Pieces of Christchurch’s history go online

More than a million historic artefacts found beneath the streets of Christchurch are now preserved online at a dedicated archaeological museum.

Christchurch Archaeology Project director Katharine Watson said the artefacts paint a vivid portrait of 19th-century Christchurch.

"This collection that we have as a result of the earthquakes is unique in Aotearoa and also highly unusual internationally.

"These things are hard to quantify, but certainly colleagues overseas recognise the international significance of this collection."

The Museum of Archaeology Ōtautahi was officially launched on Friday.

It is the country's first fully online archaeology museum.

The oldest artefact discovered was an 1835 British silver half-crown featuring the profile of...
The oldest artefact discovered was an 1835 British silver half-crown featuring the profile of William IV, the King of England between 1830 and 1837. Photo: Geoff Sloan
She said after the earthquakes anyone undertaking earthworks on a site where there had been human activity prior to 1900 was required to have an archaeologist present during the work.

This has allowed Christchurch archaeologists to unearth more than a million items of various sizes and condition, some dating as far back as the city's earliest human settlement.

"Some of them come from shop sites, or from schools or from hospitals, but also things like from under the road and from old drains and trams. We've got the whole breadth of how a city was built in the 19th century as a colonial enterprise."

Items discovered include a 100-year-old Ballantynes sign, some 19th-century tobacco pipes made of clay, and sewing machine parts.

The oldest artefact uncovered is an 1835 British silver half-crown coin.

"All of those artifacts are connected to people as well.

"So we got all the historical information that sits alongside those artifacts so we know who threw out what.

"We know where people lived, we know how people were connected to each other."

Watson is hoping local researchers will use the data to create stories, showcasing how life was for local residents in the 19th century.

Check out the museum at https://www.museumofarchaeology.org

- By Geoff Sloan, made with the support of NZ On Air