Springbank Island archaeologists find Aboriginal artefacts

22 April 2015

We've got a good number of stone artefacts, with stone collected from many sources around Canberra.

An archaeological dig in the heart of the National Capital has found a larger than expected number of artefacts left behind by Aboriginal communities.

The Australian National University (ANU) in partnership with Canberra Archaeological Society ran the dig on Springbank Island in Lake Burley Griffin.

Project leader Dr Duncan Wright, from the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology said the results showed that Indigenous people were still active in the area after the first European settlers arrived.

"It's exciting. We've got a good number of stone artefacts, with stone collected from many sources around Canberra," he said.

Wally Bell of the local region's Ngunawal people attended the dig and said he was not surprised that the findings suggested Aboriginal activity.

"My people have occupied this area for at least 21,000 years, and Black Mountain was one of the most active areas, so there's bound to be a lot of discarded tools and objects left behind," Mr Bell said.

Dr Wright said the team had also unearthed evidence of one of the first European homesteads in the Canberra region dating back to 1832.

"We found the handle of a door, either from the homestead or an outhouse," he said. "We've got roofing nails from the nineteenth century, as well as some ceramics and glass from this period.

"We also found a metal button, presumably from someone who occupied the homestead," Dr Wright said.

An artefact of great interest to the team was a small glass bottle-stopper with writing around its rim that should enable identification. Rohan Goyne, a descendent of the early settlers, suggested to Dr Wright that the occupants of the homestead were big rum drinkers.

"We haven't analysed this object yet, but wouldn't it be great to find the long buried evidence of one of Canberra's first booze ups?"

The project closed with an open day where the public were invited to take part in the excavation. Dr Wright said he was delighted with the level of community enthusiasm with participants ranging from four to over 70 years old.

"Some young girls and boys found an old brick from the homestead," he said.

"They were very excited and wanted to take it home. Hopefully they've forgiven me for keeping hold of this for the next stage of analysis. They can always come and visit it at ANU," he said.