Artefacts found: Windsor Bridge progress may come to grinding halt

Archaeologists at work on one of the exploratory pits on the Windsor side of the new bridge site last Friday. 	Photo: Kylie Pitt
Archaeologists at work on one of the exploratory pits on the Windsor side of the new bridge site last Friday. Photo: Kylie Pitt

ABORIGINAL tools and colonial-era artefacts including ceramics have been unearthed on both sides of the Hawkesbury River by two teams of archaeologists working on sites where the new Windsor bridge would be built if the proposed Option One plan goes ahead.

If the items found are judged to be of historical significance it could call into question the entire development, or at the very least significantly slow it down.

But local historian Jan Barkley-Jack who followed the excavations on what is now the Hawkesbury Regional Museum claims the digs are literally just scratching the surface.

Both geotechnical and archaeological digs, overseen by Roads and Maritime Services and using specialist archaeological teams, began digging during the last week of April and are set to continue in several different locations both sides of the river until the last week of May.

Artefacts recovered so far – which include colonial-era iron nails, ceramics and charcoal, as well as Aboriginal tools – will now be studied in detail by other experts to establish their historical significance.

Non-Aboriginal Heritage project man-ager at Biosis Research, Pamela Kottaras, told the Gazette at the Windsor side of the bridge on Friday, that her company had been doing test digs in areas that “would be impacted if the area is developed”.

“So far all we can say, because it’s test excavations, we can say we have found artefacts, including ceramics, nails and charcoal, and these are European, rather than Aborigine.”

But an RMS spokesperson confirmed Aboriginal artefacts, including tools of stone flakes and cores made from a range of raw materials including silcrete, chert, tuff, and quartzite had been found too.

“The artefacts were found in a single layer of sandy soil about half a metre below the surface,” the RMS spokesperson said.

“Testing was done through the full depth to about one metre. The artefacts were only found south of the river, mostly above the 100-year flood level, near the crest at George Street / Bridge Street intersection. Most of the artefacts would be offered to the Australian Museum for display and/or further research.”

On the southern side of the present bridge two rectangular pits measuring 15 by 20 metres and three square pits of about one metre by one metre will be excavated. On the northern side, six rectangular areas of about three metres by one metre, and two square areas of about one metre by one metre, will be dug and excavated.

On a turf farm bordering the road to the current bridge, a team of archaeologists from Kelleher Nightingale (KH) were digging a metre down on Friday on a quest for artefacts. Several team members were sifting and washing mud and one told us several items had been found but KH boss Matt Kelleher arrived on the scene and closed down further discussion, saying they could not talk to us, citing orders from the RMS.

An RMS official on the Windsor side of the bridge said if we were members of the public they could talk to us but because we were media they could not.

Ms Kottaras, however, was happy to talk. “We need to know whether the archaeology exists, but for example, we haven’t found any ruins of buildings,” Ms Kottaras said. “The excavation director will look at anything we find and give a recommendation on the significance and what should be done.

“I think any excavation in a place as early as this doesn’t happen very often and I’m happy to have been here.”

Historian Jan Barkley-Jack told the Gazette the small scale of the excavations amounted to desecration of the area.

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