Meet project archaeologist Kirsa Webb. Kirsa is from Underground Overground and recently featured on One News in a story about Christchurch’s historical relics. We caught up with her to find out about her role on the project and hear about recent her findings.
What does your role involve?
I oversee any earthworks that occur on the Cathedral site. This means working closely with the excavator operators to identify any archaeological contexts or artefacts that might be exposed while they’re digging. If any archaeology is found, I record the find with drawings, photographs, measurements and a written description. We use differential GPS to do this which precisely records the locations of these finds. I then excavate the archaeological features by hand, this is usually when the trowel comes out. I also keep a record of the locations of all earthworks packages that take place so that we know where we have dug previously, which is important on a long- term project like this.
Why is your role important?
Essentially, I make sure that all of the archaeology encountered on site is managed appropriately and accurately recorded before it’s removed for the reinstatement. We can learn so much more from the context in which the artefacts are found than we can from the artefacts alone. Therefore, once the artefacts are removed from the ground their contextual information is also removed, meaning that I need to record this contextual information so that it is preserved for future reference – a crucial step!
What is your favourite part about your job?
It would have to be working with all the different trades. I love talking to the crew about my findings and hearing about their passion for the project and their enthusiasm for preserving and repairing this heritage icon.
You recently featured on One News, can you elaborate on your findings?
The One News feature was about archaeology across the city and focused on our findings from the last 10 years.
I did find one quite significant site of Māori origin when the foundations of the Citizens War Memorial were removed last year. This site is one of the only Māori archaeological sites recorded in the CBD from recent times, and is a testament to the significance of this area to Māori before Pākehā settlement. The archaeological recording of this site will help us understand what the landscape looked like and how it was used for mahinga kai practices in the past. The site analysis is ongoing, but we hope to obtain radiocarbon dates to help us find out where and when it fits within the wider archaeological landscape and the cultural narrative of Christchurch.
Sites such as this may not be recognised or identified without an archaeologist present, and could easily be damaged by accident. This demonstrates the importance of oversight of the project by an archaeologist, so that these types of sites are recognised and managed in a professional and respectful manner.