200 George Street

Vices and Dice

Case 13

Opium was used for recreational purposes in Europe, China and elsewhere during the nineteenth century and earlier. These objects present strong evidence of the practice which is otherwise absent from much of Sydney’s archaeology. Because of the low social status of immigrant labourers, the media often portrayed opium use through lurid and dramatic accounts of depravity and vice. Fact and fiction were blurred, yet the eastern side of George Street was particularly well-known for its gambling and opium dens, with a large community of Chinese families living and working here.

Discovered in an old well at the rear of Ah Toy’s timber yard, these items were probably part of a load of rubbish used to fill the well in order to construct his sheds. The origin of his rubbish heap, however, is still a mystery.

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