It’s been over five years now since the earthquakes that devastated the city of Christchurch in New Zealand. Over those years the city has steadily worked its way through the aftermath of the quakes, dealing with lost lives, emotional upheaval, broken houses and businesses, damaged infrastructure and roads that resemble river beds more than city streets. As Christchurch slowly rebuilds itself, we – the archaeologists – have been working to make sure that the physical heritage of the city is not completely lost. We record and investigate 19th century buildings, sites of Maori occupation and early European settlement, the early drainage and roading infrastructure of a colonial city, and the material culture with which the people of Christchurch’s past constructed their world.
Last year, we wrote a post showcasing the various aspects of urban archaeological work in Christchurch, from buildings archaeology to artefact finds and the tedious but necessary tasks of report writing and paperwork. A year later, in truth, not much has changed. Day to day, we still do all of the same things, carry out all the same tasks and steps to make sure that Christchurch’s archaeological record – and the historical identity that goes with it – is preserved for future generations. If anything has changed, honestly, it’s not the process but the focus of the work, a reflection of where the city finds itself five and a half years after the most devastating of the earthquakes. There’s less demolition now and more rebuilding. Fewer crumbling structures to be dealt with, but more empty lots on city streets. From an archaeological perspective, this translates to more analysis, historical research and report writing, as we consolidate the information that we’ve gathered over the last five years, while keeping on top of the site work that just doesn’t seem to stop! Sometimes it’s exciting, sometimes it’s frenetic, sometimes it’s tedious and sometimes we require a whole lot of baking to get us through the day, but it’s worth it to make sure that the story told by Christchurch’s archaeology isn’t forgotten.
Here’s how our Day of Archaeology played out…
Even if we weren’t finding anything. Nothing. Nothing at all…
Back in the office, some of us spent the afternoon refitting saucers.
Not every day is like this (not every day involves this much food, for one). Sometimes our days are more exciting – sometimes we find great things on sites, sometimes we’re out and about creating exhibitions and communicating Christchurch’s histories, sometimes we get to go out and survey and excavate in stunning scenery. Sometimes, we even get to ride about in helicopters (well, the lucky ones do…). Other times, our days are more boring – a whole office of archaeologists working in silence, doing the dull things that still need to be done. There’s always variety, though, and we’re always working towards the same goal – recording and retaining Christchurch’s archaeological record for future generations. Telling stories of the city that was, so we can better understand the city that is and the city that will be.
– Jessie Garland