Over the previous two weeks we have been painstakingly removing the gravels relating to the second phase of the ablutions yard (1860s-70s). In the process we have exposed a new series of surfaces across both the western and eastern yards, as well as the sandstone footings which ran diagonally through both the yard spaces during the area’s first phase of occupation in the 1850s. Interestingly, in the west yard we have found evidence of an intermediary phase, where it looks like the yard was surfaced with a very compact and hard-wearing crushed brick and sandstone gravel. Such a phase of use went undocumented, so this finding is really adding to the construction history of the precinct.
Excavation in the Day Room is winding up, with the crew having meticulously made their way through layers of fine subfloor silts to expose the underlying pre-construction clay below. Over 500 spot finds (artefacts we consider to be diagnostic in nature) were recorded, the positioning of which will tell us more about how the space was used and evolved over time. Some puzzling features have turned up below the Day Room levels, which we intend to investigate more fully.
A few splendid artefacts have turned up, including two lead off cuts stamped with the broad arrow. You can’t get much more convict than that! The broad arrow signifies government property and we are postulating that maybe they had originally been stamped on rolls of lead which were subsequently pilfered by the convicts and converted into gaming tokens – a neat subversion of the government symbol.
For more information on this project please head to http://portarthur.org.au/heritage/penitentiary-precinct-archaeological-excavation/