Doll's Head Revisited
At 12:51 p.m. on February 22, 2011, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake rocked New Zealand's South Island, killing 185 people, injuring several thousand, and changing the landscape of Christchurch forever. In the central business district alone, more than 750 buildings were damaged beyond repair.
As demolition began on the ruined buildings, archaeologists were called in to photograph them and document what lay underneath.
What they've found in the last two years—from soda bottles and patent medicine containers to ceramic beer bottles and fragments of clay pipes—is akin to a time capsule from the earliest days of Christchurch, which was settled in the mid-1800s.
"These things have the power to connect us to the people who built our city," said Katharine Watson, director of Underground Overground Archaeology, the leading firm that's making these discoveries.
Sometime during the late 1800s, this china doll's head was thrown out with the trash near a hotel in downtown Christchurch. Today it's among the growing number of artifacts—now estimated at more than ten thousand—that have been collected from sites around the earthquake-ravaged city.
Watson's team recovered the doll's head at the site where stables once stood adjacent to the Zetland Arms Hotel on Cashel Street, today the city's main shopping area. Built in the early 1860s, and rebuilt between 1901 and 1903 after a fire, the hotel had most recently housed shops and restaurants.
"I imagine that the doll belonged to a child living at the hotel—probably the proprietor's daughter," said Watson. "She dropped the doll and broke it, and the pieces were buried with the hotel rubbish near the stables."