Historical treasures discovered during the excavation of the central site of Christchurch

A French-made clay pipe depicting a scene from an 1857 rebellion in India is just one of thousands of historic treasures found beneath the site of the Court Theatre’s new home.

Archeology firm Underground Overground has worked with contractors from Christchurch City Council to excavate the area, which will be the new home of the theater in the Performing Arts District.

Undamaged gin and soda bottles, marbles, glass beads, a bone toothbrush, change that could only be used in Christchurch, a pit of old leather shoes, brick-lined wells , remains of buildings, latrines, filled ravines, drains and cesspools were all discovered underground at the corner of Colombo and Gloucester streets.

“The majority of identified archaeological features and recovered artifacts appear to date from the 1850s and 1860s, which is relatively early for European archaeological sites in Christchurch,” said subterranean archeology artifact specialist Clara Watson.

“Most of the other townspeople tend to come out a bit later than that.

“The site is also interesting in that it is for commercial rather than domestic use, which is even less common in Christchurch.

“There are a lot of things we can watch and learn about how people lived.”

The Colombo St section was largely a commercial area with few residential houses 170 years ago.

“Items are now scavenged and analyzed, we still have a lot of work to do before we can explain how these items got there,” Watson said.

The clay pipe, which depicts a man attacking a woman as her child died at his feet, was made by French pipe-making company L. Fiolet and represents a European take on the 1857 Indian mutiny.

Archaeologists are now working on the riddle of how this French-made pipe, inspired by Indian events, ended up in Christchurch.

“There is no evidence that the pipe was smoked, and one possibility is that due to the very graphic and conflicting design of the pipe, no one wanted to buy it and the shop owner took it. actually dumped in unsold stock,” Watson said. noted.

These questions will form part of the ongoing analysis of the site material.

The site was unique due to the large number of objects found and the quality of their preservation below ground.

About 55 boxes containing thousands of artifacts have been removed from the site.

The City Council’s acting head of vertical capital delivery, Brent Smith, said: ‘The archeology team has been working closely with the contractors on site to enable the appropriate archaeological investigations, without delaying the works programme. .”

Construction of the Court Theater is expected to begin in July.

The three-story building will have a 375-seat auditorium, a 120-seat family theater that will also be the late-night stage scared without script shows and an education studio, bars in front of the house, a restaurant and a ticket office.

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