Relics uncovered at old museum site

ARCHEOLOGISTS have uncovered historic artefacts around the old WA museum site, digging up century old crucibles used to smelt minerals at the old geology lab plus an adorable old pipe with a small face on it that came from the old gaol.

The museum, in the Perth Cultural Centre, is in the midst of a makeover with a dramatic new building slated to be installed around an on top of the current museum, and in the leadup to the build a team of UWA archaeologists have been hard at work peeling back the layers of history.

Archaeologists Sven Ouzman, Jillian Barteaux and Annie Carson lead the team excavating shallow trenches around the museum, searching for information about buildings which used to be on that land: The government geologists’ laboratory and the Victoria public library ‘stacks’ building (built between 1902 and 1904), and the old Perth gaol (1850).

• WA heritage minister Albert Jacob with UWA archaeologist Sven Ouzman. They’re holding artefacts uncovered in a dig around the WA museum: two imported crucibles used in the old geological laboratory to smelt down minerals, and the bowl of a clay pipe found in the old gaol site. Photo supplied.

• WA heritage minister Albert Jacob with UWA archaeologist Sven Ouzman. They’re holding artefacts uncovered in a dig around the WA museum: two imported crucibles used in the old geological laboratory to smelt down minerals, and the bowl of a clay pipe found in the old gaol site. Photo supplied.

Among the artefacts uncovered were crucibles imported from England used to smelt down minerals in the geological laboratory around 1920 and 1930.

Dr Ouzman said as “diagnostic items”, these crucibles shed light on early days of the geological survey—a government initiative founded in the early days of settlement to understand Australia’s geology.

The crucibles also tie in with one of the museum’s design motifs: a lump of rock previously found in the old Perth gaol site which has a vein of gold running through it.

“That history today lies beneath the ground and archaeology is the primary means of bringing that up”, Dr Ouzman says.

Carved relic

“We can offer a set of grounded resources which help bind what seems to be an ultra-modern building into it’s history…what we’ve found under the ground can feed into that”, Dr Ouzman says.

The pipe with a wee face on it was probably mass produced rather than a hand-carved relic, but it was likely made prior to 1850. Even its little size tells you something of the era: Pipe bowls were smaller back then because tobacco was more expensive.

WA heritage minister Albert Jacob wants the finds to help shape the new museum’s design so it meshes with the area’s history.

by TRILOKESH CHANMUGAM

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