Beneath the surface – archaeological investigations at Moorebank

Digging deeper into Moorebank’s past…

During 2016 and 2017, archaeological investigations were undertaken at Moorebank to discover more about the Aboriginal and European history of the area. Archaeologists uncovered thousands of artefacts, alongside evidence of numerous buildings from Moorebank’s military past.

Stone artefacts

Archaeologists discovered more than 1,500 Aboriginal stone artefacts, including axes, points and blades. Stone flakes and cores, by-products of tool-making, were also uncovered. Artefacts were shaped from a variety of local stones, including durable silcrete, quartz, quartzite, mudstone and chert. An archaeological dating method called Optically-Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) – which is used to date minerals by measuring their exposure to light – found that some artefacts were more than 22,000 years old. These finds show that the Moorebank area was occupied by Aboriginal people over many thousands of years.

Some of the stone tools excavated at Moorebank (Extent, 2018)

Some of the stone tools excavated at Moorebank (Extent, 2018)

Some of the stone tools excavated at Moorebank (Extent, 2018)

Some of the stone tools excavated at Moorebank (Extent, 2018)

Stone tools excavated at Moorebank (Biosis, 2018)

Stone tools excavated at Moorebank (Biosis, 2018)

Stone tools excavated at Moorebank (Biosis, 2018)

Stone tools excavated at Moorebank (Biosis, 2018)

Historical artefacts

Evidence of buildings and temporary structures from Moorebank’s early military history were found alongside thousands of artefacts. Post holes provided archaeologists with information about the location and sizes of temporary structures such as tents and latrines, including some uncommon ‘dog legged’ tents which had off-centre support beams with a bend. Many building materials, such as nails and timber, and the remains of previous brick walls were also excavated. Archaeologists also found equipment from the military hospital including glass syringes, medicine bottles and chamber pots.

Over 800 pieces of bone were found, often showing butchery or burn marks, which provide information about the diet of people living at the military camp Bones from cows, chickens and sheep were plentiful, but skeletal remains of cats and dogs were also present, possibly pets or strays scavenging in the kitchen quarters or rubbish pits.

Beneath the surface at Moorebank (Biosis, 2018)

Beneath the surface at Moorebank (Biosis, 2018)

Archaeologist at work at the Moorebank site (Biosis, 2018)

Archaeologist at work at the Moorebank site (Biosis, 2018)

Domestic and personal artefacts were also discovered which provide information about how the inhabitants of the army camps and their families lived. Hundreds of pieces of glassware, including wine, champagne and beer bottles, were found most dating to the early 1900s. Equipment for the military hospital was also found including glass syringes, medicine bottles and chamber pots. Ceramic finds included domestic items such as plates, tea ware and other types of crockery, however some finds were quite unusual, such as a porcelain doll, glass marbles and children’s tea-sets, providing information about the lives of children and families on the site.

Moorebank’s military dog cemetery was also part of the archaeological study. Several dog graves were exhumed, with many containing items and memorial plaques made by the dog handlers, and were relocated to a nearby Department of Defence site. The most distinctive grave belonged to a dog named Jasmine, who was adopted by a military family after retirement and was buried wrapped in a crochet blanket with a red lead, frisbee and tennis ball. Most of the dog graves were hand dug, and many dogs were buried with balls, military issued blankets and flags, giving  testament to the emotional connection between the military dog handlers and their dogs.

Glass bottles, medicine containers and syringes excavated at Moorebank (Biosis, 2018)

Glass bottles, medicine containers and syringes excavated at Moorebank (Biosis, 2018)

A child’s doll, toy teacup and marbles excavated at Moorebank (Biosis, 2018)

A child’s doll, toy teacup and marbles excavated at Moorebank (Biosis, 2018)

Tin mugs excavated at Moorebank (Biosis, 2018)

Tin mugs excavated at Moorebank (Biosis, 2018)

Developed by Artefact Heritage