Archaeological Excavation of Port Arthur’s workshops

March - November

The archaeological excavations of the Port Arthur workshops are a collaborative project between the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA) and Dr Richard Tuffin, Postdoctoral Research Fellow from the University of New England. The investigations will run between March – November 2020, during which time a team of archaeologists will uncover evidence of the multi-phase convict-period workshops that had been situated in the area. The workshops were integral to the operation of the Port Arthur penal station (1830-77), a large and important centre of convict incarceration in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania, Australia).

The work is part of a suite of archaeological investigations that have taken place in and around the Penitentiary precinct since 2013. These excavations have told us new things about how the site evolved, how convicts were managed and how they reacted to this management.

It’s hoped that this new investigation of the workshops will provide similar insight, as well as help us to understand how convict labour was used and what were the processes and products.

These 2020 investigations are also part of a wider and ongoing research project looking at the important role that labour played in the Australian convict system through a large Australian Research Council project Landscapes of Production and Punishment: the Tasman Peninsula 1830-1877. This collaborative project has involved researchers from UNE, PAHSMA, the University of Tasmania and the University of Liverpool (UK) using archaeological and historical evidence to examine how landscape and space affected the labour experience of convicts incarcerated at a number of stations – Port Arthur included.

During the course of the 2020 investigations, updates will be published on the UNE blog site: with information on our findings, as well as provide some insight into the processes that we as archaeologists follow as we excavate, record and analyse the physical evidence of the past.