The Path to Pointe-aux-Vieux

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A flashback to the Archaeological landscape in 2011 at the Acadian homestead site, Pointe-aux-Vieux (1728-1758).
Field crew, volunteers and visitors, from near and far, all followed this path to arrive at the Provincially designated archaeological site and stunning vista at Low Point, Prince Edward Island.

We’ve Got the Moves Like Quixote: Tilting at a (Acadian) Windmill

Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”

“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.

“Those you see over there,” replied his master, “with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.”

“Take care, sir,” cried Sancho. “Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone.”

The 17th century work Don Quixote by Cervantes is a literary classic.  But what the heck does Don Quixote have to do with PEI archaeology?  Well, it was in the dog days of August last year when we decided to go looking for an Acadian windmill not that far removed from our site at Pointe-aux-Vieux.  It was noted on period maps of the area, and the landowner was more than willing to have us take a look.  Although we did not have any previous experience with windmills in an archaeological context, we thought that finding evidence of such an important community structure would be a nice addition to our work at PAV.

On a Wednesday (15th), we piled into our rental, along with all our field gear, and hit the road for the Low Point region.  After being shown to the site by the landowner, we set up a base line, after which we marked off two areas, a 5m x 1m trench parallel to the line, and a 5m x 3m grid (broken up into ten 1m x 1.5m units) perpendicular to the line.  We decided to begin with the 5m x 3m area, and after struggling to remove the sod, we struggled even more to trowel.  PEI had been experiencing a bit of a heat wave at that time, and as a result, the soil was baked almost to the point of impenetrability.  Even when it was decided to bring out the shovels to move past this baked layer, we quickly discovered that 1) the going was not much faster, and 2) that the stratigraphy of the soil was showing it to be completely sterile, reflected also by the lack of artefacts uncovered.  By the end of that first day, we were dirty, sunburned, and completely worn out.

The next day (16th), we were back at it with more shovel testing, but the situation had not improved, and with essentially nothing to show for our work (aside from blisters), it was decided to wrap up the project until a later date, when conditions might be more conducive to excavation.  We took records of our work, packed up the gear, and set our sights on the Gold Cup Day long weekend.

It might seem strange to write about a project that was less than successful, but in archaeology, as in life, you just can’t win them all.  We went looking for a windmill and came up empty (although the futile shoveling was pretty dang character-building, in my opinion).  In the end, you simply have to take an experience like this and learn from it, put it behind you, and move on to the next project.  But now I’m just rambling, so here are a few pictures to put a stop to that.

P.S. – In case you’re wondering about the title, it’s a take on the song title “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5.

Collaboration in Stanhope

For the first week of August last year, we were given the opportunity to collaborate with Parks Canada on a site of theirs located in Stanhope, a community on PEI’s north shore.  I won’t say too much about it here, because you can read all about the project on the Stanhope Historical Society’s website by clicking the link below.

http://www.stanhopecovehead.pe.ca/archdig.php

(There’s nothing about last year’s work yet, but it was basically a continuation of what was done in previous field seasons.)

It was great to be able to partner with Parks on this excavation, and a good time was had by all.  Here are a few pictures of our field crew in action.

Hog Island, a.k.a “Mosquito Mordor”, 2012

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On May 28th, 2012, we kicked off our field season with a week-long excavation of a shell midden site on Hog Island, also known as George’s Island and by its traditional Mi’kmaq name of Pitawelkek. If you’ve ever spent any amount … Continue reading

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It’s like finding a Straight Pin in a Dirtpit!

 

Pointe-Aux-Vieux July 7, 8, & 9 2010:

 Swelter

Pointe-Aux-Vieux felt the heat in July. Sweltering, is the only way to describe how it felt for a few days when the temperature seemed to reach 40 + degrees with the humidex. It was gorgeous weather to be sitting poolside with a pina colada. However there is nothing gorgeous about digging for 7 + hours a day in that heat, covered in sunscreen, bug-spray, sweat, and dirt. Trust me.

 I usually really enjoy working outside, it beats sitting at a desk anyday. But digging is no picnic (although we do have picnics for lunch).  Working on a dig involves a lot of strenuous physical labour, which as intense as it is, I find to be satisfying work. However, there were a few days I would have gladly preferred to be in an air-conditioned office. I had to focus on troweling and not let my mind wander to thoughts of lying in a freezer, in an air-conditioned room, drinking hundreds of iced beverages. Pointe-Aux-Vieux is on the water, but the brilliant idea of cooling off in the ocean was nixed, when it was discovered that the water temperature was near boiling!