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Ross Female Factory past uncovered

12/01/2007

They may not be the BBC Time Team, but a group of archaeologists from around Australia and the United Kingdom are uncovering Tasmania's past at the Ross Female Factory.

The team, led by Dr Eleanor Casella from the University of Manchester, hopes to find artefacts and buried architectural features that help tell the story of the site and assist in future interpretation.

Parks and Wildlife Service Acting General Manager, Stuart Lennox, said that with the exception of Dr Casella's previous work, the story of the Ross Female Factory is a poorly understood part of Tasmanian history.

"This archaeological project will help build on what we currently know of the site," he said.

"Two trenches will be excavated over a three week period - one in the solitary cells and the other at the site of the nurseries and workshop.
"It is hard to imagine that babies and children lived with their incarcerated mothers.

"It will be interesting to see if the findings reveal whether the infants had appropriate accommodation and in what activities they were involved."

Built in the early 1840s, the Female Factory incarcerated female convicts from 1847 to 1854, when the convict transportation system ceased.

Today it is a protected Historic Site managed by the Parks and Wildlife Service and the Tasmanian Wool Centre at Ross.

Mr Lennox said it was the third time Dr Casella has worked with the PWS to better interpret the Ross site.

"The work may also highlight connections between the four convict female factories (Cascade, George Town, Launceston and Ross) and allow us to piece together the multi-layered story of female convict history in Tasmania," he said.

The results of the excavation will provide information to improve interpretation at the site in a project funded by the Tasmanian Community Fund.

A public open day will be held at the site on Saturday, 20 January 2007.