Historic gems unearthed at inner-city site

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New Zealand Heritage Properties Limited principal archaeologist Megan Lawrence shows one of her favourite discoveries — a clay monkey pipe. Photo: Luisa Girao

A PARTIAL horse skeleton, a child’s shoe and a clay tobacco pipe are among the historic artefacts found at Invercargill’s inner-city development site to date.

More than 90% or 14,700sqm of land had been cleared since January on the block bordered by Esk, Kelvin, Tay and Dee Sts.

Archaeologists were working alongside the diggers to uncover thousands of hidden objects which were part of Invercargill’s history.

New Zealand Heritage Properties Ltd principal archaeologist Megan Lawrence said a lot of “cool stuff” was found and 14 wells had been discovered believed there would be more to come.

One of the most popular findings was the sign from the former Brown Owl building on a veranda next to the Government Life building.

She said the place was a tearoom, milk bar and cake shop from the 1920s to the 1940s before becoming one of the first licensed restaurants in New Zealand.

“It is quite a deep history there… It would be the place to be, back in the day. We had a few people mentioning remembering going there.”

In her opinion, one of the most “neat” findings was a

tobacco smoking pipe, which had a form of a monkey head on the end of it.

 

It was found near the back of the former Zookeepers building.

“It was a pretty unusual and cool find for us.”

Several shoes and glass bottles relating to traditional businesses in the area were also uncovered, including Moffett & Co and Mitchell & Co from the 1870s.

A partial horse skeleton – including the jaw, teeth, scapula, canon bone and other fragmented bones – was uncovered in a shallow pit beneath the back of the former Macpac building.

A partial horse skeleton (including jaw, teeth, scapula, canon bone and other fragmented bones) uncovered in a shallow pit at the Invercargill inner-city development site. Photo: Supplied

“We believe this may have been an opportunistic burial, where the horse has died and they have dug a small pit to dispose of it along with household refuse.”

Those and several other artefacts would be on display at The Information Hub at the Bank of New South Wales building on the corner of Tay and Dee Sts.

Invercargill Central Ltd communications manager Amy Hibbs encouraged people to visit the site to find out more about the objects and the future development.

She said the relics would be incorporated into the new project.

Meanwhile, Ms Lawrence was confident the team would find more treasures at the site.

“We have a few more areas to excavate so we do anticipate a few more wells and a few more archaeological features – so there is more to come.”

The demolition was set to be completed by mid-September and the Farmers store – the first one in the new development – would open its doors in May 2022.

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