Notre Dame students help uncover WA history

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Fall 17-4-2007

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle

Publication Place



Arts and Science students from The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle have made an exciting archaeological finding in the sand hills near the beaches of Cockburn Sound south of Perth.

Under the direction of Unit Coordinator, Dr Shane Burke, students taking the HY3001 archaeology field school unit worked for three days in the area where founder of the Western Australian (WA) Peel region, Thomas Peel, first made camp. In 1829 Mr Peel led a group of 500 settlers to WA and camped in the area from December that year until August 1830.

While excavating the site, students unearthed exceptionally well preserved material from the camp. Among the findings was a tent site, complete with a limestone cobble floor, remains of iron tent pegs, timber tent posts and a collection of smaller items, such as a gunflint, a brass apothecary weight and a lead shot.

Located near the campsite was a large rubbish pit where students found ceramic washing and food preparation bowls, an 1820 copper shilling and small beads from a woman’s or child’s clothing.

Initially it was thought that the original camp site was further up the coast at Woodman’s Point, which was why nothing had been discovered previously. The fact the land is now a national park and has not been used for industrial or urban development is a reason why the artefacts were so well-preserved, explained Dr Burke.

Dr Burke said what the group uncovered in just three days was a tremendous achievement and work will continue on the area for many months.

“The site will also be used for further research by Notre Dame archaeology field schools. In the context of early colonial Western Australia European behaviour, the camp’s remains are a very important first step in gauging the adaptive process of the first settlers in WA,” said Dr Burke.