Messages from Quarantine

Digs & Discoveries March/April 2013

(Courtesy Annie Clarke, University of Sydney)

The North Head Quarantine Station near Sydney, Australia, was used to isolate people—usually newly arrived immigrants—suspected of carrying infectious disease. Between 1828 and 1984, 13,000 people passed through the station (more than 500 never left and were buried on site). Some of these people left records of their stays in the form of inscriptions on two sandstone outcrops at the site. The more than 1,000 inscriptions include everything from names and initials to medallion-like carvings to commemorative plaques. Many contain information about ships and their passengers. “They provide a material portal through which we can access something of the stories of the ordinary men, women, and children who migrated to Australia,” writes Annie Clarke of the University of Sydney. A more recent addition, likely from well after the site became a park, reads: “Rebecca will you marry me? Tim.” Good thing he signed it to avoid any confusion.

  • Artifacts March/April 2013

    Cooking Balls

    Scientific analyses and experimental archaeology determine that mysterious, 1,000-year-old balls of clay found at Yucatán site were used in cooking

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    (Courtesy Bolonchen Regional Archaeological Project)
  • Around the World March/April 2013


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    (Courtesy David Burley, Simon Fraser University)
  • Digs & Discoveries March/April 2013

    Saving Northern Ireland's Noble Bog

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    (Courtesy Department of Environment-Northern Ireland Environment Agency)
  • Features March/April 2013

    Pirates of the Original Panama Canal

    Searching for the remains of Captain Henry Morgan's raid on Panama City

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    (Courtesy Captain Morgan Rum Co.)