Parramatta has a rich history. For more than 60,000 years, Aboriginal people have occupied the area comprising present day Parramatta. The land and water were sources of physical and cultural sustenance enriched by traditions, customs and practices that have been transmitted through generations.
Colonisation dispossessed local Aboriginal people from the lands and water they had inhabited and managed for thousands of years. With resilience and spirited determination, Aboriginal people defended and protected their land while maintaining life and culture.
The colonial enterprise that was planned and laid out across the fertile soils in Parramatta played a significant role in the establishment and survival of the fledgling penal colony. Today, Parramatta is identified as Sydney’s Central River City – a thriving cultural hub and economic powerhouse at the heart of global Sydney.
Beneath the vibrant western metropolis, history has been uncovered. Concealed by layers of soil and sand, Parramatta’s archaeological collections reveal new stories and meanings that contribute to our historical understandings of Aboriginal people, colonialisation, contact, and the area’s continuing growth and development.
Over 30 years, City of Parramatta Council had amassed an extensive collection of artefacts from more than a dozen archaeological excavations in the historic heart of the Parramatta CBD. In 2017, Council initiated a project to categorize and catalogue up to 10,000 artefacts using a ‘collections rationalisation scheme’, with a series of classifications at varying levels, including groupings of artefacts for research, interpretation, education and deaccession. The project aimed to assist in managing their collection given Parramatta’s important role in the course and pattern of the nation’s and state’s history.
GML Heritage gives us an insight into what was uncovered:
What a collection it is too. We discovered that the size of the collection had been underestimated. We opened all 3,645 artefact boxes and characterised the archaeological collections for each excavation location. We wanted to help Council engage the public by sharing some of the wonderful items from the collection. More than 1,000 historical artefacts have been catalogued in detail with the fundamentals established.
Take a closer look at some of the interesting artefacts from the collection:
In August 2020, City of Parramatta Council published an online, publicly accessible digital museum of artefacts, opening up Parramatta’s archaeology to those of us that are interested in learning more about the past. Council is also exploring future acquisition, curation and management of artefacts.