Uncovering history and heritage

Students have spent the week at Merchant’s House in the The Rocks and surrounding areas, investigating stories of Sydney’s history.

The Rocks Quest, designed for the Year 8 SAGE program, encourages each student to channel their inner researcher, archaeologist, artist and discoverer.

Students investigated the bubonic plague’s effect on The Rocks, the history of British convicts, and early local economies, comparing their findings to life in Sydney today. They have met with residents to discover their stories, and learned about the history of the Gadigal people.

They have used skills of archaeologists to study artifacts found in the rubble and foundations at the The Big Dig Archaeology Education Centre, beneath the Sydney Harbour Youth Hostel Association (YHA).


“I want you to consider all of the information you uncover today to decipher the conditions of The Rocks in the 1800s,” said George from the Archaeology Education Centre.

“Histories are written with perspective, and bias, but artifacts can share a different picture, and expand our view of history.”


To date, more than a million artifacts have been uncovered at this site.


“The things we leave behind, no matter how small, can tell such personal details of our lives,” George said.

Seeking evidence of poor sanitation, restricted conditions, low economy and poor quality of life of the inhabitants of the 1800s, students examined various artifacts to determine whether the area, considered one of the most significant in Australia, was a former slum.


“I think this artifact is a broken piece of a stone pot, and the rest could still be out there somewhere,” said Nathan Lau holding one of the artifacts.

“The details and lines are really interesting. I’m not quite sure what they mean, perhaps a label of some kind.”

In addition to the archaeology expedition, students enjoyed a Tribal Warrior Education harbour tour, immersing themselves in the culture and heritage of our ancestors and learning about local Indigenous traditions, place names, stories of the past and more.

Students also created video works, drawings and written works featuring the harbour and surrounds, to be shared at their Rocks Quest exhibition.

An extensive amount of research and project-based learning has been approached by our confident students at SAGE.