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Melbourne Metro digs expected to unearth two million artefacts

Melbourne Metro digs

The largest archaeological digs in Melbourne’s history have started as work continues to deliver the AUS$11bn (£6.21bn) Metro Tunnel.

The digs will start on the corner of Flinders and Swanston streets in the city, one of the most important places in the history of European settlement in Victoria.

The heritage-listed Young & Jackson Hotel and adjoining Dangerfield building will remain on-site but six other buildings have been demolished to make way for the Metro Tunnel’s new Town Hall Station.

Large-scale digs have also recently started near the corner of La Trobe and Swanston streets, where nine buildings were recently removed as part of Metro Tunnel works to build the new State Library underground station.

It is hoped the digs, being overseen by Heritage Victoria, will help tell the story of this transformation and improve the understanding of Melbourne’s history.

Archaeological digs at the northern site have already discovered thousands of items, including highly decorative pottery, clay tobacco pipes and other items that reflect domestic life throughout the 19th century.

Up to two million artefacts are expected to be found as more than 100 archaeologists, field workers and students from the University of Melbourne, RMIT and La Trobe universities sift through the two locations, uncovering different layers of Melbourne’s history.

Viewing windows have been installed at both sites to enable locals and visitors to watch as the investigations.

Victoria minister for public transport Jacinta Allan said: “These digs are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reveal previously untold stories about Melbourne dating back to the 1830s, as we continue the job of delivering a 21st century public transport network.

“The viewing windows will give locals and visitors the chance to get up close to the biggest archaeological digs in Victoria’s history and watch as treasures from Melbourne’s past are unearthed.”

The Metro Tunnel archaeological digs are expected to finish by the end of the year and have been factored into the Metro Tunnel Project’s timeline, with the project on track to be complete by the end of 2025.

Last month work started on the diaphragm walls to form the station box for Arden Station, the northern most station on the project.

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