More than 2000 historic sites across Central Otago and the Lakes District are being researched as part of a new heritage site review.

Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust secretary Terry Davis said their project had been in the planning stages for several years but was ‘‘properly getting under way now’’.

The trust was granted $85,000 by the Central Lakes Trust for the project and a further $6900 was granted by the Vincent, Cromwell and Maniototo community boards.
The aim was to update records on ArchSite, the New Zealand Archaeological Association’s archaeological site recording scheme.

Archaeological consultant Shar Briden said many of the archaeological sites had not been updated for 40 to 50 years,

For example, a pilot scheme in Ophir revealed that even the 1880s Daniel O’Connell suspension bridge across the Manuherikia River was not recorded.

Another key part of the review would increase the level of information about historic Maori activity, including evidence of the very first settlers dating back to the 13th century, she said.

Examples were finding quartzite during investigations near Ophir.
Silcrete and quartzite were used for making blades for cutting into big animals such as moa.
‘‘You need everything to scrape and cut, to get skins or bone or anything else you want to work with and make tools from,’’ Ms Briden said. Ovens and umu (earth ovens) were found in different places throughout Central Otago, she said.

There could also be rock art in the region. ‘‘That has been found before up in the Cluden [Creek].’’

Ms Briden had spent the last few years upgrading site records for the South Island Maori Rock Art Project that was established by the Ngai Tahu Maori Rock Art Trust. ‘‘Mostly we find it on the limestone outcrops where there are sufficient panels, you know, flat panels.
‘‘But we are finding it on schist and that is something that is really under-recognised in the records.’’

The review would help landowners identify what could be on their land as well as provide more information for sites they already knew about, Ms Briden said.
She was planning to bring archaeological students through to investigate sites in Northburn, near Cromwell, in August, and volunteers were also welcome.
‘‘We are particularly interested in getting community involved because that is how you get management and protection, and volunteer work.’’
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