Tag Archives: Children’s toys

Falling Dominos Lost Beyond the Floor

These dominos were found at the Oatlands Goal, under the floor boards in the Gaoler’s Bedroom. There were four dominos found altogether, from two different sets with two different dates. The first set is made from bone and ebony with red lines and black dots; there are three of these dominos and they date from 1700 to 1800.

During the 17th and 18th centuries dominos appeared in Europe and were originally made from animal bone, including ivory, which was quite expensive. The holes of the domino were drilled into the rectangles of animal bone and were then inlaid with pieces of ebony. Many domino sets were handmade during this time by French prisoners of war and also by sailors, who used whatever resources were on hand (Domino Play 2013). The interesting fact about the date of the first set of dominos from Oatlands is that the Gaol only opened in 1836. This means that the set may have been brought with a prisoner or by the Gaoler before the Gaol opened.


Dominos made from bone and ebony with a red line pattern, made from 1700 to 1800

The second set is made from bone, ebony with a brass pin; this single domino is dated from 1800-1855.  In the 19 – 20th centuries dominos were made from narrow pieces of bone that were glued together and fixed with a brass pin in the centre; these were called spinners. In 1855 Frenchman Charles Lepage invented plastic and dominos became much cheaper and quicker to produce (Domino Play 2013).

These two different types of domino may have belonged to the Grover family and/or the Pegus family. The Grover family lived in the Gaol from 1838 to 1840 and the Pegus family from 1841 to 1858.

A bone and ebony domino with a brass ‘spinner’ made from 1800-1855

A bone and ebony domino with a brass ‘spinner’ made from 1800-1855

Things Found Under the Floor Boards

I have started my Graduate Diploma in Archaeology this year and as part of my study I am completing a Directed Study in Archaeology. I am very excited about this project, as I am able to research a project that has been of interest to me since I discovered a wonderful set of artefacts in Oatlands, Tasmania, in January 2012.

The artefacts are toys that were discovered under the floor boards in a Gaoler’s Residence in the Oatlands Gaol, Tasmania. There are many different toys, including handcrafted wooden animals, dolls’ clothing, doll’s house pieces, marbles and a wooden whistle.

I am working at the moment on finding out what each toy is and hopefully their ages. I then hope to connect the toys to the children who lived in the residence, starting from the Gaol’s construction in 1836 all the way to 1930.

After the research is complete I hope to travel back to Tasmania and conduct a community project at the Oatlands Gaol museum for the people of Oatlands. I want to bring the toys to the community and communicate with them the significance of the artefacts and how they connect to the history of Oatlands and the people who once lived there.


Camel – maybe from a Noah’s Ark toy set


One of the rooms where some of the artefacts were found under the floor boards.


The Oatlands Gaol where the artefacts were found