Thousands of historic relics from 1850s unearthed under downtown site

A decorative clay pipe, hundreds of leather shoes with laces and intact gin bottles are among thousands of historic relics that have been unearthed beneath a central Christchurch site after lying idle for 170 years.

The treasure discovered under a layer of gravel at the corner of Gloucester and Colombo streets offers a rare glimpse into life in Christchurch in the 1850s.

Metal belt buckles, soda water bottles, marbles, grocery tokens and shards of decorative plates from early Christchurch were discovered in a yellow brick well, a lined cesspool of bricks, a filled creek and rubbish dumps discovered at the site.

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A clay pipe depicting a scene from the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Stuff

A clay pipe depicting a scene from the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

They were revealed as part of an archaeological dig before construction work on the new Court Theater began.

Clara Watson, a specialist in subterranean and subterranean archeology artifacts, said the amount of material found at the site was sparse.

The thousands of finds filled 55 boxes, while the hundreds of old shoes filled two fridges.

A fragment of a leather shoe, with intact laces, which was discovered at the site.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Stuff

A fragment of a leather shoe, with intact laces, which was discovered at the site.

“It was archeology on an industrial scale,” she says.

“In terms of the amount of stuff that we usually find, that’s very significant.

She said the site had been a major boutique shopping district in Christchurch in the 19th century.

Artifact scholar Clara Watson said the objects told stories about early European Christchurch.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Stuff

Artifact scholar Clara Watson said the objects told stories about early European Christchurch.

General manager Hayden Cawte said it was rare for relics from the 1850s to remain intact for so long.

“It’s quite unique compared to the average site,” he said.

“It is interesting that this material from the early 1850s has managed to survive.

“The buildings that followed did not disturb anything. It is preserved. »

One of many boots found buried at the site.

Provided

One of many boots found buried at the site.

The objects will now be washed and analyzed to learn more about the lives of early Europeans in Christchurch.

“Artifacts give us insight into how people lived.

“It shows how they lived their lives.”

A clay pipe discovered at the site was made in France and depicts a scene from the Indian rebellion of 1857.

A token minted by a local trader due to a shortage of official silver in 1850s Christchurch.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Stuff

A token minted by a local trader due to a shortage of official silver in 1850s Christchurch.

A metal token for the Henry Joseph Hall grocers of High St was used as there was a shortage of minted coins in the early European colonies.

Watson said the shoes, some of which feature decorative leather designs and still have laces threaded through the eyelets, would give a glimpse of manufacturing methods in Christchurch in the 1850s.

She said they often discovered shoe soles, but it was rare to find so many leather uppers in such a state of preservation.

Shards of ceramic plates, bottles and metal objects after being washed by archaeologists.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Stuff

Shards of ceramic plates, bottles and metal objects after being washed by archaeologists.

“They are different from what we normally see. They are artifacts with their own stories.

Cawte said material used to fill a stream that once ran through the site would mean they could now set a date when the stream was covered.

He said the architects of the new Court Theater were considering using the unusual yellow bricks of the old well in the new building.

The yellow brick well photographed by archaeologists after its discovery at the site.

Provided

The yellow brick well photographed by archaeologists after its discovery at the site.

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