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Dig this Past at Arthur Phillip High School

The archaeological digs at the new high-rise Arthur Phillip High School, Parramatta, for the Department of Education, wrapped up last week.

In the dirt since March, GML’s team of archaeologists uncovered the Parramatta Sand Sheet, early nineteenth-century town allotments and residences, and the Parramatta Convict Barracks dating from 1820.
Aboriginal occupation was evidenced by several artefacts including a stone blade potentially dating back some 35,000 years, and a hearth feature (undated).

Other finds include the structural remains of the convict barracks and lumber yard, sawpit, drains, wells, cottages and an infectious diseases hospital from the 1820s–1930s. The site served as a military hospital in the 1830s and 1840s, and as a destitute asylum from the 1880s, retaining associations with government authorities through to the 1930s when it was cleared to become sports fields for the high school opposite.

Gaming tokens, rusted blacksmith tools, bottles, buttons, belt buckles, inscribed clay pipes and an all-purpose ointment jar promising to cure ‘eruptions, sore heads, inflamed eyelids, blight, ulcerated legs, tender nipples [and] bad breasts’ have been unearthed. Most of the artefacts date from the infectious diseases hospital and asylum phases.

Perhaps the most unusual find was the convict sawpit. At over 45 metres long, it’s the largest known example of its type in Australia.

In addition to the excavation, GML prepared a conservation schedule for the 1820s-era convict barracks wall at the rear of the site.

A news crew from Channel 9 news recently filmed NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes touring the site with GML’s Abi Cryerhall (Excavation Director) and Tim Owen (Secondary Excavation Director).

See the story in pictures below.

Excavation Director Abi Cryerhall leads a tour of the site with the GML team. The sandstone footings in the foreground are of the western wing of the Parramatta Convict Barracks, built in 1820.

Excavation Director Abi Cryerhall leads a tour of the site with the GML team. The sandstone footings in the foreground are of the western wing of the Parramatta Convict Barracks, built in 1820.

Historic map depicting the convict barracks following its re-use as the military hospital and convict lumber yard, 1844.

Historic map depicting the convict barracks following its re-use as the military hospital and convict lumber yard, 1844.

Excavation of the colonial-era drainage system. The convict-built barracks’ wall is visible in the background.

Excavation of the colonial-era drainage system. The convict-built barracks’ wall is visible in the background.

Remains of the late nineteenth-century asylum latrines.

Remains of the late nineteenth-century asylum latrines.

Various bottles discovered on site.

Various bottles discovered on site.

A bottle, inscribed with ‘Calvert’s Carbolic Acid’, discovered on site.

A bottle, inscribed with ‘Calvert’s Carbolic Acid’, discovered on site.

Clay pipes and an ointment jar recovered from the site.

Clay pipes and an ointment jar recovered from the site.

A belt buckle depicting a cricketer, c1870s.

A belt buckle depicting a cricketer, c1870s.

Clay pipe bowl with a mould of a steam engine, c1850s.

Clay pipe bowl with a mould of a steam engine, c1850s.

Token for Joseph Brickhill’s store in Tasmania, 1856.

Token for Joseph Brickhill’s store in Tasmania, 1856.