Remains of unknown Otago gold miner getting final resting place

Source: 1News

The remains of an unknown gold miner who was buried in the Cromwell Gorge are being given a new final resting place.

The grave of the unknown gold miner on Cromwell Gorge before being removed.

The body was discovered during archaeological work ahead of construction of the Clyde Dam and highway around 40 years ago, but his remains have been housed at Otago University's anatomy department ever since.

He is believed to be one of the thousands of men who came to the Central Otago region during the late 1800s gold rush.

After decades at the university, bio-archaeologist Professor Hallie Buckley and honorary research fellow, Peter Petchey have been researching the history of the man.

Buckley said: "He had been excavated in 1983, I was still at school at that time. I came to the anatomy department as a post-graduate student in the late 90s and we always knew he was there."

It was at this point, she wanted to discover more about this mystery miner and find the story behind the European and Chinese men who came from afar in the hopes of finding their fortunes.

"These men came over here and their stories just got lost."

A scan of a boot from the unknown gold miner.

She believes the man was around 30 - 40 years old when he died.

"We can't pinpoint where he came from" but with "the evidence from his teeth" they worked out he was of western European descent.

"There were a lot of men that died and could never be identified," she said.

Alexandra-based funeral director, Lynley Claridge, saw an article in the newspaper about the unknown gold miner and wanted to do something special for him.

"I'd read he'd been at the university for 40 years and I just felt that we really needed to bring him home."

She contacted Otago University and the district council about the possibility of providing a service through her funeral company, Affinity Funerals.

"Which they all agreed too, which is wonderful!"

The boots on top of the coffin for 'The Gold Miner'.

Claridge believes his funeral is special for the community to remember those who came here for the gold rush.

"He's quite symbolic of all the gold miners that didn't have a burial in their days, so he's representing them and we are going to give him a lovely burial."

Affinity Funerals are covering the cost of the funeral in Cromwell with Contact Energy chipping in for a headstone at a later date.

The service is open to all at Cromwell Cemetery at 11:30am on May 14.