Historic walkway exciting discovery for Invercargill

    A historic wooden walkway has been uncovered during the upheaval of Invercargill’s Esk St.

    THE building of something new has revealed something old – very, very old.

    It took a week to reveal the artefact and a piece of Invercargill from more than 150 years ago has been exposed.

    The find was a wooden road walkway, which was first partially uncovered last Monday and excavated throughout the week in Esk St in the development of the city centre.

    New Zealand Heritage Properties associate archaeologist Carissa Madden has been undertaking the excavation and recovery of the artefact along with her colleague Laura Davies.

    She said the discovery was essentially a historic road crossing. Esk St is one of the oldest historic roads in Invercargill.

    “We think it’s [the walkway] from about 1860-1870, around those times. It’s around those times when Invercargill’s roads were starting to form for the township,” she said.

    She said the artefact was mostly buried in mud, making the recovery a relatively delicate retrieval.

    “The past two or three days we’ve been at it, and it’s been a bit of a beast to get done… for this one at least, they seem to have used local materials.

    “It’s a bit of a hack job. They’ve taken down some trees, stripped them of the branches to lay down the cross beams, and then on top of that they’ve hacked up logs and made planks to get across.”

    Mrs Madden said the find was significant for the city. “This is an example of how people traversed the earliest roads. It also gives us the greater opportunity, for the renewed Esk St, to see the history underground that’s still there. It’s a part of our local heritage.”

    She said the find was being taken into conservatorship by the Southland Museum. Though the discovery of the walkway is the most significant archaeological find so far, Mrs Madden said plenty of other artefacts had shown up during the project. People in the past were litterers, basically, and threw out anything on the road, she said.

    “So we’ve found bits of glass bottles, bits of old bones from lunch and dinner, pieces of ceramics, and actually a lot of shoes. So people have apparently been crossing the road and lost their shoes along the way.

    “It’s been a historic road for a long time, and you see that build-up of material.”

    The next step in the find was researching how the walkway fit in the history of the road.

    “Basically how they laid it down and what was their thinking behind it. It was right in the middle of the road, so maybe they sort of figured, ‘Hey we’ll put it right in the middle so people can get across either way’.

    “It’s really about figuring out the history of it and how it fits into everything else we’ve found.”