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.

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

Work on the archaeological testing program started in August, and excavation in the project area is now complete. The temporary site compound is currently being demobilised.

The results of the testing program will be published as part of the draft Strategic Conservation Management Plan, which will be subject to community and stakeholder 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 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.

An English halfpenny from around 1799, located on the northern bank of the Hawkesbury River

Due to the relatively early date of the coin, archaeologists examined the land in the project area on the northern side of the river, and, identified one or two possible locations that may be consistent historic buildings. Objects located may have come 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 complete as possible, we expanded 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 geological periods over 5,000 years ago.

Material from these periods is important as it can contain Aboriginal artefacts that 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 (about 10,000 to 1.6million years ago). Archaeologists have taken samples of the sand for testing so they can determine its age.

Excavation showing the 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 and images

As archaeological excavation work in the project area is now finished, our archaeological contractors are working to prepare the draft Strategic Conservation Management Plan required for the project.

Some interesting findings from the test pits, now being analysed in the context of the overall testing program, have been:

  • Aboriginal artefacts of potentially significant age, which may help to tell historians more about Aboriginal occupation in the area
  • Evidence of previous roads dividing Thompson Square into two areas. The road may have been built during construction of the bridge in 1874, and cut by the new road alignment in 1935.
  • Historic artefacts throughout the project area, including on the northern side where historic testing was expanded as the program progressed
  • Potential discovery of the Hawkesbury Region Sand Body
  • Brick footings and postholes relating to the potential existence of former colonial buildings, walls or gates in the project area
  • Plant roots, shovel markings and plough marks that could be associated with early cultivation of the area

Archaeologists will be reviewing the test pit results against historical records, maps and plans for the area. The archaeologists will also make recommendations to Roads and Maritime about what activities are required to salvage any archaeological remains identified.

Roads and Maritime will also review the potential construction impacts in the project area, in consultation with the archaeologists, to determine if further investigation or any salvage of archaeological material is needed.

The Department of Planning and Environment, in consultation with the Office of Environment and Heritage, will be required to approve any salvage excavation scope, research design and methods recommended.

The results of the testing program, and more detailed analysis, will be published as part of the draft Strategic Conservation Management Plan, which will be subject to community and stakeholder consultation before being finalised.

Please see below for a selection of images from the testing program

The completed excavation of Aboriginal test pit SA9, looking south
Examples of Aboriginal artefacts recovered
An excavation in the lower portion of The Terrace.
A typical historical test pit excavation, showing various soil layers
An Aboriginal test pit excavation, showing some historic archaeology features, including a posthole in the top-left corner.
Excavation results of test pit SH2
Excavation of an historic test pit, showing remains of a previous Thompson Square road surface
The completed excavation of test pit NA8, looking west
A typical Aboriginal test pit excavation, on the northern side of the Hawkesbury River
Sandstock brick footings, located in an excavation on George Street
Test pit excavation outside the entrance to Macquarie Park
Manual excavation by archaeologists at the corner of Bridge Street and Macquarie Street
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