Stunning archaeological find in Melbourne CBD

Remnants of early nineteenth century colonial life have been found just metres away from Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Markets at a site set to be demolished.

Authorities discovered the artefacts while undertaking investigations at the site for a new community hub opposite the Queen Victoria Market (QVB).

The archaeologists uncovered an array of artefacts from early European settlement including a ‘torpedo’ bottle, porcelain plates, ceramic tobacco pipes and fragments of stone grinding wheels.

A line of timber stumps, fragments of large round sharpening stones and rough cut bluestone foundations and veranda post holes were also found – signalling early 1850’s residence in the area.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the artefacts, which were found in around March and April this year, date back to the early years of European settlement.

“These artefacts give us an idea of what life was like when Melbourne was a township. We’ve found bottles, plates and fragments of stone grinding wheels, which will be preserved for future generations,” the Lord Mayor said.

“It’s exciting that we’ve uncovered these pieces of our history as we plan for a new generation of community facilities for Melbourne.”

Jim Wheeler, the Executive Director of Extent Heritage, the company excavating the site, said the excavation uncovered a range of different items.

“Our dig uncovered thousands of bottles of all shapes and types underneath the site of the former Mercat Cross Hotel. The evidence suggests this was a very early commercial bottle dump and sheds new light on uses of the area during the mid-1800s,” Mr Wheeler said.

“At almost 6000 square metres, this is one of the largest archaeological sites by area that has ever been excavated in Victoria. Unlike previous sites, which have largely focused on the early residential and domestic history of the colony, the Munro site provides us with an insight into the commercial and industrial development of the city.”

Site to be demolished

The site in which the artefacts were found is set to be developed into a $70 million community hub.

The plan, due for completion in 2022, will include an 120 place childcare facility and children’s services centre, a city gallery, affordable housing units and 500 customer car parks for the QVB markets.

Council will also invest an initial $6.5 million this year towards an $11 million onsite restoration of the QVB market’s heritage sheds and verandahs.

“The restoration of the sheds is just one way we’re securing the Queen Victoria Market’s future while maintaining its heritage as a traditional open-air market. Further investments will be made towards improving storage and amenities, and waste and recycling facilities at the market, in accordance with the People’s Panel recommendations,” the Lord Mayor said.

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