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Otago researchers hope to study life and health of Chinese gold miners


Friday 27 October 2017 11:52am

Otago University bioarchaelogy Professor Hallie Buckley. Photo: supplied.

University of Otago bioarchaeology researchers are hoping to undertake a new project to study the lives of members of the Otago Goldfields Chinese community, many of whom were miners, by examining their burial remains in the Lawrence Cemetery.

The researchers are proposing to use state-of-the-art DNA techniques, isotopic analysis and study of the conditions of bones to learn more about the health and lives of these 19th-Century settlers, many of whom were officially invited by the New Zealand Government to come to work the gold fields.

The research team is proposing to study those buried at the edge of the Lawrence cemetery, who were likely Chinese miners, or who may have been their life partners, or possibly impoverished European settlers who lived in the community.

Otago bioarchaeologist Professor Hallie Buckley, who is leading the proposed project with Southern Archaeology’s Dr Peter Petchey, will share details of the planned work with members of the Lawrence community and seek their feedback at a meeting on Tuesday 31st October at 6.30pm at the St John’s Centre at 10 Ross Place in Lawrence.

Professor Buckley is hopeful the community will share her excitement about the great opportunity to discover a rich vein of information about the lives of these pioneering settlers.

“We have already been in initial discussions with local Lawrence community members, including those who represent this region’s rich Chinese heritage, and have found there is great deal of interest in what we are proposing to study. We look forward to further exploring our ideas on Tuesday evening.”

She says if the project gains support, it will provide a fascinating counterpoint to the biological anthropology research she and colleagues are currently undertaking into the lives of European settlers buried in a cemetery in Milton, Otago, and the people of Wairau Bar in Marlborough, who were likely our country’s first colonists.

“New Zealand is only a recently settled country in historical terms, so between this latest proposed work at Lawrence and the similar investigations we are undertaking at Milton and with the settlers at Wairau Bar, there are so many fascinating lessons we can learn.”

For more information, please contact:

Professor Hallie Buckley
Department of Anatomy
University of Otago

Dr Peter Petchey
Southern Archaeology

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