Notre Dame Students dig up clay to discover past lives

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Spring 5-10-2007

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle

Publication Place



Three days digging up clay and brushing away soil on a property in Bassendean proved to be an exciting learning experience for archaeology students from The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle.

Led by Notre Dame Archaeology lecturer, Dr Shane Burke and joined by the Bassendean Historical Society, the students were looking for artefacts from British soldiers who once lived in the house, the Pensioner Guard Cottage.

The cottage was originally built for the soldiers who came from the UK on a reduced wage to oversee convicts either on ships or in Western Australia (WA).

Dr Burke said many of the soldiers couldn’t read or write therefore there are no written records of their time in the area.

“They did not keep diaries or write letters so the purpose of the excavation was to try to piece together some of their lives and how they lived in WA,” said Dr Burke.

The dig unearthed various pieces of glass, pottery and colour changes in the soil which indicated where there had been a vegetable garden. The fact the area they were working in was clay actually attributed to the discovery of the colour changes in the soil.

“The excavation was a great success, finding artefacts and features that allow an understanding of the site’s use from the 1850s. The project gave Notre Dame students valuable experience working in clay and from a site type different from those worked in previously,” said Dr Burke.

Media contact:

Moira Saunders
08 9433 0611, 0408 959 138