Excavating Little Lonsdale Street (Video)

Object Description

A video about the history and excavation of the Little Lonsdale Street precinct.

Educational Value Statement

During the summer of 1987-88, historical archaeologists conducted an archaeological dig within part of the block bordered by Spring, Lonsdale, Exhibition and Little Lonsdale streets in Melbourne's central business district. The archaeologists uncovered the remains of lanes and pathways and the foundations of houses and workshops. They found thousands of objects used and discarded during the last third of the 19th century. Digs on other parts of the block during 2002 and 2003 recovered many other items.

Known as 'Little Lon', this area had evolved as predominantly working class during the mid to late nineteenth century. The area was characterised by a series of laneways, with small properties packed together creating crowded and unsanitary conditions. In the public consciousness, Little Lon was a slum, riddled with poverty, prostitution and drug addiction. It was the city’s ’Red Light District’, but it was also home to the city’s poorest residents and recently arrived immigrants from Ireland, Italy, China and Syria. And what recent archaeological and historical research shows us is that under adverse conditions, individuals and families managed to make homes, raise children, and establish businesses in Little Lon.

Over 500,000 artefacts, reflecting the area’s residential and industrial history, have been unearthed since 1988. The vast array of domestic ceramics, glass wares, cutlery, shells, bones, currency, jewellery, pipes, toys, sewing paraphernalia, clothing, shoes, metal offcuts, iron machinery and tools has shed life on a multitude of vanished lives. What analyses of this material shows is that under adverse conditions, individuals and families managed to make homes, raise children, and establish businesses.

Catalogue Record





Museum Victoria


Archaeology, 1382
Archaeological sites, 1510

Historical Archaeology
Casselden Place Material
Little Lonsdale Street



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© Museum Victoria and Curriculum Corporation 2008 (except where otherwise indicated). You may view, display, print out, copy and modify this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.