Archaeology and History

Cross River Rail is building a new underground rail transport system for Brisbane, but the project is also making important archaeological discoveries about Brisbane’s multicultural past along the way. As the new tunnels are being built, Cross River Rail is working closely with a team of historical archaeologists, to dig deep into Brisbane’s history and explore what life used to be like over 100 years ago.

A mega-project like Cross River Rail first needs to inspect and understand the history of the sites it wishes to build stations on. The process of archaeological investigation is undertaken to first understand the history of the station site, and then digging happens across the site to uncover artefacts and remnants of buildings that once occupied the site.

There are two key groupings of archaeological investigation for Cross River Rail: Indigenous and Non-Indigenous investigations. This is because there are distinct procedures for each. These learning activities focus on Non-Indigenous history and archaeological investigation.

So far on the Cross River Rail Project, significant archaeological digs have taken place at Boggo Road, Woolloongabba, Albert Street, and Victoria Park, uncovering evidence of Brisbane’s international trade, local business, and Chinese settlement.


The story of Cross River Rail is told through the objects and archaeology is a discipline of material culture. The exercises presented here will focus on ceramics and glass objects and have students “interpret” an assemblage like an archaeologist.

These activities are aligned to the “Digging up the Past” unit of the Queensland curriculum targeting Year 7-9.

Numismastics focus – a collection of coins has been gathered to parallel the archaeological finds from the Cross River Rail excavations. This includes pre-decimal coins from Australia but also includes international coins from Holland, France, Great Britain, the US and China. Cowrie shells have also been included to represent the Aboriginal Australians and their system of barter and trade, however, these shells were also traded like currency. This coin exercise uses historic coins and shells to teach archaeological principles of relative dating, trade and exchange, geography and Primary Source analysis.

This exercise focuses on the information that can be interpreted from glass assemblage. Glass preserves very well and although it breaks, there are always unique pieces that can tell the story about the bottle.

Students will learn how archaeologists can use glass to understand what happened in the past. We will examine how glass bottles were made, what they are made from. The writing on the bottles, where the bottles were found (archaeological context) and the contents.

This exercise will focus on the evidence that archaeologists use to discover facts about the past, using actual strategies from the Go Print excavation site in Woolloongabba.

This exercise will focus on an Australian History Mysteries using materials excavated from the Go Print site. We will explore the mystery behind the origin, location, design, materials, and backstory of the artefacts.

Supporting Exercises

Students are given a field notebook and pick an artefact from the Cross River Rail collection. Using the field notebook, students interact with the Experience Centre exhibits, printed and digital, and reconstruct the excavations at Albert Street and Woolloongabba. The field notebook helps to teach concepts of stratigraphy, dating, and excavation techniques.

Students explore some of the core principles of underground tunnel-making from across the world, and how those learnings have informed the construction of tunnelling under Brisbane.

Cross River Rail also provides activities for schools or students to try online. This includes video tutorials, informational videos and activity sheets that you can print off and complete at home or in the classroom. You can find the activities here.

Don’t forget to send in your work to for the chance to be have the work posted here!