May 16-22 marks National Archaeology Week. To recognise this, we have developed a small display of archaeological finds at the Powerhouse Museum (on show now – late July) and another display in the Signal Station on site at Sydney Observatory (May 29-30).
The finds come from the 2008 excavations conducted by the New South Wales Government Architect’s Office and Casey & Lowe Pty Ltd in the grounds of the Signal Station adjacent to Sydney Observatory. Specifically, they were excavating Fort Phillip, a strategic stronghold built in 1804-06 (but never finished). The Fort was built in the most commanding position overlooking Sydney Cove and served as a defence against the potential threat of rebellion by convicts. It was partially demolished in the 1850s to make way for Sydney Observatory.
Some highlights from the excavations include the discovery of a bomb-proof chamber used in storage and retreat (which also revealed evidence of grapeshot and European gunflint, the latter of which is rare to find in Australia), two anchor points for the original flagstaff and artefacts related to the domestic occupation of both the Fort and the inhabitants of the Signal Station (built in the late 1840s and occupied right up until the 1990s).
Excavations at the site intermittently continue and new finds were being made as recently as April 2010 – including the discovery of what appears to be lead shot used as ammunition in flintlock pistols.
Dawn Rose, from the Sydney Observatory, put together a video snapshot in mid-April documenting some of the story (see below).