Archaeology

Dig to unearth Tasmania’s military and convict past

Archaeology students from The Australian National University (ANU) are set to uncover the history of a former penal colony and military site in Tasmania dating back 160 years.

The site of the Triabunna Barracks in Tasmania. As well as studying the historic buildings, the students and archaeologists will be digging on site.

Archaeology students from The Australian National University (ANU) are set to uncover the history of a former penal colony and military site in Tasmania dating back 160 years.

They will spend three weeks conducting the first-ever excavation of the site of the Triabunna Barracks, 84 kilometres north-east of Hobart.

Dr Ash Lenton is one of the archaeologists leading the expedition to unearth part of Tasmania’s military and convict past.

“Few colonial sites provide this opportunity to examine their decline and eventual abandonment,” said Dr Lenton, from the ANU School of Archaeology & Anthropology.

“We’ll be locating the remains of several large 19th century buildings and it’s possible we’ll come across military paraphernalia and other artefacts that were part of daily life at the barracks.”

Triabunna is on the coast adjacent to Maria Island, which housed a penal colony that is now part of the Port Arthur World Heritage site.

Between 1844 and 1851 the Triabunna Barracks were home to the 51st Regiment of Foot, who oversaw the convicts at Maria Island.

“There has been a lot of study of Port Arthur, but smaller sites like this often slip through the gaps. These sites are just as significant, helping us understand the varied military and convict history of Tasmania,” said co-leader of the expedition, Dr Duncan Wright.

“It is exciting that so many convict era sites still survive in this area, giving a window on past lives.”

The expedition will also include local community involvement.

“There are many families who have been living there for generations – walking into the pub you find out great information.”

Australian National University

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