Over Easter third-year archaeology students from the University of Western Australia were kept busy with a field school at Peninsula Farm.
As this this was the second year in a row the National Trust had hosted a field school at the property, the students were able to continue excavating the well where digging had begun the previous year. They also dug a few trenches in other parts of the grounds in search of features long forgotten.
Over the course of the year more than two metres of rubbish and garden debris had accumulated in the well. After clearing that away work was able to proceed in earnest. As the week progressed and the students were further down the well they started to come across many artefacts.
A number of intact bottles dating from around 1890 to 1920 were excavated from the well deposit. This in itself is rare as glass bottles are usually broken. We will know more about these once the analysis is completed. Of interest so far is that there were no alcohol bottles among them. The Hardey family of Peninsula Farm were strict Wesleyan Methodists so this is not a surprise.
There were other significant finds including a pair of men’s leather shoes (possibly house shoes) and a mass that appears to be a hessian bag containing fabric and potentially glass. A lot of intact bottles were found in association with it so one theory is that it was a bag of bottles thrown down the well.
Investigations will be carried out
All of the excavated material is now at UWA and an Honours student will be analysing the assemblage from the well.
The National Trust arranged for conservators Dr Ian MacLeod and Rinske Car to examine these artefacts and devise a plan for their conservation. In a stroke of luck UWA has recently purchased a CT scanner that is currently undergoing testing. Arrangements have been made for the mass to be scanned and from there the students will undertake a micro excavation to reveal what is inside.
Dr MacLeod examined a tiny fragment of glass sitting on the mass, which he identified as coming from a drinking glass c1880s–90s. Encouragingly, this date matches the archaeologists’ findings. He said the clarity of it indicates low iron content, which is indicative of high quality glass.
In among the mass Dr MacLeod also identified paperbark; evidence that paperbarks formerly grew in the area. We know it was a swampy area so this makes sense and helps us form a picture of what the land around Peninsula Farm was like at that time.
Archaeology draws a crowd
There was a steady stream of visitors to the site, including an estimated 100 visitors on Saturday alone. This gave the community a chance to see real life archaeology in practice and the students a chance to share what they were learning and finding.
The National Trust is so pleased to be a part of a new generation of archaeologists’ learning, and grateful for the information it generates to help us understand more about our amazing heritage places.
Raising funds for conservation
Dr MacLeod has now devised a plan and costing for the conservation of the shoes which are an extremely rare find.
Our end of year appeal will focus on raising funds toward these costs. If you’d like to contribute to conserving a unique piece of Western Australian heritage, please make a tax deductible donation to our appeal.