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Landmark learning for aspiring archaeologists

Landmark learning for aspiring archaeologists


old bottles, credit
Chris Jacomb
Click to enlarge

Bottles found at The Mountaineer site in Queenstown, complete with original labels dating back to the mid 1860s. Photo credit- Chris Jacomb.

Press release from Westwood Group Holdings Ltd
18 February 2008


Landmark learning for aspiring archaeologists

An historic Queenstown landmark, The Mountaineer, is being used as a practical learning site for anthropology students from Otago University during careful archaeological recording and excavation prior to its redevelopment.

Postgraduate students have made five site visits to help with the building’s “deconstruction” and have made some exciting discoveries while painstakingly dismantling the old buildings that make up The Mountaineer complex.

“Archaeological work is about the careful excavation and analysis of hundreds or thousands of tiny bits of information, often meaningless on their own, and then putting them together in a way that tells a story or answers a specific question,” said Chris Jacomb, a Director of the Southern Pacific Archaeological Research Department of Anthropology at the University of Otago.

“The students have worked carefully to preserve clues to the former hotel’s illustrious past.”

The original building dates back to the 1880s and Queenstown’s gold rush and enjoyed a long and rich history as a hotel, before being converted to house restaurants and retail in the 1980s and 1990s.

“We have recorded the use of a brick veneer wall in one part of The Mountaineer which we believe is a pre-1900 section of the building. Brick veneer construction was not common until the 1930s and we understand that the earliest documented use of brick veneer in Australasia was in 1903, in Victoria.

“If we’re able to confirm the age of the brick veneer wall at The Mountaineer, then that will be a significant discovery for the history of architecture in New Zealand and a milestone for the students involved,” said Mr Jacomb.

Tony Butson, director of The Mountaineer Limited, said it was an exciting time in the building’s redevelopment.

“The Mountaineer is in an historic precinct and learning about our past is important to us as we preserve the façade, while creating a building that is relevant to today’s community. As locals we take pride in leaving a rich history behind us for later generations to discover. The work of the university is fundamental to our understanding of the generations past and to our preservation of that history.

“We’ve worked with heritage architects and by sticking closely to heritage values and an independent conservation plan we’ll reflect the building’s 120 years of history in the restoration of its façade and the interior rebuild,” said Mr Butson.

The initial sorting and description of the excavated material has been completed and the final archaeological report is expected in around three months.

“Our next step is to analyse the results and document them in the framework of our original research questions,” said Mr Jacomb.

Findings from The Mountaineer are also being shared with the broader community. Elements of the building, which could no longer safely remain on site, are currently being exhibited at Otago Museum in Dunedin as part of the “Otago’s Otago” exhibition.

ENDS

About The Mountaineer
The Mountaineer Limited is owned by Westwood Group Holdings Ltd. The four-level building, plus basement, will house shops, a café and offices. Development is scheduled for completion by 2009. Other Westwood Group Holdings Ltd projects in Queenstown include the Outside Sports building on Shotover Street.

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