Dig with Us

October 2017
Harrietville Chinese Mining Village

Join us to discover more about the Chinese miners who once lived and worked in the 19th century Harrietville Chinese Mining Village. For around thirty years from the late 1850s Harrietville was home to many of the thousands of Victoria’s Chinese gold miners. This will be the first archaeological dig in Victoria of a Chinese mining settlement. The largely undisturbed site includes mine workings, water races, building foundations, and gardens: a rare survivor of the heyday of Chinese gold mining in Victoria. Huge quantities of food, liquor, medicines, utensils, ceramics and even coins were imported from China. Examples of these are likely to be discovered during the excavation, which will centre on the main building - a kitchen with five hearths. Is this building evidence of the famous kongsi - the Chinese traditional co-operative working structure often reported in historical records, but rarely found archaeologically before?


In the Alpine National Park, in the Upper Ovens Valley, in northeast Victoria, Australia, near the town of Harrietville.

 Speculative reconstruction of part of the Harrietville Chinese Village (illustration by Andrew Swift)

Speculative reconstruction of part of the Harrietville Chinese Village (illustration by Andrew Swift)


This dig will take place over three weeks from 9 to 28 October 2017:
Each week is a 6-day program - starting Monday morning, finishing Saturday evening
Week One: Mon 9 to Sat 14 October 2017
Week Two: Mon 16 to Sat 21 October 2017 - Week 2 is now fully booked
Week Three: Mon 23 to Sat 28 October 2017
You can take part for one, two, or all three of these weeks.
You can start in Weeks 1, 2, or 3 - there will be introductory training each Monday for new participants.


• Learn excavation techniques
• Work alongside some of the most experienced archaeologists and historians of Chinese heritage, and mining heritage, in Australia.
• Learn how to identify Chinese artefacts such as ceramics, coins, bottles, foodstuffs and beverages, medicines and opium-smoking paraphernalia.
• Be a part of archaeological discovery in one of the key world heritage areas of 19th century Chinese mining history.


The program includes:
• intensive training, and participation in, field work (site excavation, site surveying), and artefact processing (cleaning, recording, identifying and cataloguing)
• a maximum of 4 participants for every supervising archaeologist in our team
• guided history and heritage tours of the Upper Ovens Valley - focusing on mining history and the Chinese pioneers of the Valley.
• daily and evening workshops and lectures, on topics such as:

Principles of archaeology
Surveying techniques, mapping and GIS
Conservation techniques for materials
Chinese ceramics
Chinese coins
Alluvial mining techniques
Chinese pioneers of the Ovens Valley
Chinese mining history in Australia
Understanding Chinese joss houses and temples
Goldrush-era Chinese cooking and food preservation

 Fragments of Chinese ceramics found in the Ovens Valley (photo: Diann Talbot)

Fragments of Chinese ceramics found in the Ovens Valley (photo: Diann Talbot)

Daily schedule

Morning activity       8.30 am–noon (including tea break)
Lunch                         noon–1.00 pm
Afternoon activity    1.00–4.30 pm (including tea break)
Evening program     5.30–7.00 pm

Wednesday each week will be devoted to history and heritage tours of Chinese goldmining and settlement sites in the district. Tours will be by minibus, with a short amount of walking. Each week will have different tour.

Each of the three weeks will have a different evening program of lectures and workshops.

Who For?

Any one interested in learning more about archaeology and history is welcome to take part. No previous experience in archaeology is required. A minimum age of 18 years old is required for individual participants. People aged 12-17 can also take part if accompanied by a responsible adult.

 Steps and water race at the site  (photo: Andrew Swift)

Steps and water race at the site  (photo: Andrew Swift)

Activity Level

Archaeological fieldwork requires a general level of fitness and involves physical exertion. Processing artefacts by contrast is mainly a seated activity. Fieldwork involves walking a short distance to reach the site, lifting buckets of dirt, kneeling on the ground for extended periods. You will work at your own pace, but the experience will be more enjoyable if you are in good physical condition. If you do not exercise regularly, you might improve your conditioning by taking consecutively longer walks at home before the program begins.

If you prefer to be mainly seated, then the activity schedule can be tailored individually for you, to allow you to focus on processing artefacts. If you have any questions or concerns about your ability to participate in this program, please contact us to discuss this further.

Project Partners

Harrietville Historical Society
Harrietville Community Forum
Parks Victoria
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP)
• Permits for the excavation have been approved by Heritage Victoria, Parks Victoria & DELWP.


Full rate - Australian and NZ residents
• $1595 for 1 week
• $1495 for each subsequent week
Student rate - Australian and NZ residents
• $995 for 1 week
• $935 for each subsequent week
Residents of Alpine Shire
• $995 for 1 week
• $935 for each subsequent week
Full rate - International (outside Australia and NZ)
• $2075 for 1 week
• $1945 for each subsequent week
Student rate - International (outside Australia and NZ)
• $1305 for 1 week
• $1225 for each subsequent week

• Prices include program activities and training, heritage bus tours, lunches and morning/afternoon teas, and a shared BBQ dinner on Saturday evening each week.
• We will provide all equipment you will need to participate in the dig.
• Not included: accommodation, breakfast (or dinner except for Saturday evening each week).
• All rates are in Australian dollars.

Member discounts

Members of The Uncovered Past Institute are entitled to dig fee discounts:
• Associate Members receive a $50 discount off their first week's fee.
• Full Members receive a $50 discount off each week's fee.

For membership rates, see Support Us


• All students enrolled in tertiary and secondary education institutions located in Australia are eligible for the ‘Student Rate - Australian resident
• ‘Student rate - International’ is for students enrolled in educational institutions outside Australia.
• You do not need to be an archaeology student to qualify for the student discount. 
• All participants under the age of 18, need to be accompanied by another participant who is aged 18 or more.
• All students will need to provide proof of their enrolment.
• Archaeology students may also be entitled to course credits for participation in this dig, depending on their institution's fieldwork accreditation requirements. Please enquire for more details.

Accommodation options

We are booking some low-cost share-house accommodation in Harrietville. Enquire for more details.

If you would like to book your own accommodation, the dig site is close to a wide range of accommodation options in Harrietville and also nearby Bright (15 min drive from Harrietville): camping grounds, caravan parks, B&Bs, motels, hotels and chalets. The Ovens Valley is a popular spring tourism destination, so it is advisable to book your accommodation early.

Weather Conditions

Harrietville in October is in the middle of spring, with mild weather. Temperatures range from average of 21°C maximum to 6°C overnight minimum. 

Other activities available in the Ovens Valley

The Ovens Valley is situated in the foothills of the Australian Alps, with a wide variety of recreational activities which participants can enjoy before or after the dig period, or during the Sunday free day at the end of each week. Walking, hiking, rail-trail, mountain biking, kayaking and canoeing, wineries, heritage towns and museums are just some of these - see www.visitbright.com.au for more information.

Getting There

Car: Harrietville is 4 hours drive from Melbourne, or 7 hours from Sydney.
Public transport: VLine operates a train and bus service from Melbourne to Bright via Wangaratta - see www.ptv.vic.gov.au/timetables and search for 'Vline Train' to 'Bright'
Bicycle: The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail runs from Wangaratta to Bright.
Bright to Harrietville:  is a 15 minute drive. For those arriving without cars we will arrange shuttle transport to Harrietville if required. Please enquire for details.
The dig site: is a 15 minute walk from Harrietville. A daily car shuttle, from Harrietville and from Bright, will also be arranged if some participants require it.

Bookings and Enquiries


Contact:  Paul Macgregor, phone: 03 5797 0155 (International +613 5797 0155) 
Email: uncoveredpastinstitute@gmail.com


To register to participate in this dig, complete the Register Now registration form
• A non-refundable deposit of $300 is required to secure your place.
• Balance is to be paid within 7 days of paying your deposit.
• All fees are GST-exempt.

Cancellation policy

• Half of full fee is forfeited if booking is cancelled between 26 August and 24 September 2017 inclusive.
• Full fee is forfeited if booking is cancelled after 24 September 2017.

 The Ovens River near the site of the Harrietville Chinese Mining Village (photo: Paul Macgregor)

The Ovens River near the site of the Harrietville Chinese Mining Village (photo: Paul Macgregor)