Sunday, 20 September 2009

Meet the archaeologist

Below is a fantastic interview by Roimata Maihi with archaeologist Barry Baquié who is currently working on the Auckland Art Gallery Development project.

"I had passed this wall so many times but today was different. I listened to Barry as he told a piece of history - the Albert Park Barracks. I gazed through the small square hole in the last section of remaining barracks wall, which is where a soldier would have stood with his weapon hidden from the enemy. I wondered what it may have been like and what else is left from this time.

I then realised what Barry really enjoyed: it wasn’t the fact that he was his own boss or that he could work out doors and travel everywhere, it was the actual thrill and excitement he gets every time he’s on an exploration. Pure adrenaline!

It has been 36 years since Barry first began his journey uncovering the past. It all began one day when he was a young lad needing to choose another subject for his university studies. He was tagging along with a group of archaeology students on a field trip down Waikato Heads who were inspecting old shell middens (thrown away rubbish) along the beach. It was puzzling at first but he came to realize that these were the indicators of how Maori survived along the coastline. This fascination led him to further his studies into anthropology and archaeology.

Barry is the Archaeologist for the Auckland Art Gallery Development project. During the earthwork stages, he has been monitoring very closely the diggers and their excavation work along the base of the Albert Park hill. There has been onsite an enormous excitement, expectation, and anticipation of finding the WWII tunnels under Albert Park. Unfortunately, we never saw any remains or tunnel entrances, but we did find a garden relating to the time when Albert Park was formerly Albert Barracks (see photo and map below).

Artifacts found on site have included bottles, newspapers, and ceramic pieces dating back to the 1850’s. Based on the hand-painted art work on one of the ceramic artifacts, Barry was able to estimate the making of the artifact to the 1830 – 1840 period (see photo below). A clock record book found in the building walls of the clock tower, had records dating back to 1933. Barry hopes to see some of these artifacts found during the construction period displayed in the new Gallery.

Barry reckons that to appreciate the present it helps to have a bit of an understanding of the past. He describes the process as the tip of the iceberg, where all that is visible is just a small reflection of our culture with the vast mass of our remains either destroyed forever or waiting to be excavated, explored, and interpreted. An archaeologist carefully carves to unveil what was ordinary, but now precious in its original state; hidden by time.