Since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, archaeological work in the city and the surrounding areas has increased exponentially. New Zealand’s archaeological legislation protects anything deposited or built prior to 1900, meaning that we as archaeologists have had the unprecedented opportunity to record and excavate the architectural and material foundations of an entire city (founded in 1850), along side the archaeological traces of indigenous Maori activity in the area before and after the city was settled.
From day to day, we (Underground Overground Archaeology Ltd) visit sites to monitor foundation removals, record 19th century buildings scheduled for demolition, excavate archaeology from rebuild sites through the city and monitor the almost incomprehensibly vast task that is fixing Christchurch’s horizontal infrastructure (roads, sewers and wastewater). We assess the archaeological potential of hundreds of sites, to determine whether or not they fall under the national legislation protecting archaeological heritage; wash, analyse and photograph boxes and boxes of artefacts and midden; and, of course, write the whole shebang up into archaeological reports and blog posts (on our own blog Christchurch Uncovered).
In the midst of all this we make some fantastic discoveries and some less than exciting ones, all of which are slowly coming together to provide us with a comprehensive idea of how this city and its people grew from a small settlement on a swamp to the place and community it is today. In a city where streetscapes and skylines can change drastically in a week, thanks to the constant demolition and construction required after the earthquakes, archaeology is so important, not only as a window into our past, but as a way of recording and preserving the heritage of Christchurch for future generations.
For the Day of Archaeology, we’ve selected a few snapshots of our day as it unfolded, from that first coffee in the morning to the well deserved beer at the end (with a bit of archaeology in between).
Archaeology in Christchurch always begins with coffee. Always. Image: Jessie Garland.
Washing artefacts, one of the most glamourous aspects of archaeology. Uncomfortable though it is, far better to wear the mask than to find yourself sneezing out vast quantities of dust later in the day. Image: Jessie Garland.
Recording a 19th century house in Christchurch. Since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, we’ve looked at hundreds and hundreds of houses prior to their demolition, recording the city’s 19th century architecture for future generations. Apparently, on occasions like today, it can be a frustrating exercise… Image: Matthew Hennessey.
Beautiful fragment of a clay tobacco pipe with painted relief decoration, found in a bag of artefacts this morning. Black clay pipes like this are rare in Christchurch, let alone ones with painted decoration. Image: Jessie Garland.
Photographing artefacts behind the scenes. A meta photograph of a photographer photographing even. Image: Jessie Garland.
Typical site work in Christchurch, on a beautiful winter’s day. Most of the archaeological work in the city is undertaken in conjunction with mechanical excavation, especially on sites to do with house demolition or rebuild bulk-outs. Image: Teri Anderson (top), Megan Hickey (bottom).
Appraisalists appraising. These guys work hard behind the scenes assessing the archaeological potential of sites in and around the city. Image: Jessie Garland.
Getting the paperwork done. So much of our work involves writing up site excavations, monitoring, surveying, artefact analysis and archaeological assessments. Like any other job really. Image: Jessie Garland.
That annoying point in the day when you have a maker’s mark on a bone toothbrush, but you still can’t decipher it to figure out who the damn manufacturer is. Image: Jessie Garland.
Sorting midden and artefacts. Not the most exciting of assemblages (although there may be a possible association with an oyster saloon, which is fairly fantastic), but still needs to be done. Image: Jessie Garland.
Archaeology in Akaroa, near Christchurch. Stunning, isn’t it? Image: Kurt Bennett.
Around 4 pm, things got a little out of hand. Defending her stack of coffee cups (from the paperwork photo above), Kim was forced to take a stand. Or knee, really. Surprisingly, this is not an uncommon occurrence amongs archaeologists in Christchurch. Image: Jessie Garland.
Unsurprisingly, I got very little actual artefact analysis done today. Still, this is what I’d normally be doing in a day. Image: Kim Bone.
And we’re out. A few (well-deserved) beverages to round out the day. Happy Day of Archaeology from the UnderOver Arch team! Image: Lydia Mearns.