On a recent Anthropology field trip, a Dunedin student named Barney Connoly found a rock shelter (crepuscular) that is believed to have been used by both gold miners and local iwi.
The cave was found up a “steep-ish” cliff about 15 kilometres away from Cromwell in a hilly part of Central Otago. The cave, as Barney described it, is about two and half metres deep and four metres wide. It is now home to a wide variety of rabbits.
Barney believes the cave would have served as a temporary shelter for travelling Māori and would have more recently been used by gold miners. Barney states that there are other caves in the area that have been confirmed to have been used by gold miners.
“We know for a fact that miners used another rock shelter only about a hundred metres away,” he said.
The cave was discovered on a trip organised by Heritage Otago, which Otago Anthropology students were invited to take part in. The aim of the trip was to find and catalogue rock shelters and water races gold miners and Māori would have used, back in the ye olde times. The area where the cave was found was chosen because in the 70s, two other rock shelters were found there. One rock shelter has since been destroyed by the construction of the highway.
Barney has received full credit for the discovery of the cave. His discovery has been listed in the national archives under the name he gave it, “Rabbit Rock”.
Some readers may know Barney as a musician, having won Rockquest in 2017. On whether or not he is going to write a song about the cave Barney answered: “Sure, why not?”
If you ever find a cave and think “hey I bet somebody once used this as a shelter” write in to Critic and we’ll decide if you’re right.