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Archaeological Open Day at Athenree

Monday July 14 2014


Archaeological Open Day at Athenree

An archaeological excavation in the grounds of one of the Western Bay of Plenty’s landmark historic buildings will take place at the end of this month.

And those interested in learning more about archaeological excavations will have an opportunity to see one taking place close up in a public open day that will be held on Sunday July 27 (11am-3pm).

“The Athenree Homestead Trust is relocating a railway building to the back of the homestead for use as a catering facility,” says Heritage New Zealand’s Lower Northern Regional Archaeologist, Rachel Darmody.

“Because Athenree predates 1900 – and is therefore an archaeological site under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act – an excavation of the site will be undertaken under an archaeological authority.”

Led by local archaeologist Brigid Gallagher – well known for her role as presenter on TV’s Time Team – the relocation provides a golden opportunity to carefully investigate the ground for archaeological features and artefacts dating back to Athenree’s heyday.

Athenree was built by Captain Hugh Stewart, who arrived in New Zealand in 1878 with his wife Adela. The homestead quickly became a hive of activity, with the property incorporating a home, stables, orchard and even a post office. Not surprisingly, it also became a popular drop-in point for travellers and visitors to the area.

“Both the open day and excavation are sure to offer a fascinating glimpse into Athenree’s past,” says Rachel.

“We’re not exactly sure what the archaeological excavation will reveal – but there’s a good chance that the remains of buildings and other activities associated with life at the homestead from the late 1870s will be uncovered.”

“It’s possible we might uncover the stables, barn and dairy for example, or possibly the smithy which we know was built by the Stewarts, and which may well have been located in this area. We’re really keen to fill in missing information about the layout and use of the homestead.”

Although the railway station building does not relate directly to the Athenree homestead, it has a historic link with George Vesey Stewart who instigated the railway line from Waihi to Tauranga. The building which dates back to 1919 was brought to the site in 2005 in order to save it from destruction.

The public open day on July 27 is open to everybody, and the Homestead Trust volunteers are putting on a hearty old-fashioned lunch of thick soup and crusty bread instead of the usual tea and scones. Tours of the old Homestead will also be available.

“Anybody interested in pursuing archaeology as a career should definitely take up this opportunity though there are limited places for people wanting to take part in the excavation, and bookings are essential,” says Rachel.

“The rest of the excavation work around the house has been completed, so this is the last chance for people to see work being carried out here.”

To book for the excavation, or for more information, contact Trish Coates on Ph 07-863-5661.

© Scoop Media

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