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Title: Where the past happened: Using history and archaeology to locate Australia’s convicts
Contributor(s): Tuffin, Richard  (author)orcid ; Gibbs, Martin  (author)orcid ; Roe, David  (author); Szydzik, Sylvana (author)
Publication Date: 2023-06
Open Access: Yes
DOI: 10.22459/AJBH.07.2023
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The find was unexpected: pressed into the yellow clay floor of what had once been the blacksmith and foundry of the Port Arthur (1830–77) penal station's workshops. The spot had been well-chosen, against the rear wall of the shop and behind a large piece of equipment. Entirely different from the iron objects and copper alloy offcuts, it comprised a cache of 20 one-shilling coins. Dating from 1816 to 1844—their time in circulation evidenced by faces worn almost smooth—the coins equated to an overseer's weekly pay. Such a find is rare on most archaeological sites, rarer still in the supposedly controlled confines of a prison workshop. Though we will never know who was responsible for so carefully secreting the coins, how he came to Port Arthur, what skills saw him assigned to the workshop, the reason for the deposition or why that particular spot, the deliberate nature of the placement in a secluded corner of the shop speaks of concealment and subterfuge—rather than loss. In short, the agency of a man or men who used the shop on a daily basis: a spatial and physical legacy of a life. At the time the coins were deposited, sometime in the 1850s, the shop would have been alive with activity: blacksmiths, nailers, tinsmiths and moulders sharing a space of 15 metres by 8 metres. Fitted with a casting furnace, forge, anvil and workbenches, the shop itself had been part of a larger industrial complex attached to Port Arthur's Penitentiary. This industrial hub was situated at the heart of the station and housed, in addition to the blacksmith and foundry, a steam-powered sawmill, the shops of carpenters and turners, and engineers' stores. It was a clear statement on the place of labour in the regime of the convict workforce.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Grant Details: ARC/DP170103642
Source of Publication: Australian Journal of Biography and History, v.7, p. 197-219
Publisher: Australian National University Press
Place of Publication: Australia
ISSN: 2209-9573
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 430302 Australian history
430107 Historical archaeology (incl. industrial archaeology)
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 130703 Understanding Australia’s past
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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