BENDIGO'S GovHub site has become the largest archaeological dig site in regional Victoria's history, fueling calls for a stand-alone museum celebrating the city's entire history.
Archaeologists have revealed a treasure trove of at least 67,000 artifacts stretching back to before settlement after knocking down the old City of Greater Bendigo office building.
Rumours about finds have been swirling for at least a month but until now authorities have remained tight-lipped about exactly what has been uncovered.
More than 30 archaeologists are carefully sifting through the footprints of multiple former buildings including homes and a hotel, finding everything from buried pet cats to remains of a gun left in a cesspit.
Heritage Victoria is cataloguing each find and is judging their historical value.
Authorities plan to showcase the works in a public exhibition at a later date, Member for Bendigo East Maree Edwards said.
"With 67,000 artifacts discovered so far we are getting a really great impression of what Bendigo was like back in the 1850s and early European settlement," she said.
Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said the dig would not impact the budget or design of the GovHub, which will centralise more than 1000 council and state government workers at one site.
She said construction works will begin in coming weeks once archaeological works have finished and that the project is still on track to finish in 2022.
It remains unclear exactly what will happen to pieces found at the site in the long-term, though Heritage Victoria wants historically-significant items to be preserved.
Bendigo Historical Society president Jim Evans said the finds underscored the need for a permanent public museum showcasing the entire history of Bendigo.
"We need this museum that would be a place for these sorts of things," he said, referring to artifacts found so far.
Bendigo's historical society is looking for space to store its own collection, which has become too large for its current home in Nolan Street and a discussion paper has been circulating in history circles about potential displays at heritage-listed TAFE buildings on McCrae Street.
More on this story: Could a fabled Bendigo museum rise from the dead?
Multiple groups have been in early discussions about history-related activity in multiple sites along Pall Mall and McCrae Street, including the law courts and historic TAFE buildings.
They are scheduled to be vacated this decade as new buildings rise in the CBD and Greater Bendigo's mayor Jennifer Alden last month said her council would like to help shape discussions about the wider heritage and tourist district.
Ms Edwards said a permanent museum is one worth exploring but that the idea was still in early days.
"There has been a lot of discussion about the need for a museum in Bendigo," she said.
"We have some consultation work to do, particularly in relation to the old court house and other buildings across Bendigo.
"They are conversations that will be continuing over the coming months and years."
For the moment, Mr Evans is itching to learn more about what archaeologists have found and what may soon be displayed in temporary exhibitions.
"I think people will be very interested in what has been found at the GovHub site, even if only for the fact it was the site for many years of the Sandhurst Hotel," he said.
Archaeologists have so far dug down as far as the 1880s section of that hotel, which sat on what is now the corner of Lyttleton Terrace and St Andrews Avenue from the earliest decades of Bendigo's European settlement.
They have also reached an early 1900s layer of dirt and building foundations of homes that once sat behind the hotel, as well as structures on the corner of Mundy Street.
Ms Edwards said the future of the GovHub site would be just as exciting as its past.
"This will bring around 200 jobs during the construction phase, inject $130 million into the Bendigo economy once its finished and, of course, allow around 1000 workers here on this site in the new GovHub building," Ms Edwards said.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.