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.
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.