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ASHA NEWS



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



ASHA and Interpretation Australia

Interpretation Australia and Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology are pleased to announce their joint 2017 conference: “Travelling Stories: connecting people and landscapes”

The conference aims to pull together folk with the ultimate aim of creating a greater understanding for all of the environments in which we live. This will be a conference with a difference, one that will travel in its venues from Launceston to Hobart via key natural and cultural heritage places through Tasmania!



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.

Ian Evans

Tasmanian Evil-averting Marks

The Tasmanian Magic Project has released a video which aims to enlist the aid of the general public in finding evil-averting marks. It’s hoped the video will raise awareness of the existence of these marks on old houses and buildings and so aid in the re-discovery of the lost and secret history of magic in 19th-century Australia.

Several marks are illustrated and it is hoped that further marks and new reports of known marks will be passed to the Magic Project as a result of the video. People who watch the video are encouraged to get in touch if they have seen any magic marks. The video was produced by Ruth Hazleton, folklore researcher and musician of Melbourne.

The video can be seen here: https://youtu.be/tMmaWwrAXHY.

Issued by the Tasmanian Magic Project
PO Box 591
Mullumbimby NSW 2482
Phone 0455 173 456
Email evansthebook@gmail.com

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
Bronwyn Woff

The ASHA Blog Editor and the ASHA Committee would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to the ASHA Blog.

The blog replaces the long-running ASHA Newsletter as a way for members to receive information regarding Australasian Historical Archaeology. It aims to encourage the sharing of information between ASHA members, members of the wider archaeological community, and the general public. The blog contains information regarding archaeological research, excavations and upcoming events, and will be the platform for posting our Artefact of the Month articles.

Each post will be tagged with topics as appropriate, and visitors to the blog can search using these tags under the Recent Postssection on the left hand side of the page. As yet, this option is not available for mobile devices. These tags include the region which the post refers to, as well as various broad topics, for example "Glass" or "Research".

Visitors can also subscribe to receive updates about the ASHA Blog at the bottom of the blog page.

We hope that you enjoy reading up-to-date information via our blog. If you wish to make a submission, please email your regional representative (the details of which are found here)  or by emailing the Editor at: newsletter@asha.org.au

Happy reading!

Bronwyn Woff
ASHA Blog Editor
newsletter@asha.org.au
Bronwyn Woff

Excavations have recently concluded at Triabunna, which is situated on Tasmania's east coast near Maria Island. The excavations were carried out as part of a joint ANU and University of Sydney field school. Students participated in the excavations around what are believed to be military barracks.

For more information, please see the following:
https://www.facebook.com/TriabunnaBarracks.Dig/
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-18/triabunna-archaeological-dig-unearthing-untold-stories/8191066

A four-part radio series was produced by ABC Hobart centering on Triabunna and the excavations findings:
https://soundcloud.com/936-abc-hobart/digging-up-triabunnas-past-part-1
https://soundcloud.com/936-abc-hobart/digging-up-triabunnas-past-part-2
https://soundcloud.com/936-abc-hobart/learning-in-a-trench-in-triabunna
https://soundcloud.com/936-abc-hobart/what-1800s-children-learned-over-breakfast