Two paths on the way home

Mountains cannot be surmounted except by winding paths.    

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The Port Hills may not be mountains as such, but they formed a formidable barrier for the first European Settlers. Of course, Māori had a number of well-established trails across the landscape prior to European settlement. Many of these paths were used by European settlers and take the form of many of the landmarks and main roads of our modern city. While there are many paths taken by European settlers in the mid-19th century, two of the most important are the Bridle Path and the Sumner Road.

The history of these two paths is intertwined. When Captain Joseph Thomas selected the sites of Lyttelton and Christchurch on behalf of the Canterbury Association in 1849, he was faced with the difficult task of establishing a navigable path between the new port and township. After much deliberation, the route selected ran from the eastern end of the Lyttelton township along the Tapuaeharuru cliffs into Sumner. Due to the lack of local labour, Captain Thomas initially brought 120 Māori workmen from the North Island to cut the wide track from Lyttleton to Sumner using pick and shovel. The workmen cut an initial bridle path out towards Officers Point, filling up gullies as they went along. The toughest part of the construction was the section of road above what is today the Cashin Quay breakwater, where the workmen had to blast through solid rock to form a pathway. This was a monumental task which took a significant amount of time to accomplish, and the area came to be known as the “Sticking Point”. A review of accounts of the work carried out on the Sumner Road between 1849 and 1851 suggests that £4,730 was spent on the heavy excavation work and £360 was spend on forming the line, while a further £405 was spent on constructing retaining walls and £83 spent on drainage (Lyttelton Times, 16/5/1855: 9). This suggests that not only were the workmen blasting through the stone and forming up the line of the road, but they were also constructing drains and retaining walls.

By March 1850 Thomas had spent all of the £20,000 that the Canterbury Association had allocated for public works. When John Robert Godley arrived in April 1850, the depleted state of the funds forced him to suspend all but maintenance work on the Sumner Road (Ogilvie, 2009: 33-34). Although work had been halted on the Sumner Road, the anticipated arrival of the Canterbury Pilgrims at the end of 1850, meant there was still an urgent need to provide access to Christchurch and the plains.

As a temporary measure, Captain Thomas decided to improve the small track on the western end of the Lyttelton township, beginning at Ticehurst Road and leading up over the hills into the Heathcote Valley. With a budget of just £300, a work gang of 70 European and Māori workmen, a hastily constructed the path up the long spur and down into the valley. This track quickly became known as “The Bridle Path” (Amodeo, 2001: 152-153; Ogilvie, 2009: 34, 105; Height and Straubel, 1965: 122-123; Lyttelton Times 18/1/1851: 6)

The Bridle Path became a flurry of activity as the majority of the newly arrived immigrants disembarked and travelled over the Port Hills into Christchurch. Most accounts of the path at this time express dissatisfaction with the rough, hastily cut track. Edward Ward, who had arrived in Lyttelton on board the Charlotte Jane, indicated that “The little tract, which formed a sort of bay between the spurs of the hills, was of most irregular quality” (Ogilvie, 2009: 123). The steep gradient of the path meant that the majority of the trip had to be taken on foot with horses being dismounted and led over the steep summit. For most of the immigrants this meant carrying their possessions on their backs, though regular communication between port and plain by means of pack horses was established in January 1851 (Height and Straubel, 1965: 184; Lyttelton Times 18/1/1851: 5). The Canterbury Association appear to have continued to undertake some improvements to the Bridle Path during the first few years of the fledging settlement. Although the full extent of these works is not clear, in August 1852 a Mr Thompson was able to successfully drive the first empty two-horse dray over the Bridle Path (Lyttelton Times 1/2/1851: 3, 29/1/1851: 5, 12/4/1851: 2, 21/8/1852: 7, 10). Despite the success of Thompson’s inaugural cart trip, the path was still considered too dangerous for more than foot traffic and the occasional horse (Lyttelton Times 7/1/1854: 8, 16/5/1855: 6; Press 23/5/1914: 8).

By the end of 1864 the road board had spent £332 14s in maintaining and upgrading the Bridle Path (Press 5/1/1865: 3). The Heathcote Road Board continued to maintain and upgrade the Bridle Path for the remainder of the 19th century and into the 20th century (Lyttelton Times 6/1/1876: 1, 2/2/1882: 1, 13/3/1883: 1, 23/3/1886: 1, 30/9/1902: 6; Press 5/9/1872: 3, 9/5/1891: 3, 8/6/1896: 6, 14/2/1903: 9; Star 20/3/1874: 2, 28/4/1877: 2). The path remains a highly popular walking track today, although largely for more recreational uses. If you’re a pretty fit individual it could be a way to avoid that morning commute.

Going back to the Sumner Road, following the passing of the New Zealand Constitution Act in 1852, the newly formed Canterbury Provincial Council took over the authority for the formation and maintenance of the roads throughout Canterbury. The Council’s Ordinance of 1854 established a Lyttelton and Christchurch Road Commission to determine the best means of communication between the sea port and the interior. The commissioners confirmed that, despite the cost, the route via Evans Pass and Sumner which had initially been selected by Captain Thomas in 1849 was indeed the best option. However, they also determined that the portion of the line extending between Polhil’s Bay and Evans Pass should be constructed on a lower elevation (Lyttelton Times, 22/4/1854: 14). This new line of road was surveyed to the east of the original line in 1855 (Lyttelton Times, 12/11/1866: 3). This line of road is today known as the Old Sumner Road.

It took a further three years for the Provincial Council to form the Sumner Road from Lyttelton to Christchurch into a navigable path. During this time, the residents of Lyttelton appear to have become exasperated with the council’s efforts, for under their own volition they utilised prison labour to improve the drainage of part of the Sumner Road by installing necessary culverts and gratings (Lyttelton Times, 16/8/1856: 6, 12/11/1856: 7). The road was officially opened on Monday 24 August 1857 (Lyttelton Times, 26/8/1857: 4). Despite the success of the inaugural trip, it proved a perilous endeavour which indicated that the provincial council would have to undertake further works and invest more money before the road could be considered complete to a standard to allow carts to safety navigate (Lyttelton Times, 5/9/1857: 1, 9/1/1858: 4). By the end of the decade cart traffic along the road was steadily increasing (Lyttelton Times, 29/10/1859: 3).

As motorcar traffic increased after the turn of the century it became necessary to remove the dangerous zig-zag corners at Evan’s Pass by blasting a new straighter route. In 1913, it was decided that this new route was to extend from Captain Thomas’s original line of the Sumner Road (Press, 19/9/1913: 4). It was at this time that the line of road that had been laid out on the lower elevation on the advice of the Lyttelton and Christchurch Road Commission in 1854 (now known as the old Sumner Road) was abandoned. The new Sumner Road route to the summit was completed in 1916 (Ogilvie, 2009: 36).

Aerial imagery from 1925-1929 showing the diversion of Sumner Road. Old Sumner Road is visible as the lower road in the image. Image: Canterbury Maps, 2020.

After the 2010-2011 Canterbury Earthquakes, the Sumner Road was badly damaged, with tonnes of rock falling on the road. A massive repair project took place from 2015/2016 to 2019, and the original 19th century portion of the road, from Lyttelton to the start of the 1916 route, was monitored by an archaeologist. Excavations for the repairs of the road and retaining walls exposed larger sections of infilling using crushed and whole red scoria rock. Given the historic references to the infilling of gullies, it seems likely that locally sourced rock, much of it likely from the blasting of the rock for the roadway, was used for this purpose.

Rocks on the road as seen during a site visit before the repair works in 2016. Image: K. Webb.

The excavation behind one of the 20th century retaining walls. The red scoria fill recorded in this area is visible on the left and across the excavation area. Image: M. Hickey.

Interestingly, at least two drains constructed within the 19th century portion of Sumner Road had been constructed with locally cut and shaped red scoria blocks. Supporting this are newspapers references, including one mentioning the services of a mason to repair a drain after it was damaged by a cart (Press, 10/4/1872: 3). The use of this material is not unusual within the context of Lyttelton, as we have also found that an early drain (built in 1857) located within the Gaol complex was also constructed of red scoria. The drains found on Sumner Road were square with large red scoria blocks cut on the inner, top, base and side surfaces, but left uncut and rough on the outer sides. The use of these drains was evident as the base stones had well worn grooves cut by the water trickling through over time.

Looking down on the top of one of the drains. Image: M. Hickey.

Looking through the remainder of the red scoria drain while still in situ. Image: M. Hickey.

Rockfall remains a risk in some surrounding areas of the Bridle Path, but the path was used by a number of people in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake as both Sumner Road and the tunnel were closed. Recent works on the path for service renewal exposed a number of different stone and clay based track and fill layers. However, given the popularity and age of the track, the track was subject to many upgrades and repairs over time so these layers could be attributed to any phase of activity occurring in the 19th or 20th century. While we might not have too many subsurface finds that tell us about the settlers who used the track, the track itself is a recorded archaeological site and is a visible reminder of the challenge posed by the Port Hills.

The Bridle Path in 2020. Image: J. Whitmore.

A 20th century culvert with stone and clay fill around, and natural clay beneath. Image: M. Hickey.

By Megan Hickey and Lydia Mearns.

References

Amodeo, C., 2001. Forgotten Forty-niners: Being an account of the Men & Women who paved the way in 1849 for the Canterbury Pilgrims in 1850. Christchurch: The Caxton Press.

Height, J. and Straubel, C.R. eds., 1965. A History of Canterbury. Volume 1: T ed. Christchurch: Whitcombe & Tombs.

Lyttelton Times, 1851-1914. [online] Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/.

New Zealander, 1845-1866. [online] Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/.

Ogilvie, G., 2009. The Port Hills of Christchurch. Christchurch, N.Z.: Philips & King.

Press, 1861-1945. [online] Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/.

Star, 1868-1920. [online] Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/.

The Archaeology of The Arts Centre

Last week on the blog we gave a brief history of the Arts Centre. Following on from that, today we’re going to be having a look at the archaeology of the site. This blog is related to our exhibition Art of Archaeology on now at the Arts Centre as part of the Christchurch Heritage Festival. If you haven’t already been, then head down to the Boys High building and see some of the artefacts found during the archaeological monitoring of earthquake repair works at the Arts Centre! The exhibition is on until the 8th of November.

As a historic area that was occupied in the nineteenth century (see last week’s blog for more info on that), The Arts Centre meets Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga’s definition of an archaeological site- a place associated with pre-1900 human activity, where there may be evidence relating to the history of New Zealand. The 2014 Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act protects all New Zealand archaeological sites and states that an archaeological authority is needed if a site is to be modified or destroyed. Because of this, archaeologists from Underground Overground Archaeology have worked alongside contractors to monitor the repair works, recording any archaeology and recovering any artefacts found during the works.

Most of the earthworks we’ve monitored have been minor. They include things like digging new footings for repairing building foundations or trenching for installing new services. The nature of these types of earthworks means that if you love photographs of deep excavation units with beautifully excavated features and nice clean stratigraphic profiles then you’re going to be out of luck!

Having said that, there’s something pretty cool about a digger inside a building- it just looks so out of place! Image: Megan Hickey.

Repairing foundations in the engineering building. This was too tight a spot to get the digger in, so the contractors are excavating by hand. Image: Julia Hughes.

Love a trench! This one is outside the biology and physics buildings. Image: Julia Hughes.

We found a variety of things from the different earthworks that we monitored. In the dry cavities between the walls and floors of the buildings we found many well-preserved paper artefacts including some relating to the university and a rather extensive collection of cigarette boxes!

Paper artefacts found within the buildings from the Arts Centre. Top left is The Elements. The Elements is attributed to the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid and is thought to have been originally published in ca. 300 BC. The textbook is arguably the most famous mathematics book ever to be written and was considered a fundamental text for students in the nineteenth century. This copy was well-loved, with calculations written in pencil on the back page of the book. Top right is an invitation to the 1955 Arts Ball. Middle and bottom rows are just some of the many cigarette and match boxes that we found- Capstan seems to have been a favourite though: Images: Emma Warwick, Clara Watson.

Throughout the site we found lots of nineteenth century artefact scatter. These were small fragments of artefacts located within the layers of the site’s stratigraphy, with no association to specific deposits or features. It is highly likely that this scatter represents the everyday objects that were used by the residents of the site before the Canterbury College was built on the site (see last week’s blog for more info). These artefacts were probably originally deposited in rubbish pits, like we normally find on domestic sites, but the construction of the university likely disturbed and re-deposited the material, creating the layer of artefact scatter that we then found during our archaeological monitoring.

A small glimpse of the nineteenth century artefact scatter that we found in the various trenches we monitored across the site. As you can see, most of the artefacts are heavily fragmented with only a small portion of the original vessel remaining intact. Image: Emma Warwick

The most exciting thing that we found, at least in my opinion, is Feature 1. It might just look like a humble rubbish pit, but this feature was filled with scientific glass ware and was located near the location of the Old Tin Shed.

Feature 1 after it was first exposed by the digger. Image: Peter Mitchell.

Feature 1 during excavation. Some of the test tubes found in the feature can be seen in the centre of the pit. Image: Peter Mitchell.

While the gothic stone buildings may be the legacy of Canterbury College, the first university building was constructed from corrugated iron and known colloquially as the Old Tin Shed. Professors had arrived in Christchurch in the mid-1870s, prior to the construction of the first buildings, and were teaching out of temporary accommodations. The arrival of the new professor of chemistry, Alexander William Bickerton, created a need for a laboratory, and the Old Tin Shed provided the solution. Built in 1876/77, the Old Tin Shed was reminiscent of a rustic farm building.

The Old Tin Shed, a very different style of building to the gothic ones surrounding it. The foundations we found matched up with the footprint of the building. Image: University of Canterbury.

Despite being intended as a temporary solution, the Old Tin Shed remained standing for 40 years until 1916, when it was demolished, and the present-day North Quad was created. It was thought that the building was completely demolished, but during our excavations in the North Quad we found regularly spaced brick features that we think might have been piles from the building’s foundations.

Brick piles from the Old Tin Shed building, uncovered during excavations in the North Quad. Image: J. Hughes.

Ernest Rutherford, famous for splitting the atom and winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1908, would have undertaken experiments in the Old Tin Shed during his years of study at Canterbury College. And it’s possible that the scientific glass ware that we found may have been used by Rutherford in his experiments!

A small selection of the many fragments of science glass found in the feature. All up we recovered 167 fragments of scientific glass ware from the feature, representing over 100 test tubes, beakers and ampoules. We’ve chosen not to clean the scientific glass ware so that residue analysis remains a possibility for future research on the assemblage. Image: Clara Watson.

.Thanks to The Arts Centre for collaborating with us to produce this exhibition, and to Christchurch City Council for providing funding. As archaeologists we spend most of our time uncovering stories from the past, so it’s great to have opportunities like Heritage Festival to share them with the general public.

Clara Watson

The Arts Centre

The annual Christchurch Heritage Festival is currently taking place and this year we’ve partnered with The Arts Centre to produce an exhibition showcasing some of the artefacts found during archaeological monitoring of the earthquake repair works at The Arts Centre. The exhibition is located upstairs in the Boys High building and is on until the 8th of November. As well as cool and unusual artefacts, we also have a children’s table set up with fun activities for the kids! If you’re based in and around Christchurch, then we’d love to see you come down and explore!

Keeping with the theme of our Heritage Festival exhibition, this week and next week we’re going to be looking at The Arts Centre on the blog. This week we’ll go over the history of the site and next week we’ll take a closer look at the archaeology and what we’ve found.

Our exhibition at The Arts Centre! Image: C. Watson.

While The Arts Centre is best known for the Gothic Revival buildings that were built as part of the Canterbury College, the site was occupied long before that. Waitaha, Ngāti Māmoe and later Ngāi Tahu used the network of swamps and waterways of the Christchurch area as mahinga kai/food gathering places, and as temporary resting spots along kā ara tawhito/traditional travel routes. Several kāinga or pā were also located in the central Christchurch area, including the nearby Ōtautahi, which remains a Māori name for the city.

Ōtautahi, before the modern city of Christchurch was built. Image: Maclure, Macdonald & Macgregor, Lith, London. Lyttelton, Published by Martin G. Heywood, [ca 1855]. Ref: D-001-032. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23051035

In 1848, Henry Kemp organised the sale of land from Ngāi Tahu to the British crown, in what was known as Kemp’s Deed. Following this, the land was subdivided by Edward Jolie in 1850 into town sections. The land the Arts Centre now occupies consisted of 22 town sections bordered by Worcester Boulevard, Rolleston Ave, Hereford Street and Montreal Street. This land was not initially intended to be the site of a university but was instead offered for sale to private landowners.

British settlers arriving in Christchurch via Lyttelton purchased the town sections and built houses on them from the 1850s into the 1880s. These settlers included a farmer, chaplain, builder, lawyer, surveyor, saddler, accountant, carpenter and a “gentleman”, along with their families. By 1877, 23 houses and out-buildings had been constructed on the site.

The site of what would become the Arts Centre in 1877. The town sections are numbered in red whilst the black shows the buildings that were located on the site when the map was created. Image: Strouts 1877.

One of the more interesting settlers living at the site was the Reverend Henry Torlesse. Rev. Torlesse purchased four of the town sections bordering Worcester Boulevard in January 1864. Torlesse arrived in Lyttelton on board the Minerva in 1853 to join his brother on his farm in Rangiora. He was ordained in Christchurch in 1859. Rev. Torlesse worked briefly in Okains Bay, where he set up a successful school, before he took up the position of chaplain in Christchurch for the local gaol, hospital, and lunatic asylum in 1864, which likely spurred his purchase of the central town sections on which he built his house. As well as his work as a chaplain, Rev. Torlesse taught lessons in Latin and English to pupils that boarded in his residence on Worcester Boulevard. Torlesse’s private schooling was the first use of the site as a place of education. Rev. Torlesse, along with others, also established a woman’s refuge on corner of Hereford Street and Rolleston Ave. During Torlesse’s work as chaplain he came across many destitute women, who were often driven into prostitution, and he saw the need for the establishment of a women’s refuge in the city. A building for the women’s refuge was constructed on the site by December 1864, and the refuge operated from that building until 1876 when it moved to a different premise elsewhere in the city.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any images of the block from this period, but no doubt the street would have looked something like this. This photo shows Armagh Street looking west to Hagley Park, with Deans Bush visible in the background. Image: Barker, Alfred Charles (Dr), 1819-1873. Armagh Street, Christchurch. Ref: 1/2-022719-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22343733.

Following Rev. Torlesse’s death in 1870, the trustees of his estate sold the land to William Rolleston, Superintendent of Canterbury, in October 1873 for the site of a college and for other educational purposes. The idea of establishing a college dated back to the beginning of the Canterbury settlement in 1848, with 47 of the original 53 members of the Canterbury Association being alumni from either Cambridge or Oxford University and wishing to set up a similar institute in Christchurch. It was not until 1871 that the Canterbury Collegiate Union, formed by trustees of the Canterbury Museum and Christ’s College, became formally affiliated with the University of New Zealand and begun offering classes, temporarily held in Christ’s College’s classrooms.

In January 1874, Benjamin Mountfort was awarded the contract to design the first buildings for the new college, with the first stone building (The Clock Tower), opened in 1877. The buildings were designed in the High Victorian Collegiate Gothic style using basalt from the Port Hills and limestone from Oamaru. Between 1876 and 1926 the Canterbury College purchased and built on the rest of the town sections on the block. Christchurch Girls and Boys High Schools, opened in 1878 and 1881, were constructed to prepare students for higher levels of study, whilst later buildings connected to specific fields of study were built over the next four decades.

Canterbury College in 1880. The Canterbury Museum can be seen as well (along with an excellent penny farthing) Image: Canterbury University College and Canterbury Museum, Christchurch. Foxley Norris album. Ref: PA1-q-094-103. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22897824

In 1957 the University of Canterbury, as it was now officially called, begun the move to Ilam, which provided a bigger site for the expanding university. By the 1970s, the university had left the site and the Arts Centre of Christchurch Trust officially became the owner. The Arts Centre provided a space for Christchurch creatives for around 35 years, until the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes severely damaged the historic buildings.

Next week on the blog we’ll be taking a look at the archaeology of the Arts Centre, in the meant time head down and check out the exhibition for yourself!

Clara Watson

References

This brief history of the Arts Centre was written using information from Strange, G. 1994. The Arts Centre of Christchurch: Then and Now. Clerestory Press, Christchurch.

It is all art to me

*advisory note. This blog includes mention of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, and suicide*

 

The parallels between art and archaeology are closely interwoven. If you were to study art history in school or university, or even for personal enjoyment read Grombrich’s The Story of Art (now in its 16th printing with over 8 million copies – it’s worth a read), you will find that archaeology is at the beginning of the history of art (Grombrich, 2006). Through rock art and decorated objects, the story of art starts as part of its contemporary life and later, much later, whether as a fragment or in its full form, the work lives on as art and archaeology providing part of that all-important interpretation of our social narrative. So, when does art become archaeology? Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History form a trinity covering the analysis and retrieval of material culture, the patterns of use through cultural meaning, norms and values, and an interpretation of aesthetic value through visual means. So, does something stop being art and become archaeology? No, not really.  It is how it is researched, curated, or presented to us, either in a gallery or museum, that creates a norm or a value on how we interpret it.

The art in archaeology, as presented in art history, continues to be an influence and inspiration to many artists. However, it can be a complex of cultural appropriation, and then there is the discussion of taking something out of its context and placing it in a museum or gallery (really this is a whole other blog post) and then also the concept of ‘found art’… (see below- another blog post, but don’t hold me to it as they may be a bit of an unravel).  But this is a blog about archaeology, and the purpose of this post today is a far simpler story of a historian (and part-time artist) finding artists in archaeology.

‘I’m going to pick it up’ T. Wadsworth, 2020. Instagram image of found art by A. E. Gibson, 2020.

It should not have been a surprise to me (but it was) when through the course of my work supporting archaeologists with their research and report writing, that a distinctive cursive form was appearing in archaeological site record forms. It was type of handwriting that when reading it you could almost hear a halting, but knowledgeable, voice, aware of differences, a script suited to the canvas. All the forms were signed with an artistic flourish of ‘T. Fomison’, Tony Fomison. My colleagues were like ‘yeah he was an archaeologist’ and I was ‘nah he was an artist’! It could be said that whilst my colleagues and myself were vaguely aware of Fomison’s other professional pursuits, we were all conditioned by our respective education, meaning that our perception of Fomison’s skill set was that art, or archaeology, was the dominant force in his career. In my case Fomison’s work had been part of my art and design education focusing on New Zealand art. I had known of his connection to Māori rock art but always as an artist.

An ArchSite record written by Tony Fomison in 1859. Image: ArchSite: M36/6, 1959.

Born Anthony Leslie Fomison in Christchurch 1939, Fomison was the eldest of five children. His father, who served with the second Echelon to Maadi Camp and Italy during the war, was a tram driver who later worked at the Dunlop factory in Christchurch. Fomison’s mother worked at the Christchurch public hospital. Fomison grew up in Linwood and was not a well child. It was his mother that encouraged the young Fomison to draw (Fomison, 1994). It was during his time at Linwood High School that the ‘bookish’ Fomison started to cultivate his interest in archaeology and photography, compiling photographic essays. Fomison went on to study sculpture at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts from 1957-1960, avoiding a boilermaker apprenticeship, and, from there, went on to work for the Canterbury Museum as an archaeological assistant (Fomison, 1994). Here, between 1959 and 1962, Fomison cultivated his essayist style of photography, which resulted in work such as documenting the eeling season at Wairewa/Lake Forsyth (Fomison, 1994).

Hocken Snapshop (15th Apr 2020). Forsyth, Lake – Outlet 1958 Eeling Season “At the end of the day’s work”. In Website Hocken Snapshop. Retrieved 15th Oct 2020 14:04, from https://hocken.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/11439.

In 1959 Fomison had been endorsed by Canterbury Museum archaeologist Roger Duff. Along with Owen Wilkes (later a prominent peace activist) and others, on behalf of the museum and Historic Places Trust (now Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga), they surveyed the Māori rock art in South Canterbury (Fomison, 1994). It has to be noted that a Theo Schoon had traversed the area in 1947, and made his presence known by scrawling his signature on the limestone rocks at Craigmore (Byrt, 2019). Theodorus Johannes “Theo” Schoon was an Aotearoa New Zealand artist, photographer, and carver interested in Māori art, carving, geothermal activity. He also performed Javanese dance (Skinner, 2000). You could say Schoon held a forthright approach to everything and everyone in his life. Schoon was described by Anthony Byrt in 2019, on the release of his biography by Damain Skinner, as being ‘hinged on whether he’s master or mulch’, in as many words, lacking self-awareness and an artistic agenda that divided many of his acquaintances on his work and insistence (wanted or not) on providing advice (Byrt, 2019). I have tried to be measured in my appraisal of Schoon but Byrt’s colourful take on the artist can be read here.

Fomison recorded the archaeological work in field books, took tracings, and completed a card index of over 450 entries, creating a body of work that must be viewed as a ‘vital component’ that would stand alone archaeologically and provide a wealth of process to his art (Fomison, 1994). The relationship with Duff and the museum was terminated in 1962. Fomsion continued to work from time to time in an archaeological capacity with fieldwork in Taranaki in 1980 and in Rotorua in 1981 (Fomison, 1994). The amount of work that Fomison covered in three years in Canterbury and Banks Peninsula was vast, and archaeology was an aspect of his career that was never far away and was revisited, including the controversial artist Theo Shoon, throughout his life. In 1987 Fomison published an article in the New Zealand Archaeological Association (NZAA) newsletter on the topic of Shoon and the retouching of rock art (Archaeopedia New Zealand, 2015). Shoon was accused of having retouched rock drawings during his work recording them. Fomison reviewed the evidence and found it was clear that Shoon had modified some of the work as a ‘restoration dot for dot’ in Shoon’s words (who I imagine did not have an awareness of his white saviour mentality) (Archaeopedia New Zealand, 2019).

It was from 1961 that Fomison started to focus more on his art, using painting as his main medium. In 1963 Fomison was awarded a travel grant by the Arts Advisory Board and travelled to England in 1964. Not a lot of work was produced and Fomison’s travels included a trip to Spain, then joining an ‘Apache’ street gang in Paris. Here Fomison drew pavement art for tourists. Fomison was later imprisoned and subsequently sent back to England. In England a drug habit found Fomison hospitalised at London’s Banstead Hospital. While hospitalised, Fomison began to paint again  (Fomison, 1994). In 1967 Fomison was aided in his return to New Zealand, moving back to Christchurch and living on Riccarton Road with fellow artist Philip Clairmont. Clairmont, Fomison, and Napier based artist Allen Maddox formed a defiant grouping called the ‘Militant Artists Union’ (McAloon, 2009). As you can imagine, the trio exalted the bohemian lifestyle, expressionist and outsider art (see below), all fuelled by drugs and alcohol. They were all enablers of their vices and their talent. Photographer Marti Friedlander captured one of these moments between the friends as part of a documentative series of New Zealand artists. The image is now in the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū collection. This way of life did find Fomison spending six weeks in Rolleston and Paparua prison for drug offences (Fomison, 1994).  After a brief stint in Beverage Street, Fomison moved with Clairmont into 300 Hereford Street, and it was it was here that Clairmont produced Fireplace. They lived and worked at the property between 1971 and 1972. the property is now a listed building with the Christchurch City Council (Christchurch City Council, n.d.: 269; Figure 4). In 1973 Fomison moved to Auckland (Fomison, 1994).

300 Hereford Street: the studio and home to Fomison during 1971-1972. Image: Kete Christchurch, 2009.

In Auckland Fomison immersed himself into Polynesian culture, all the while producing what you could call a distinctive, dark, tormented painting style. Fomison’s work can be uncomfortable, with skull and moon like faces, jesters, and caves, but is without influence from his peers. The term ‘Outsider Art’ has been associated with Fomison, as Howard Davis notes in his article ‘The Outsider Art of Tony Fomison’. Howard goes on to say ‘Fomison clearly relished depicting such unsettling creatures because he felt they literally embodied his deep disdain for ‘civilised’ bourgeois society’ (Davis, 2018).

In Auckland Fomison lived in several places including 17 Gunson Street in Freemans Bay, which was photographed by photographer Mark Adams in 1977. It was in Auckland that Fomison was introduced to Colin McCahon, becoming involved in reviving Tā moko (Fomison, 1994). Think of Friedlander’s images in Michael King’s Moko: Maori Tattooing in the 20th Century. In 1979 the Dowse Gallery in Lower Hutt held the first major survey of Fomison’s work, and it was at this time that Fomison met Paulo Sulu’ape II, a tufuga ta tatau (master tattooist) and started to receive the pe’a. Photographer Mark Adams captures the process of Fomison receiving the pe’a, which is a Samoan male rite of passage. The tattoo was completed in 1980. Fomison continued to live in Auckland, with a brief interlude in 1985 in Wellington as the first Rita Angus Fellow, living at Rita Angus Cottage in Sydney Street West, Thorndon (Fomison, 1994). By 1988-89 Fomison was nearing 50 and in failing health spending time in hospital. His frail health in childhood, combined with his later drug and alcohol use, likely to be contributing factors. Fomison’s final exhibition was in 1989 at the Gow/Lansgord Gallery. In 1990 during his visit to the Waitangi Day 150th celebrations in the Bay of Islands with an old friend, Merry Isaac, Fomison’s health rapidly declined. Fomison died 7th February 1990 aged 51 (Fomison, 1994).

You could say it was a poignant place to die for Fomison, whose immersion in Māori and Polynesian culture wove as a central core throughout his life and his art. His cohorts in the ‘Miliant Artists Union’ faired no less in their time. Clairmont had died aged 34 in 1984 by suicide and Maddox died in 2000 at age 51, having sustained himself and his art on a diet of whisky and cannabis. Maddox’s obituary by Gilbert Wong was quite the piece, but did quote Maddox, of Fomison and Clairmont: “One of the things about those two guys – and I can say this being schizophrenic and having caused them difficulties – is that they were non-judgmental.” (Wong, 2000).

If you want to see Fomison’s work, I can recommend the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū exhibition Te Wheke: Pathways Across Oceania that features Fomison’s Hill top watcher, 1976. This work is amongst my favourites of Fomison. The exhibition notes that the Te Waipounamu/South Island mountains still heavily featured in Fomison’s work despite his later move to Te Ika-a-Māui/North Island and that Hill top watcher could be ‘a reimagining of Aotearoa New Zealand’s pre-history’ (Te Wheke, 2020). There is much more to tell of Fomison’s work, but as a rambler I fear I will do it no justice. But I do still find that seeing Fomison’s writing in the course of my research gives me a little bit of a thrill that his work continues to influence not just in the art world. As for Theo Schoon? Well his mark was well and truly made, the good and the bad (and yes this is a whole other blog post too!).

So, on that note, time to wind up this blog post with a ‘good strength to your paint brushes’ – as Fomison once wrote (Gilber Marriot Gallery, 2019). Or maybe, in this case, your trowels, for there is art in archaeology and an art to it all.

Annthalina Gibson

References

ArchSite, 2020. New Zealand Archaeological Association, Dunedin.

Archaeopedia New Zealand, 2015. Fomison Tony. [online] Available at: <http://archaeopedia.com/wiki/index.php?title=Fomison_Tony> [Accessed 15 Oct. 2020].

Archaeopedia New Zealand, 2019. Schoon Theo. [online] Available at: <http://archaeopedia.com/wiki/index.php?title=Schoon_Theo> [Accessed 15 Oct. 2020].

Byrt, A., 2019. Book of the Week: That total asshole Theo Schoon. [online] The Spinoff. Available at: <https://thespinoff.co.nz/books/28-02-2019/book-of-the-week-that-total-asshole-theo-schoon/> [Accessed 16 Oct. 2020].

Christchurch City Council, n.d. Heritage Statements of Significance – Christchurch.

Davis, H., 2018. The Outsider Art of Tony Fomison. [online] Scoop Independent News. Available at: <https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/CU1809/S00176/the-outsider-art-of-tony-fomison.htm> [Accessed 16 Oct. 2020].

Fomison, T., 1994. Fomison: What shall we tell them. City Gallery Wellington.

“good strength to your paint brushes” part of Tony Fomison’s correspondence to artist Richard Lomas (http://gilberdmarriottgallery.weebly.com/gmg-blog/richard-lomas-coque-tails-exhibition-10-august-7-september-2019)

Grombrich, E.H., 2006. The Story of Art, Pocket Edition. Phaidon.

Hocken Snapshop (15th Apr 2020). Forsyth, Lake – Outlet 1958 Eeling Season “At the end of the day’s work”. In Website Hocken Snapshop. Retrieved 15th Oct 2020 14:04, from https://hocken.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/11439

Kete Christchurch, 2009. 300 Hereford Street. [online] Kete Christchurch: Places and Streets. Available at: <http://ketechristchurch.peoplesnetworknz.info/en/places_and_streets/images/show/919-300-hereford-street?view_size=large> [Accessed 16 Oct. 2020].

McAloon, W., 2009. New Zealand Art at Te Papa. [online] Te Papa Press. Aslo see at: <https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/967769>.

Skinner, D., 2000. Schoon, Theodorus Johannes. [online] Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2000. Available at: <https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/5s4/schoon-theodorus-johannes> [Accessed 16 Oct. 2020].

Te Wheke, 2020. Tony Fomison, Hill top watcher. [online] Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū. Available at: <https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/collection/2010-003/tony-fomison/hill-top-watcher> [Accessed 15 Oct. 2020].

Wong, G., 2000. Obituary: Allen Maddox. New Zealand Herald. [online] 25 Aug. Available at: <https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/iobituaryi-allen-maddox/XXRWLVA7SGVRCAILBLHIBZL3JA/>.

New Zealand Artists featured

Tony Fomison

Theo Schoon

Phillip Clairmont

Allen Maddox

Rita Angus

Paulo Sulu’ape II

Marti Friedlander

Mark Adams

Merry Isaac

 Galleries

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

Hocken Collections

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

 

The archaeology of uncertainty

Evening, love, how’s your day?

Part 1: the archaeology of uncertainty

As a discipline, archaeology carries with it a lot of uncertainty. A number of times, I’ve been faced with an artefact, feature, or stratigraphic sequence that is difficult to figure out, and that could be one or a combination of several things. Sometimes further investigation clears it up, and sometimes you just have to come to terms with the fact that you may never know for sure. We don’t have a time machine, or ghosts that we can ask to recount their life stories. Radiocarbon dates sometimes have error margins of several decades, which mean we may never know the exact day Māori set foot on Aotearoa. When we excavate a rubbish pit in Christchurch, we try to associate it with a particular occupant, but are often in a situation where the uncertainty of the artefact dates means that an assemblage could have belonged to one or more family groups over a long period of time. A large part of the discipline is interpretation, and there’s a joke among archaeologists that goes something like: “if you put one archaeologist in a room with a question, they’ll come out with two different answers”. People commonly conceive of the past as something that is solid and unchanging in a way that the future is not, but we are constantly re-evaluating our understanding of the past based on new evidence. Looking into the past is like looking into the horizon on a hot day, the farther you look, the hazier it gets. As an archaeologist, uncertainty is just something you just have to get used to.

chicken feeder

Sometimes we figure out brief mysteries pretty quick, like Clara’s identification of this chicken feeder recently featured on out Facebook page.

Features 41 and 56, at the CJESP site, a pair of  likely privy pits formed in the 1880s. These privy pits, and the artefacts within them, may have been associated with Richard Brown,  a bootmaker, or a Mrs. Rose, a dressmaker, or perhaps both. Both were active at the corner of Durham and Tuam Streets around the time the artefacts were deposited (Williams, et al. 2017).

upside down bottle feature

Still a mystery. A circular feature of carefully placed upside-down bottles at the Christchurch Convention Centre (Trendafilov et al. in prep). We’re still not sure exactly what the purpose of this was. Image: Hamish Williams.

Part 2: The archaeology of uncertainty

At the start of the February, I went on a three-week holiday to the exotic ‘northern hemisphere’. At the start, the recently reported coronavirus seemed restricted to China. Three weeks later, heading home from the UK, that country was reporting 8 or so cases. Our flight through Hong Kong got re-routed through the US. On 28 February, New Zealand reported its first case of covid. Less than a month later, NZ case numbers surpassed 100, and NZ went into Alert Level 4 on the 25th of March. Time was running wild.

As I’m writing this, the global total of the coronavirus pandemic has surpassed 30 million cases, and just passed 1,000,000 deaths. Not a good one at all. The west coast of the USA is being ravaged by wildfires, just as the east coast of Australia was at the start of the year. Apparently approximately half the world’s population is in some sort of lockdown restrictions. The ‘travel bubble’ between NZ and Aus that was discussed optimistically in the middle of the year now seems unlikely to occur before 2021. I googled ‘trans-tasman bubble’ and got internet reckons ranging from ‘weeks away’ to ‘mid-2021’ so who the blimmin’ heck knows. Don’t speak too soon, the wheel’s still in spin.

When I talk to people about this period, I often remark how we lived in a world without plans (though the return to Level 1 across the country has reproduced some kind of normality). The spectre of uncertainty has devoured the ideas of all those kiwis who planned to make an overseas trip, or start an OE or a business, or buy a house. An untold number of people don’t know when they’ll see loved ones again. Uncertainty isn’t a peculiarity of our current phase, but it seems more present to us because so much of our modern mode of living, things we took for granted, have been affected by the pandemic and the human response to it. In truth, we are constantly exposed to change, both in our natural environment, and in the behaviour of our fellow humans. The outlook for Thursday? Your guess is good as mine.

So what does archaeology tell us about uncertainty and how people responded to it? Much of the archaeological approach to uncertainty is related to the variability, both seasonal and year to year, of the environment and the resources we use and consume. The change of the seasons may be regular, but there can be great variability, and therefore, uncertainty in these seasons: really rotten weather, temperatures, winds, pests, and so forth, all affecting seasonal produce, and causing pressure from the hinter to the heartland. This variability is not solely environmental (if such a thing exists), but is also exacerbated by human activity like overharvesting, overstocking, habitat destruction etc. etc. etc. For a local example of seasonal variability, my bloody cauliflower hasn’t seen fit to sprout heads this year, so I’m going to have to look elsewhere for ingredients for my aloo gobi. Every time I thought I’d got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet.

cauliflower traitors

Traitors.

The environment – natural and cultural – offers us good years and bad years, or even less specifically, good times and bad times. Archaeologists generally lump cultural responses to food variability and scarcity into four categories: mobility (go somewhere else), diversification (eat a bunch of different stuff), storage (eat some stuff that you have now, later), and exchange (get some stuff to eat from somebody else; Halstead and O’Shea, 1989). Some of these approaches are better suited for dealing with different kinds of variability, and some strategies mesh better in combination: mobility and diversification work well together because food resources tend to be environmentally scattered, whereas mobility and storage are often considered non-complimentary because large surpluses have to be left behind if you’re moving elsewhere. Our modern global food system tends to be a combination of diversification, storage, and exchange, the latter two combining to mean that lots of seasonal produce is now available year-round. If you’ve ever done seasonal harvest work or fly-in fly-out work, mobility will be a familiar part of the economic system to you.

As a buffering strategy against uncertainty, storage effectively turns a seasonally available surplus of food into future food for less productive seasons and can see you through a bad harvest in the future. A cucumber might go off in a week or so, but you can move into a new flat and find a pickle jar from the 1980s still lurking in the back of the cupboard. I like to think of a refrigerator as a one-way, slow-moving time machine. Every time you put something in there, you’re sending it a short length of time into the future, though it does continue to age slightly slower on its journey. Storage of food is not a uniquely human behaviour, but we’ve certainly nailed the greatest diversity of techniques  – including drying, freezing, fermenting, etc. – and food stored or preserved in some way forms a major part of the human diet worldwide. The development of animal husbandry could also be seen as a way to store meat ‘on-the-hoof’. My homemade lockdown kimchi (yes, I’m a hipster) is part of the grand tradition that includes 2000 year old beef jerky and 9,200 year old fermented fish. Storage is often related to the conversion of a resource that occurs in substantial amounts over a relatively short period of time, so is associated with aggregate communities (often dispersed) coming together to harvest and prepare. In Aotearoa, Māori used and continue to use a range of techniques to store and preserve food, including smoking the huge numbers of tuna/eels that migrate out to sea each year, and the preservation of the annual tītī/mutton bird harvest in pōhā/bull kelp containers (Anderson 1997, 1998). A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, but a bird in vacuum-seal might be a bit more expensive this year seeing the season was cut short.

eel poha

Preparing pōhā in 1910. Image: Basil Keane, ‘Te Māori i te ohanga – Māori in the economy – The Māori economy’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/25761/poha-containers (accessed 2 October 2020). Story by Basil Keane, published 11 Mar 2010

dry

Drying eels at Waihora/Lake Forsyth, Canterbury, 1948.
Image: John Wilson, ‘Society – Food, drink and dress’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/2542/drying-eels (accessed 2 October 2020). Story by John Wilson

bog butter

Bog butter, and its wooden container, from County Kildare, Ireland (National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology). This was butter was buried to preserve it almost 2,500 years ago, but evidently never retrieved. Image: Tristan Wadsworth.

Perhaps the most archaeologically visible form in storage in New Zealand archaeology is the kūmara storage pit. One of the most commonly recorded archaeological features from Horomaka/Banks Peninsula right up to the top of the country, these semi-subterranean pits are the remains of roofed storage facilities for kūmara and other crops. The cool, dry conditions allow the kūmara to keep for longer, both for food over winter, but also to ensure a supply of seed crops for the next year’s planting (Davidson et al. 2007).

Remains of kūmara  storage pits, Auckland. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

In 19th century Christchurch, preserved foods perhaps are over-represented in the archaeological record, as they tend to be associated with storage containers that survive through to the modern day, whereas fresh ingredients do not. So we often find vinegar bottles, branded and unbranded preserving and canning jars, and the classic stoneware ‘oyster jars’ for pickled oysters or fish and other food pastes.

‘Oyster jars’. Often used for storing pickled oysters. Image: Chelsea Dickson.

A typical wide-mouth pickle jar. Good for preserves of all sorts. Image: Clara Watson.

An Anchovy Paste jar found in Christchurch and accompanying recipe from 1904. Image: J. Garland, Otago Witness 17/08/1904: 67.

I also want to talk about one of the sites we’ve covered on the blog before: a bonded warehouse that is one of our largest and, to me, most interesting central city sites, and one of multiple bonded warehouses that existed in nineteenth century Christchurch. Jessie’s blog describes how the bonded warehouse was a building in which “goods could be stored and remain exempt from customs duties. They were usually used to store goods and bulk merchandise until they were distributed for retail, at which time those duties and taxes would have to be paid.” The rubbish pits from this site contained remarkably uniform deposits of numerous, identical, and still sealed alcohol bottles, interpreted as stock – full bottles – that had been destined for sale in Christchurch, but that never made it to market, and were instead discarded. Now I’m certainly no economist (Don’t want to be a richer man, and couldn’t tell you the difference between a $4b fiscal hole from an $11b one), but it seems to me that at least in part, the bonded warehouse represents an adaptation to the uncertainty of the international import market. Stock could remain in storage, exempt from customs tax, until such time as it was profitable to sell. However, the discarded stock we find at these sites shows us that trying to wait out the market uncertainty didn’t always result in a final positive outcome (Garland et al., 2014).

One of the rubbish pits found at a bonded warehous site, containing a large number of J & R Tennent sealed bottles. Image: J. Hughes.

A couple of the J & R Tennent sealed tops found in the rubbish pit shown above. The side of the seal reads: “Bottled by J & R Tennent” and (not pictured) “Betts & Co / Patent / Patent / Trade Mark / London.” Betts & Co were the original patentees and manufacturers of metal bottle capsules like these. They were founded in 1804, but weren’t established in London until 1840. The company continued to manufacture bottle capsules until the 1960s: these particular seals were probably made between 1860 and 1915 (Nayton 1991). Images:  J. Garland.

Straying a little further from physical archaeology, I wanted to touch briefly upon the notion of insurance as a modern approach to risk and uncertainty (though I’m not trying to sell you insurance). When we talk about exchange as a buffering strategy for resource variability, it’s not just the modern exchange of currency for goods, but more generally any way in which “present abundance is converted…via social transactions, into a future obligation in time of need.” (Halstead and O’Shea, 1989). This works a bit like storage, except the method of conversion is social rather than physical, and is based around the reciprocal nature of human relationships. Friends and families tend to take care of each other in turn during tough times, and there’s a sliding scale in terms of how formalised the nature of that reciprocity tends to be.

When conducting historical research for some of our sites, we regularly come across insurance claims, particularly reports of fire in local newspapers where the value the building and effects are explicitly listed (see The City Remains for the story of the destruction by fire of the Christchurch Librarian’s house in 1894 but also check out this blog post for a dodgy insurance claim and the mysterious Case of the Severed Hand in Taylor’s Mistake. Insurance companies can be seen as modern, communal but corporatised methods of ‘exchange’ – as buffering strategies against the uncertainty of events such as fires, unexpected death and injury, converting small surpluses in the present to future reciprocal aid. In 19th century Christchurch, those social supports were often associated with fraternal orders such as the Freemasons or Oddfellows, the latter of which’s support was largely aimed at the working class (but just men, because patriarchy).

I don’t know if all that helps with consideration of the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic world, but one of the takeaways for me is that buffering strategies are typically reliant on community action and existing relationships. Mass harvest and the preservation of resources requires community organisation, and exchange is based on the inherently reciprocal nature of human relationships, where we help out others in tough times, because we know they will do the same for us. In both cases, the products of communities are greater than the sum of their parts, and we’ll be together, yeah, together by design. Shoutout to my Ma and Pa for the venison, to my outlaws for the preserves, and to Kirsa and Lou and Hamish for the fruit and veg and homebrew that I consumed over lockdown. I’ll leave you with this. According to Dr. John Wikipedia the first company to offer life insurance was the ‘Amicable Society for a Perpetual Assurance Office, founded in 1706 in London. In the ‘current times’ I wish all of you out there all the Perpetual Assurance, and Amicable Society you need.

Chur,

Tristan

Also, don’t hoard toilet paper.

References

Anderson, A. ‘Historical and archaeological aspects of muttonbirding in New Zealand.’ New Zealand Journal of Archaeology 6 (1997): 35–55.

Anderson, A., 1998. The welcome of strangers : an ethnohistory of southern Maori A.D. 1650-1850. Dunedin: Otago University Press.

Davidson, J.M., Leach, F., Burtenshaw, M. and Harris, G., 2007. Subterranean Storage Pits for Kūmara (Sweet Potato, Ipomoea Batatas L. Lam.): Ethnographic, Archaeological and Experimental Research in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Archaeology, 28 (2006), pp.5–49.

Garland, J., Carter, M., and R. Geary Nichol. 2014. The Terrace, Christchurch: report on archaeological investigations. Unpublished report for Hereford Holdings. NZHPT Authorities 2013/757eq & 2014/134eq.

Halstead, P. and J. O’Shea. 1989. ‘Introduction: cultural responses to risk and uncertainty’ in Halstead, P. and J. O’Shea. 1989. Bad Year Economics: Cultural Responses to Risk and Uncertainty. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Trendafilov, A., Garland, J., Whybrew, C., Mearns, L., Lillo Bernabeu, M., Hennessey, M., and K. Webb. In prep. Christchurch Convention Centre Precinct. Final report on archaeological monitoring under HNZPT authority 2017/280eq.

Williams, H., Garland, J. and Geary Nichol, R., 2017. Christchurch Justice and Emergency Services Precinct Archaeological Report. Unpublished report for the Ministry of Justice.