We’re Feeling 2022

And just like that, it’s Christmas time again. 2022 has been a really great year for archaeology in Christchurch. We’ve worked on some big projects this year, and we’ve had some super interesting finds.

Jumping back to the start of this year, we spent most of January and February on the site of the new Court Theatre. This section of Colombo Street was a strip of retail stores, and a lot of what we found were features that related to these stores. We also found some pretty amazing artefacts, which generated a lot of media attention with Alana giving an interview to the Press and Clara appearing on the news talking about the site.

Neda and Alana excavating the remains of a fireplace. Unfortunately, the site had asbestos contamination so the field team were kitted out in full PPE at the height of summer.

A rubbish pit full of crystal tumblers, dishes and wine glasses that never made it out the shop door.

Once this brick well was abandoned, the occupants of the site made use of the space by throwing their rubbish into it.

Alana confirming that the well was dug into the water table by testing the waters for herself.

The smoking pipe that garnered all the media attention! This smoking pipe was made by L. Fiolet, a French pipe manufacturer that made high end pipes. The pipe depicts the confronting scene of an Indian mutineer about to slaughter a woman and was inspired by the 1857 Indian Mutiny.

The autumn months were spent mostly doing lots of projects where the works were located in road reserves, things like service renewals and road upgrades. While these works aren’t always the most exciting, there was the added fun of over half of the office going down with Covid at once after a now infamous Friday night at the pub…

Carly was one of the few that avoided being infected at the pub, which meant she was under strict instructions NOT TO CATCH COVID while everyone else was off sick, as someone had to hold the fort. Luckily, she wears a mask with style.

During this period, we also excavated the site of an aerated water factory. It should be of no surprise that we found lots of soda water bottles (although almost all of them were broken we should mention before we start getting messages from bottle collectors), along with more domestic items from the factory owner’s household. We’ve just finished the report from that site, so expect a blog post on it in the new year!

One of the rubbish pits from the soda water factory site that was chock full of bottles! The feature in particular dated to when the factory was first established, and mostly had bottles from England and Australia in it.

Just a few of the bottles that came out of the above feature!

At the end of June, we started our excavation of the Te Kaha site, where the new multi-use arena will be constructed. This project was particularly exciting as we went in ahead of the other earthworks crews and went through and investigated 23 of the archaeological sites that will be destroyed in order for the stadium to be constructed. We were on site until mid-October, and over the course of that time found hundreds of features and thousands of artefacts that relate to 19th century domestic households. Once again, we managed to hit the mainstream media, with a few newspapers doing stories and Clara appearing on the news again.

Rather unfortunately for us, July happened to be Christchurch’s wettest July on record, which made excavating interesting… Metservice very quickly became our most visited website as we tried to determine if it was going to be dry enough for us to make it out to site.

We also got slammed with lots and lots of big features. See the above example with a Neda for scale.

A rather unintentionally dramatic photo. Hamish and Amy definitely have career options starring in action movies if the archaeology gig doesn’t work out.

One of the best bits about being on a big project like this is getting to work with a large team on site. This photo was taken at the end of a particularly grueling week where we were slammed with big rubbish pits- as you can see from the photo most of them were waist deep!

Clara’s favourite feature from the project- a privy pit! We don’t normally find privy pits in Christchurch, as the dry earth closet system was favoured due to the high-water table, so it was really exciting to get such a great example (only archaeologists would get excited about centuries old poop).

A handful of finds from the site. We’ve got hundreds of boxes of artefacts to go through, so we’ll definitely be busy cataloguing them next year.

The CMUA team at the end of a very long, but very rewards, three and a half months.

As we’ve come back into summer, we’ve been busy writing up reports from the sites that we excavated this year. During the second half of the year, we’ve also once again had interns from the University of Canterbury through the PACE internship program. Emily worked for us on a research project related to the stadium site, while Hannah worked on a project for Lyttelton Port Company to display some of the artefacts that have been found in their office building. It’s been great to host interns again, and they always do such a good job with their projects.

We were super impressed with Hannah’s creativity in finding ways to display artefacts that were both informative and functional. There are definitely some good ideas there for other clients if they’re looking for ways to incorporate artefacts into their developments.

And in a full circle moment, we’re ending the year by cataloguing the artefacts from the Court Theatre site. The artefacts from the site are early for 19th century Christchurch, with lots of features dating to the 1850s, which has been super cool to see. We will hopefully be sharing some of our findings with you all next year.

One of the shops at the site was a shoe shop, and to say that we found a few shoes would be a massive understatement. Clara had to steal additional desks from people while they were on site as there were too many to fit on her desk.

Some of the pretty ceramic vessels found at the Court Theatre site waiting to be photographed.

We’ve had a bit of a sabbatical from social media this year with so many big projects taking priority, but we’ve got big plans for next year, including hopefully some good in person events for Archaeology Week and Christchurch Heritage Festival. And with that, we wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Merry Christmas from the UOA team!

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