Dig with Us

October 2019
Harrietville Chinese Mining Village
Season 2

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 early 1860s Harrietville was home to many of the thousands of Victoria’s Chinese gold miners. This will be the second season of archaeological excavation at the Chinese Mining Village, following the successful first season in October 2017. 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. The foundations of at least 19 buildings were discovered during a survey undertaken during Season One fieldwork in 2017. Huge quantities of food, liquor, medicines, utensils, ceramics and even coins were imported from China for the Chinese mining communities. Many fragments of these were discovered during the first excavation in 2017, along with fragments of European tableware ceramics and glass bottles. Season Two research objectives will be to undertake more extensive excavations on a variety of building sites and gain a greater understanding of the lifestyle of the Chinese miners.


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

Excavation at West Camp 1 (WC1) site during Season 1 (photo: Melissa Dunk)

Excavation at West Camp 1 (WC1) site during Season 1 (photo: Melissa Dunk)


Season Two excavations are currently in planning stage, and permits are being sought from the relevant regulatory bodies.

• The excavations are planned to take place over four weeks from Monday 30 September to Saturday 26 October 2019.
• Each week will be a 6-day program - starting Monday morning, finishing Saturday evening

You can take part for one, two, or all four of these weeks.
You can start in Weeks 1, 2, 3 or 4 - 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 and European artefacts such as ceramics, coins, bottles, foodstuffs and beverages, medicines and opium- and tobacco- smoking paraphernalia.
• Be a part of archaeological discovery in one of the key heritage areas of 19th century Chinese mining history.


The program will include:
• 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 Harrietville and surrounding areas - focusing on mining history and the Chinese pioneers of the Valley.
• 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)

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.

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.

Hearth feature at West Camp 1 site during Season 1 (photo: Melissa Dunk)

Hearth feature at West Camp 1 site during Season 1 (photo: Melissa Dunk)


Full rate
• $1795 for 1 week
• $1695 for each subsequent week
Student rate
• $1095 for 1 week
• $995 for each subsequent week
Residents of Alpine Shire
• $1095 for 1 week
• $995 for each subsequent week

• Prices include program activities and training, heritage 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 are eligible for the ‘Student Rate
• 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.

Chinese sluice-mining in creek bed, Ovens valley, 19th century

Chinese sluice-mining in creek bed, Ovens valley, 19th century

Accommodation options

We have booked some low-cost share-house accommodation in Harrietville. The costs for this are: 
• $45 per person per night for a Queen Bed in a room to yourself
• $25 per person per night for a Double Bunk Bed in a room sharing with others
• $20 per person per night for a Single Bunk Bed in a room sharing with others.

You can register your interest in this when you pay your deposit.

If you would prefer instead 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 17 August and 15 September 2019 inclusive.
• Full fee is forfeited if booking is cancelled after 15 September 2019.
• In the unlikely event that the dig is cancelled by us (e.g. extreme weather forecast), you will receive a full refund of any monies paid, or you will be given the option to transfer your payment towards participation in another dig run by The Uncovered Past Institute.

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)