FREMANTLE PRISON’S little-known industrial heritage is being unearthed during an archaeological dig by staff and students from UWA.
Work started this week in a back corner of the prison where a large chimney once dominated the skyline.
Lead researcher Sean Winter told the Herald the team was looking for remnants of the chimney and boiler it served, as well as artifacts prisoners would have dropped, to shed light on what they were working on.
“Industrial sites will form most of the archaeological record, but we tend to take them for granted,” he told the Herald.
Dr Winter said Australia’s isolation meant industrial processes often had different innovations from the rest of the world but there’s not much on record.
It was an important part of the world heritage site’s history, as it pointed to the end of the colonial era when local authorities were put in charge and told they had to fund its running themselves.
Unit co-ordinator Tom Whitley said the information would also help the prison’s current admin build up a better picture of what was there and why, which would be invaluable for tour guides.
Assist Prof Whitley says it’s part of a five-year project with the prison which will involve modern innovations to enrich the experience for visitors. There are plans to produce 3D imagery to show the prison throughout its history.
Another part of the current project is to record graffiti on the cell walls, as the archaeologists have discovered that it’s deteriorating quickly and will soon be lost.