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Little Lon Collection

Mug, Copeland and Garrett, Staffordshire

Image: Mug, Copeland and Garrett, Staffordshire

Source: Museum Victoria

The Commonwealth Block is an area in inner-city Melbourne bounded by Lonsdale, Exhibition, Little Lonsdale and Spring Streets comprising. During the mid- to late-nineteenth century, it developed as a working class district, with simple houses, cottage industries and small scale businesses. The area has been regarded as a slum, occupied by criminals, prostitutes and the poor, however archaeological research on the nineteenth-century occupation of the site suggests a more complex history with at least some long term occupants seeking a respectable life. Towards the end of the century many ethnic minority groups were moving into the area and operating businesses, and the early twentieth century saw the construction of a number of small factories.

In 1948 the Commonwealth Government compulsorily acquired the land. The homes and factories that populated the back streets and lanes were razed to the ground, and a large government office block was built in the south-east corner. Ahead of a tidal wave of further commercial development in the late 1980s, an archaeological investigation of the area was commissioned by The Department of Administrative Services and Telecom Australia. In the summer of 1987-1988 over 200,000 artefact fragments were uncovered from the first archaeological dig which took place along Little Lonsdale Street. There have been four further digs since: Black Eagle & Oddfellows Hotels (1991), 17 Casselden Place (1995), Phase 3 Testing (2001), and Casselden Place (2002-2003). These digs produced an additional 300,000 artefacts. Artefacts from all but the Phase 3 Testing season are in Museum Victoria's collection.

The 'Little Lon' collection (named after the site of the first archaeological excavation) provides fascinating insights into the people who lived and worked in Melbourne in the latter part of the 19th century. Archaeologists found magnums that once held the best French champagne; marbles, toy tea sets, dolls and other children's toys; Chinese ceramics, willow pattern plates, Crimean War souvenirs, tokens and coins. Residents purchased homeopathic pain killers, patent medicines and laxatives. They ate cheap cuts of mutton and oysters by the dozen, and the area was infested with rats. Archaeologists and historians continue to analyse the distribution and stratigraphy of objects, to discover more about the people who lived in the district.

Items per page: 10 50 (showing 451 - 460) 489 items

  • Bottle - Rice Wine, Ceramic, China, circa 1880 (Reconstructed) Archaeology

    Bottle - Rice Wine, Ceramic, China, circa 1880 (Reconstructed)

    This is reconstructed ceramic rice wine bottle is made up of a group of 65 fragments that were excavated at one of the digs on the Commonwealth Block between 1988 and 2003. It is of Chi ...

    Images: 1
  • Mug - Whiteware, Red, Transfer-Printed, Watteau Pattern, England, Staffordshire, 1833-1847 (Fragment) Archaeology

    Mug - Whiteware, Red, Transfer-Printed, Watteau Pattern, England, Staffordshire, 1833-1847 ...

    This ceramic mug or tankard was reconstructed from a group of seven fragments that were excavated at one of the digs on the Commonwealth Block between 1988 and 2003. It was manufactured ...

    Images: 1
  • Token - Copper, Australia, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Token - Copper, Australia, circa 1880

    This token, with an allergorical image of Justice under the word Australia, was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. Working in Little Lon. Alongside t ...

    Images: 1
  • Astragalus - Bone, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Astragalus - Bone, circa 1880

    Alternative Name(s): Knucklebone This astragalus bone was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It has been cleaned to be used in the game knuckle bones. 'Wh ...

    Images: 1
  • Shell - Oyster, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Shell - Oyster, circa 1880

    This oyster shell was excavated during one of the digs conducted at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It was found with seven dozen other oyster shells, champagne and P ...

    Images: 1
  • Plate - Whiteware, Blue, Transfer-Printed, Willow Pattern, England (Fragment) Archaeology

    Plate - Whiteware, Blue, Transfer-Printed, Willow Pattern, England (Fragment)

    This Willow Ware plate was reconstructed from three fragments that were excavated at one of the digs on the Commonwealth Block between 1988 and 2003. Homewares. Numerous crockery piec ...

    Images: 2
  • Seeds Archaeology

    Seeds

    These eight cherry seeds were excavated at one of the digs on the Commonwealth Block between 1988 and 2003 Uncovering past food practices. Of all the archaeological material uncovered ...

    Images: 1
  • Vase - Porcelain, circa 1880 (Damaged) Archaeology

    Vase - Porcelain, circa 1880 (Damaged)

    This porcelain vase was excavated during one of the archaeological digs conducted at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It features a blue snake coiled around the stem. ...

    Images: 1
  • Bottle - Medicine, Glass, China, circa 1880 (Broken) Archaeology

    Bottle - Medicine, Glass, China, circa 1880 (Broken)

    This small medicine bottle was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It is of Chinese origin. Health and hygiene. 'Cleanliness is next to Godliness'. This i ...

    Images: 1
  • Penny Ink Well - Ceramic, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Penny Ink Well - Ceramic, circa 1880

    This ink well was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. This type of inkwell is also known as a penny ink well. Writing implements, found throughout Little Lo ...

    Images: 1
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