Digging for Perth’s History

When you look at Perth is a city of skyscrapers all you see? Next time you are in the city look up in the malls and see the heritage buildings above the modern shop fronts and look down and think of the archaeology below your feet. Perth was the site of a long and rich history of indigenous occupation and in 1829 it became the centre of the Swan River Colony.

Carrying out an archaeological dig (Photo: Heritage Council of WA)

Did you know that Perth is the only capital city in Australia to have the site of the original government house still within the government domain? Stirling’s Government House lies under a lawn in Government House Gardens, as does the first government offices; shipped out from London to start the new colony, the first botanical garden where Drummond experimented with what crops would grow in WA and Governor Stirling’s city farm, where he grew food for his own table. The original Pier Street with the city’s first jetty lies partly in and partly out of the domain under Supreme Court Gardens and the original port of Perth, complete with buried jetties lies under landfill creating the foreshore parks.

The colonial pioneers of Perth were buried in seven cemeteries at Cemetery Hill, only four of which make up East Perth Cemetery. Over 10,000 people were buried on Cemetery Hill, over 9,000 now lie forgotten in unmarked graves under the grass of the cemetery or under nearby car parks. In Northbridge a sprawl of freshwater lakes have been filled, sealing in indigenous archaeology, early colonial farms and later Chinese market gardens under the grass of parks and ovals.

Perth is not just a city of skyscrapers it is a city with a rich colonial past and an area with a long Aboriginal history which is recoverable under parks, ovals and in the grounds, yards and indeed under older and historic buildings within the city.

For further information, click here.

Gaye Nayton,

An archaeological find at Perth Town Hall