PARKS Victoria is digging up the past at Cape Schanck and giving visitors the chance to see an archaeological dig in action.
This weekend’s open day will provide an insight into archaeology at Cape Schanck’s historic light station.
Over the past three summers, a dig by the Cape Schanck Archaeological Field School has explored the hidden history of the light station and given student archaeologists the chance to do field work at a place steeped in Aboriginal and post-colonial heritage.
“The dig has given archaeology students a rare opportunity to participate in the excavation of a significant site and learn excavation and artefact analysis techniques from some of Victoria’s most experienced archaeologists,” Heritage Victoria’s principal archaeologist Jeremy Smith said.
Visitors will be able to meet the archaeologists, watch an excavation in progress and look at some of the artefacts already uncovered.
The field school is a joint project between Parks Victoria, the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, Heritage Victoria, Heritage Insight and the Australian National University.
Two years of work has uncovered a cobbled pavement building that may have been a storeroom or stable, along with 11,877 artefact fragments from about 1800 different objects.
This year’s work will expand the excavation area and continue the search for more artefacts.
Aboriginal people were drawn to Cape Schanck for thousands of years by the abundance of marine life and food sources. The dunes around the light station contain cultural heritage sites, shell middens and quarries.
The lighthouse was built in 1857-1859, in response to increasing shipwrecks along the coast, and has been in continuous operation ever since.
The open day will also look at marine archaeology, including the chance to see items found at shipwreck sites off the Mornington Peninsula – the SS Cheviot (wrecked in 1887), SS Sierra Nevada (1900) and SS Craigburn (1891).
For more information on the restoration works, visit parks.vic.gov.au/projects/statewide-projects/heritage-icons-projects
Quotes, attributed to Parks Victoria Senior Manager Heritage Services Paul Roser
“We’re really excited to give visitors the chance to learn about the fascinating archaeological work at Cape Schanck and get a close-up look at an archaeological dig in progress.”