'The city's story' uncovered by artefacts found underground

Underground Overground archaeologists Hamish Williams and Jessie Garland will speak at the Canterbury Museum this week ...
MONIQUE STEELE/FAIRFAX NZ

Underground Overground archaeologists Hamish Williams and Jessie Garland will speak at the Canterbury Museum this week in celebration of National Archaeology Week.

Archaeologists are historical detectives finding clues in the past – this is how Jessie Garland explains her job as a commercial archaeologist in Christchurch.

"Each little object has a story, so when we've got 100,000 of those, that's the city's story," said Garland, an Underground Overground archaeologist.

Next week local archaeologists such as Garland will celebrate National Archaeology Week, sharing their passion of unearthing Christchurch's history hidden under the ground with events around the city.

One of archaeologist Jessie Garland's favourite finds is this Price and Co Russian Bears Grease, estimated to be around ...
MONIQUE STEELE/FAIRFAX NZ

One of archaeologist Jessie Garland's favourite finds is this Price and Co Russian Bears Grease, estimated to be around 150 years old.

As archaeologists pair up with builders and engineers on the countless construction projects around our "rebuild city", their job is to find and record artefacts which may tell a story about each site.

Read more:
Archaeologists reveal findings from rubble of quake-damaged buildings                  
Rebuild a boom time for archeologists
Recovering the 'city below the one we've lost'
Southland artefacts at risk of being lost

Underground Overground archaeologist Hamish Williams said the job was not so much about being "treasure-hunters", but using their discoveries to tell stories of the past.

"We find cool stuff," said Williams, who oversaw the SCIRT infrastructure programme in the city.

"It's neat. You never know what you're going to get up to in a day."

Kiwi archaeologists work under Crown entity Heritage New Zealand under the Heritage New Zealand Puhere Taonga Act 2014, which protects historic sites, heritage buildings and artefacts from before 1900.

"It's everybody's heritage," Williams said.

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"It's important to people, I think."   

Opus archaeologist TJ O'Connell said Opus' archaeology team tripled as a result of demand following the quakes.

"Since the earthquake in Christchurch, the archaeologists have recorded literally thousands of archaeology sites. 

"These sites were previously unknown... they were discovered because of the rebuild of the city," he said.

Garland said as "New Zealand is really young", local archaeologists had the unique opportunity of studying the European settlement.

"Seventy-five to 80 per cent of what we find is associated with European colonisation, the first 50 years of Christchurch settlement," she said.

"There is so much information in the way Christchurch was built in the buildings and the way they lived their lives and how we transitioned from very British to Christchurch.

"It all shows how Christchurch went from a swamp to the city it is today, and that's really important."

On April 1, Garland, Williams and O'Connell will all speak about archaeology in Christchurch at the Canterbury Museum at 11am, followed by a free walking tour of Lyttelton's archaeological history.

Other events include an archaeological display at South Library on Colombo St, another at Christ's College of finds during the school's repairs, and "Why We Dig It", an online exhibition.

 

 - Stuff

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