From the Trenches: PEI Archaeology 2011-2012

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Following the establishment of the Provincial Archaeology Office in 2009 and the positive work completed in 2010, the 2011-2012 year has continued to build upon these accomplishments while further establishing the role of Archaeology in the Province of Prince Edward Island.

Field Work 2011- 2012

 2011 was the third and final year of excavations at the early Acadian homestead, Pointe-aux-Vieux. This Officially designated Archaeological site yielded over 14,000 artefacts dating between 1728 and 1758. Post-excavation processing, cataloguing, and research was completed and the historical significance of the site continues to be affirmed. In 2011 a committee was formed to plan a state-of-the-art exhibition showcasing this amazing site.

The completion of the P-A-V excavation in 2011, opened the door for a variety of new, exciting projects in the 2012 field season.

Excavations

 2012 Field Crew included summer students; Dawne Knockwood and Isaac Stewart from UPEI, Shalen Trask from University of Guelph, and Research Assistant Meghan Ferris. The 2012 Field Season began at the end of May with a small excavation of the Pitawelkek (Hog Island) Shell Midden site.

During July and August the crew worked on a large excavation project at McPherson Site in Orwell Corner. This late 19th Century Scottish site was rich in artefacts, with several thousand recovered in two months. This site drew widespread interest from locals and tourists and has presented exciting possibilities for public archaeology experience, interpretation, and exhibition. The Provincial Archaeology Office hopes to return to the McPherson site in 2013.

 Archaeological Testing and Surveying

 In June 2012, Archaeological testing was conducted in Pinette for signs of an early Acadian settlement. In July surveying and testing was conducted in Grand River for signs of an early Scottish Settlement. In August testing was also conducted in a field in Low Point, near P-A-V, in an attempt to identify the location of an early French windmill. While these areas are rich in history, further survey work and research is necessary to identify the exact location of any archaeological sites. Archaeological research and survey of the Brae successfully identified the area as having high potential for early 19th Century Scottish and Acadian sites. Another area identified as having high archaeological potential is Tryon.

 Research and Data Management

 Archaeological Research continues to support Duty to Consult and is also contributing to a comprehensive view of past, present, and future areas of archaeological and historical importance in this Province. Research supports current archaeological work being done in the Province. Research is also necessary for the identification of areas of archaeological significance. Newly identified and previously known sites are mapped, surveyed, and monitored. In 2011 a new mapping system, MapInfo, was selected to aid in the management and practical application of this information. MapInfo has become an integral tool for tracking, storing, organizing, and sharing Duty to Consult and Archaeological research and data.

 Community Involvement

Starting in Autumn 2011 several volunteers were trained to participate in artefact processing and cataloguing. We also hosted a student volunteer placement as part of the University of Prince Edward Island’s Public History course. Interest in volunteering with us continues to grow, and we are ever so grateful.

Public Archaeology Experience

Over the past three years the site at Pointe-Aux-Vieux had many visitors from near and far. However, the excavation at Orwell Corner this summer saw an unprecedented number of visitors. Never before has Prince Edward Island Archaeology been so visible and accessible to the Public as it was at Orwell. The site was inundated with curious tourists and locals who took great interest in the excavation. Visitors ranged in age from children to seniors. The site’s exposure to visitors prompted the installation of a temporary interpretive table with artefacts and maps set up on the edge of the site to help us educate visitors. The large amount of drop-in volunteers in the 2012 field season has created a demand for a more formal registration and scheduling of volunteers for future field seasons. The location of the excavation, in a Provincial Museum and Heritage site, led to a discovery of another sort – there are many exciting possibilities for successful Archaeological and Heritage collaborative interpretations.

 A number of factors contributed to the popularity of this site. The depression of the house we were excavating was located just off the main path at the entrance to the interpretive centre at a popular PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation site. The excavation also received media coverage which attracted many local visitors and volunteers. The site was particularly popular with tourists who were curious to learn about the history of the Province. Children and students were also very keen to see archaeology in action, and PEI history being unearthed before their eyes.

 Climate Change and Archaeology on PEI

Climate Change continues to be a threat to Archaeological sites in the Province. Our objectives for information-sharing and networking with other concerned parties (Environment, Wildlife, etc) were addressed by attending Climate Change Scenario Modeling workshops and other workshops hosted by the UPEI Centre for Climate Change Research, as well as East Coast Environmental Law conferences. Going forward, the knowledge and contacts gained from these events was helpful, in helping us accurately assess and protect Archaeological sites at risk along our coastlines.

 Presentations/ Publications / Awards

Dr. Helen Kristmanson, Provincial Archaeologist and Meghan Ferris, Research Assistant, both presented on Prince Edward Island Archaeology at the Canadian Archaeological Association annual conference in Halifax in May 2011. Several other archaeologists also presented papers on Prince Edward Island Archaeology including; Scott Buchannan; Pat Allen, on her work in Mount Stewart; Kevin Leonard, on his analysis of Archaeobotanical remains from a mid-18th century Acadian well in Greenwich National Park.

Dr. Helen Kristmanson and Crew were awarded the 2010 Gilbert Buote Award for the Excavations at Pointe-Aux-Vieux. The annual award recognizes outstanding projects in the fields of Acadian history and Prince Edward Island.

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