Digging up dirt on Dalkeith site

Sven Ouzman and student Kathleen Armstrong are digging up the past at Gallop House. Picture: Jon Bassett.
Sven Ouzman and student Kathleen Armstrong are digging up the past at Gallop House. Picture: Jon Bassett.

THE trowels of UWA archaeology students are exposing recent history at historic Gallop House on the Swan River foreshore.

“Dalkeith may be an expensive place to live now, but here, along the river, bananas were grown, grapes elsewhere, when it was market gardens, and a very productive place,” UWA archaeologist Sven Ouzman said.

Until last Sunday, Dr Ouzman and 20 students conducted a two-week educational dig near the 1870s-built house.

They wanted to find its hidden history before the National Trust of Australia spends about $1 million on the property from next month.

Their finds included the stone footings of a small cottage near former wooden packing huts, glass shards carved from bottles, a possible wine cellar and an ancient Swan River beach.

Dr Ouzman said the dig to catalogue the site’s archaeological features before the Trust’s landscaping and conservation work, could test written records, and potentially challenge the view that Aboriginals and colonial settlers led hostile and separate lives along the river.

The dig was also some of the students’ first experiences of working at a colonial-era site.

“My first dig was in the Burrup Peninsula for the Rock Art and Field School, so this has a different appeal because it’s historical archaeology and we are finding more tangible objects, like bottles,” archaeology student Kathleen Armstrong said.