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George and York Streets, Sydney



AMAC Group monitored the excavation of the site at 379-385 George Street and 38-48 York Street, Sydney. Several target areas were identified as having low to moderate potential for archaeological material associated with long term occupation and development since the early 19th century. Archaeological monitoring occurred over several days between September and December 2015. During this time the lower remains of a well were found cut into the natural sandstone.


Archaeological monitoring indicated that the basements within the buildings fronting both George and York streets had truncated the stratigraphic profile to the natural Hawkesbury sandstone, removing any material evidence of 19th century occupation. The extant late 19th century buildings fronting York Street are to be retained as part of the ongoing development, therefore no archaeological monitoring was competed in this area apart from an access way which formed part of an original mid-19th century cart way.


Following the completion of targetted archaeological monitoring, AMAC Group were contacted by the excavators when they discovered the lower remains of a well cut into the natural sandstone in the northeast corner of the site. The well shaft was considerably lower than the previous basement floor levels fronting George Street, whose installation had already removed all other evidence that could demonstrate early occupation of the study site.




In terms of excavation and recording the well presented a significant challenge. It was discovered deep below the ground under a concrete platform installed by the builders to enable access to the site. Upon discovery, the northern part of the well was inaccessible as it stood 1.3m higher than the south which had collapsed during its excavations. The bedrock around the well was also highly unstable and saturated with water. The majority of the south and west bedrock walls were removed during monitoring to facilitate access for excavation of the deposits at the base of the well.


The well was able to be surveyed however detailed plans and section drawings were not possible due to safety concerns. To overcome these difficulties and limitations, the well was archivally recorded using a technique called photogrammetry. Photogrammetry involves taking many individual photographs of an object, feature or site and then combining the many photos using a computer program in order to produce one 3D model.


The deposit at the base of the well yielded many artefacts and several have been modelled using the same photogrammetry process. The artefacts selected for recording generally fit one, or all, of three criteria: 


1) Objects which may deteriorate over time, such as the leather shoes.


2) Objects which are useful for dating the remains or fit with the research design of the excavators. For example, the blacking bottle which assists in dating the well.


3) Objects which may be of interest to the general public. Such as the cut bone.


The photogrammetry and 3D models were produced by Dr Hugh Thomas of Helios Photography in partnership with AMAC Group. Thumbnails below.


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