Barracks Rat

Nineteenth century

Trying to get any sleep in the wards of Hyde Park Barracks must have been difficult at times due to the building’s infestation of rats. They ran along the floors and hammock rails and stole scraps of fabric, paper, rope and any soft materials they could find, to make their nests beneath the floorboards. Some, like this individual, even died in the underfloor spaces and in the dry environment, their carcasses were dessicated (dried up) and preserved for over a century before archaeologists discovered them in the early 1980s.

… in the night rats came by hundreds ; they even came into the bed, crept in at our breast, under the bed-clothes, and out at the feet, like a pack of hounds, and biting at our noses and ears all through the night.

Convict Joseph Lingard, Narrative of a Journey to and from New South Wales, 1846, p24

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