Archaeological testing program

Roads and Maritime is carrying out an archaeological testing program, to inform the Strategic Conservation Management Plan for the project. We have engaged a team of archaeologists with experience in Aboriginal, historical and maritime archaeology to carry out this work. Work started on the testing program on 17 August and is expected to take about three months.

View the August 2016 project update and archaeological program questions and answers for more information.

Throughout the testing program we will provide updates from certain testing locations, as provided by our independent archaeological contractor. The complete results, and findings of the testing program will be published as part of the draft Strategic Conservation Management Plan, which will be subject to community consultation before being finalised.

Archaeological program methodologies

The Department of Planning and Environment and the Office of Environment and Heritage approved the following methodologies for the archaeological testing program, before work started.

Extension of historic archaeological testing on the northern side of the river

Historical test excavations in the project area on the northern side of the river, are not required under the Minister’s Conditions of Approval for the project. However, upon excavating test pit NA7 near the temporary site compound, archaeologists located a coin in the soil. The coin was later identified by an artefact expert as an English halfpenny from 1799.

Circa 1799 English halfpenny located in test pit NA7

Due to the relatively early date of the coin, archaeologists carried out informal surveys of the land in the project area on the northern side. The artefact scatter survey identified one or two possible locations that may be consistent with a historic building location. Alternatively, objects located may derive from rubbish pits associated with the Settler’s Arms Hotel, known to have existed to the north-west of the temporary site compound.

As a result of these findings by our archaeological contractor, and to ensure the testing program is as comprehensive as possible, we will expand the testing program to also include historic archaeological testing on the northern side of the river.

Potential discovery of Hawkesbury Region Sand Body

One of the Minister’s Conditions of Approval for the Project is to prepare a Hawkesbury Region Sand Body Study methodology in the event that archaeologists find any material from the Pleistocene (about 1.6million to 10,000 years ago) or early Holocene (10,000 to 5,000 years ago) geological periods.

Material from these periods is important as it can contain Aboriginal artefacts and tell us more about early Aboriginal habitation. During recent excavations in Thompson Square, archaeologists discovered what they believe to be a possible Pleistocene sand body. Archaeologists have taken samples of the sand for testing so they can determine its age.

Test pit SA11 and potential Hawkesbury Region Sand Body

After finding this potential sand body, and in line with Minister’s Condition B3(f), Roads and Maritime’s archaeological contractors will now use the prepared methodology, to produce a Hawkesbury Region Sand Body study. The study will be made available once it is finalised.

Archival recording - 3D laser scanning

Part of the testing program requires detailed survey and analysis of the State Heritage listed Thompson Square Conservation Area, existing Windsor Bridge and immediate surrounds using 3D laser scanning.

A team of surveyors, using specialised scanning equipment, has captured the facades of the heritage listed buildings surrounding Thompson Square, the parkland and the existing Windsor Bridge in 3D.

The level of detail and accuracy captured by the 3D scanning process can be seen in some of the images below. This archival recording will be highly valuable in the long-term strategic planning to conserve Windsor’s heritage.

Windsor Bridge 3D
Aerial 3D view
Macquarie Arms 3D
Shops 3D
Doc House 3D

Test pit updates

Aboriginal test pit SA9

This test pit was located in the lower Thompson Square parkland, close to Bridge Street. The purpose of this test pit was to continue to test for Aboriginal archaeological deposits in the southern project area.

Location of test pit SA9

Findings so far in Thompson Square have identified that the central portions of the Square retain a truncated, but intact natural pre-European sand sheet profile beneath a layer of modern historical fill.

The entire soil profile in test pit SA9 appears to be present beneath the historical fill at depths of 80cm-220cm below surface .Within this soil deposit, over 30 Aboriginal artefacts have been recovered from 130-200cm below the surface. These findings are very similar to the lower levels of the previously carried out Windsor Museum investigations. Potentially, the artefacts located could be of significant age.

The completed excavation of test pit SA9, looking south
Examples of artefacts recovered from test pit SA9. These are visually similar to the lowest levels of previous studies for Windsor Museum, currently dated to 30,000 years in age.

Historic test pit SH1

Historic test pit SH1 was positioned in The Terrace below the Doctor’s House in a north-south direction. The purpose of this test pit was to test for:

  • archaeological remains of two Government houses shown in an 1809 image
  • a small structure shown in the 1831 Abbot plan at the river front on the western edge of the project area
  • deposits associated with the river frontage and road construction.
Location of test pit SH1

SH1 is one of the larger test pits, and it measured 2m wide and 10m long. Due to its length and location in The Terrace, it was excavated in segments of approximately three metres. Following the excavation, each segment was immediately backfilled and sealed.

The removal of the current asphalt surface and its road base, exposed a thin and uneven layer of dark brown loamy soil with sporadic inclusions of sandstock brick flecks, shell lime specs and charcoal. This layer was significantly truncated by the current road surface. Below this deposit was a thick layer of homogenous, light grey brown silty sand that measured approximately one metre in depth and showed very little or no disturbance. It contained sporadic sandstock brick fragments and river pebbles and a burnt tree root in the top portion. No archaeological features were discovered in SH1.

Location of test pit SH1 in the lower portion of The Terrace.
View looking west showing the soil profiles in SH1.

Historical archaeology in Aboriginal test pit SA29

Test pit SA29 was originally identified as an Aboriginal archaeology test pit. However, the upper layers of Aboriginal test pits are monitored to ensure that any potential historical archaeology is appropriately recorded and understood.

Location of test pit SA29

Test pit SA29 provided evidence of several deposits, features and artefacts that potentially may be associated with the early nineteenth century development of Windsor. A large posthole was identified in the northwest corner of the pit. It included a deep circular postpipe measuring 120mm in diameter, which could possibly be a part of a structure. A deposit of burnt timber, charcoal and marine shell was identified in association with the posthole.

Several fairly homogenous sediments yielded historical domestic artefacts and a number of lithics. There were also handmade nails, rusty ferrous metal objects and fragments, as well as other features that strongly indicate 19th century occupation of the area. An initial analysis of artefacts from the upper layers of the pit indicate that these features and deposits may be from the pre-1870s phase of occupation.

Further deeper testing found an apparent row of three postholes.

Test pit SA29 has demonstrated that some evidence of early historical occupation is still present within the southern boundary of the site. SA29 has potential to provide tangible evidence of the early colonial period of site occupation.

View looking north showing the variety of historical features and sediments in test pit SA29

Historical test pit SH2

This test pit was located at the north-western end of the upper section of Thompson Square. The purpose of this test pit was to test for archaeological deposits potentially associated with pre-1810 features at the western edge of the project area.

Location of test pit SH2

The removal of turfed topsoil in this pit location revealed a thin bitumen surface measuring approximately 18mm placed over road base and fill. Some sporadic nineteenth century artefacts were located underneath this initial fill including broken bottle glass, cermaics, animal bone and some rusty wire nails.

Based on the type of aggregate the surface was made of and its location, it is likely to be associated with the public road bisecting Thompson Square into two areas. The road may have been sealed during the construction of the bridge in 1874, and cut by the new realignment in 1935. The substantial fill identified beneath the road surface could be an indication of a level of modification Thompson Square was subjected to, to accommodate the construction of Windsor Bridge.

Excavation results of test pit SH2
Excavation results of test pit SH2

Aboriginal test pit NA8

This test pit was located on the northern side of Wilberforce Road. The purpose of this test pit was to test for aboriginal archaeological deposits in the northern project area.

Location of test pit NA8
Location of test pit NA8

The excavation of test pit NA8, consisted of the careful removal of the soil profile in 20cm intervals, known as ‘spits’. The sediment from each spit was moved to the temporary site compound for wet-sieving to recover any cultural materials.

The excavation recovered three Aboriginal objects from test pit NA8, ranging from 140cm to 240cm below the surface. The items recovered were considered to be too small to provide definitive information on the age of the soil profile. The low density of the findings in this test pit suggest only a transitory or ephemeral use of this locale in the past.

The completed excavation of test pit NA8, looking west
The completed excavation of test pit NA8, looking west
Silcrete core recovered form test pit NA8, 140-160cm below surface
Silcrete core recovered form test pit NA8, 140-160cm below surface
Silcrete flake and broken chert flake recovered from test pit NA8, 220-240cm below surface
Silcrete flake and broken chert flake recovered from test pit NA8, 220-240cm below surface
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