertaking mitigation excavations in reaction to the works. The archaeological results would also feed into interpretation of the precinct. From a research point of view, there was high value in examining an area for which limited information on changes in historical fabric and use existed. The investigations also provided a rare opportunity to engage with the management, welfare and lived experiences of a convict population. This was particularly interesting, as the population under investigation, which after transportation’s cessation in 1854 was an ageing mix of colonially and Imperially-convicted prisoners, has rarely been archaeologically studied.

The excavations revealed a multi-phase site, with features and deposits dating to the Penitentiary period and from earlier phases when the site was occupied by the 1830s waterfront workshops and the 1840s flour mill and granary. The dominant phase represented was related to the Penitentiary, indicative of the disruptive major works associated with the conversion of the precinct from industrial to incarcerative purposes.

In the ablutions area, which accounted for about 2/3 of the area investigated, the first phase configuration had seen exercise yards flanking a centrally-located ablutions block. Surfaced with hardwearing brick and dolerite gravels spread over tons of imported clay, the yards had been fitted with shelters, bench seating and fireplaces. Providing a modicum of protection from the elements, the yards afforded a controllable space where prisoners interacted. In contrast, the ablutions block was a cramped space in which upwards of 480 convicts were expected to carry out basic toiletry requirements morning and evening. It was likely the patently unsuitable conditions in the block that triggered a remodelling of the whole ablutions yard. At some point in the early 1860s, the toilet and washing spaces were removed to the flanking yards, resulting in the demolition of the former compounds and the construction of new shelter sheds in the spaces. The central block was converted to a day room fitted with benches and fireplaces.

Whilst undergoing less of a change, the laundry area, adjoining the western edge of the ablutions yard, similarly went through two major phases of activity. The building originally contained the laundry proper, stores, a bathhouse and washing area, as well as a wood store. When the conversions happened in the 1860s, the building was extended eastwards into the ablutions yard, with a large brick foundation constructed to accommodate a hot water boiler and its associated chimney stack. This boiler provided water to the bakehouse, laundry and washing facilities in the ablutions yard.

The excavation within the laundry area removed all deposits associated with the Penitentiary period. In the ablutions area they were removed down to the first phase of activity, with slots and trenches then excavated to sample the pre-Penitentiary deposits and features underneath. This found that, whilst some evidence of the earlier workshops and flour mill phases remained, the Penitentiary conversion had resulted in the wholesale demolition and removal of any upstanding fabric. What remained were demolition materials and surfaces, and reclamation deposits associated with preparing the area.

Image: Orthophotograph of the full area of excavation, showing deposits and features related to the second phase of occupation (ca.1863-ca.1877)

A large number of artefacts were recovered from the ablutions area, particularly from the surfaces of the exercise yards and within the central ablutions block/day room (which had had raised timber floors); the position of all diagnostic artefacts was recorded in 3D. In total, the excavation recovered some 1,800 spot finds, including a surprising number of lead and ceramic tokens or gaming pieces. Relatively few artefacts were recovered from the laundry area, likely because a number of rooms had been surfaced with sandstone flagging which would have been regularly swept, but also because the rooms had suffered marked disturbance when the building was salvaged in the post-convict period.

Image: One of the lead tokens in situ. Note the broad arrow!

Reporting to acquit statutory commitments is currently being undertaken, with further publication of key results to come. A number of papers have already been presented on the early results, including the 3D photogrammetry models which were generated throughout the course of the project. These can be viewed at:

www.portarthur.org.au/penitentiary-excavation-wraps-preliminary-findings.

Image: Screenshot of one of the 3D photogrammetry models generated during the excavation

We are excited to see what further analysis of the artefacts can tell us; we are particularly interested in their spatial distribution in relation to each other and to the spaces within which they were found. Further historical research also needs to take place, targeting the conduct records to extract information about behaviour and surveillance patterns within the yards.

The area itself will not be going back to the grassed area that it once was. Rather, our interpretation team will be introducing new hard-wearing surfaces and features to interpret the historical use and form of the area.

As always, the excavation would not have been possible without the dedicated band of archaeologists. David Roe and Richard Tuffin would like to thank: for the Penitentiary Ablutions work – Laura Bates, Lauren Davison, Henry Lion, Ronan McEleney, Fiona Shanahan, Rhian Slicer-Jones, and Zvonka Stanin; for the Penitentiary Laundry work - Laura Bates, Emma Church, Lauren Davison, Josh Gaunt, Adam Pietrzak, Michelle Richards and Sam Thomas. Peter Rigozzi was responsible for the amazing ortho and 3D photogrammetry produced during the excavation.



Compiled by Bronwyn Woff

Monitoring has begun ahead of works to restore and protect the National Heritage Listed Richmond Bridge, which was built by convicts in 1823.

For more information, see: www.abc.net.au/news

Image taken from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Richmond_Bridge_Panorama_Restitch.jpg     Accessed 25/03/2017



University of New England

A lecture presented by Richard Tuffin and David Roe, entitled 'But did they wash behind their ears?: preliminary findings from the 2016 Penitentiary Ablutions archaeological excavation at Port Arthur' will be presented on Wednesday 15 March, at 4.00pm. The lecture will be held at the University of New England (Large Lecture Theatre EM1, Natural Resources Building (W55)) and will also be available via a recording on the Archaeology Society’s Echo 360 page (see link below).

During early 2016, a team of archaeologists undertook a programme of excavation within the ablutions area of the Penitentiary, Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania. From 1856–1877, the area housed the amenities blocks, exercise yards, shelter sheds and Day Room and is a vital key to understanding how Port Arthur’s most iconic structure operated as a place of incarceration. The archaeological excavation, part of a suite of ongoing conservation, interpretation and research works, was by far the largest ever carried out at the site and one of the largest research investigations of the convict-period undertaken in Australia. A team of seven professional archaeologists spent over four months on site, their findings already beginning to challenge existing views of how convicts and the authorities interacted with the space and with each other.

"This presentation will share the early results of the excavation, showcasing some of the more fascinating finds. The advanced recording methods used to conduct the investigation will also be discussed, including the generation of highly detailed 3D representations of the site using photogrammetric techniques.

Richard Tuffin served an initial term as an archaeologist at Port Arthur between 2001 and 2007. In an unintentional reversal of 19th century norms, Richard transported himself to Scotland, where he worked at the coal face of commercial archaeology. He gladly took up the offer of Penitentiary Project archaeologist in 2015. Dr David Roe is Archaeology Manager with the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority and has been involved with archaeological management and research in the UK, Portugal, Russia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Pitcairn Island and Australia. They are both part of the UNE/ UTAS/PAHMSA Australian Research Council 'Landscapes of Punishment and Production' project with Prof. Martin Gibbs and A. Prof David Roberts of UNE.

For people off-campus, the presentation will be recorded and made available through the Archaeology Society’s Echo 360 page HERE.

School of Archaeology & Anthropology, ANU College of Arts and the Social Sciences, compiled by Richard Morrison

Triabunna Field School, Tasmania

As reported previously this 2nd field work season was to be undertaken by Dr Ash Lenton, ANU, for undergraduates from there but also from the University of Sydney, in January and February 2017. It was to focus on the investigation of a military barracks which serviced the adjacent Maria Island convict settlement in the 1840’s.

A news report on the project can be found here
For more information see also:
http://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2017/01/23/student-dig-explores-tasmanian-barracks-of-colonial-regiment.html

https://m.facebook.com/TriabunnaBarracksANU.Dig/

Twitter #TriabunnaBarracks