A funeral by Alexandra-based funeral director Lynley Claridge of Affinity Funerals is scheduled for next month.
She hopes it will come to symbolize the hardships and grim optimism of the gold fever that swept through Otago from the 1860s, which brought great wealth to many and cost the lives of some, including minor.
Ms Claridge said she was prompted to volunteer for her company’s services after being touched by the man’s story published in the Otago Daily Times in February.
“Living in Central Otago against the backdrop of the gold fields and all that they brought and took away from the community, I have always had a strong connection with gold miners.
“Reading the story of the unknown gold miner languishing in the anatomy department at the University of Otago, I just felt I had to bring him home.”
Final details had yet to be ironed out, but the May 14 service would include a nod to the times, such as a specially designed pine coffin with rope handles, a horse and cart to transport the coffin and director. funeral home of fourth-generation Clark Campbell, of Campbell & Sons in Mosgiel, now co-owner of Affinity, wearing his great-grandfather’s original morning suit and top hat.
The funeral would take place at 11.30am in Cromwell Cemetery and would go beyond what the man would have been offered when he was first buried 140 years ago, she said.
The service, which is open to everyone, will be presided over by Central Otago Archdeacon Damon Plimmer and will also be streamed live.
Discovered in 1983, the skeletal remains – and boots – of the unknown were exhumed from a grave above the River Clutha in Cromwell Gorge.
From there his remains were sent to the University of Otago where they have since been kept in the anatomy department.
Its discovery came as archaeologists scrambled to identify historic sites before the construction of National Highway 8, the Clyde Dam and the subsequent flooding of the gorge by Lake Dunstan.
What Dr Neville Ritchie, who discovered the remains when he was then Director of the Department of Public Works Archaeological Program for the Clutha Valley Development Project, did not negotiate was the fact that the remains of the man had already been disturbed.
Dr Ritchie told the Otago Daily Times there was clear evidence of grave robbing.
In the almost 40 years since then, traditional archeology and advances in technology have yielded more answers from the remains.
This included two approaches.
The first described the historical context, the archaeological excavations, the material culture, the social and historical context of human life and death and the robbery of tombs.
It was the second – a bioarchaeological approach – that gave the clearest picture of who the man was.
Using molecular and chemical evidence, it was discovered that he was between 30 and 50 years old, 189cm tall and unusually tall for the time, and isotopes in his teeth indicated that he came from central or southern England, northern France or Denmark.
This work was due to the team at the University of Otago – Department of Anatomy Professor and Bioarchaeologist Dr Hallie Buckley and Department of Archeology Chair Southern Archeology and Honorary Researcher Peter Petchey.
Both told the ODT their work with the man was complete and they hoped he could be given a final resting place.
Cue Mrs. Claridge.
“I hope the community will join us in saying goodbye to this miner who we believe has captured the hearts of many here in Central Otago,” she said.