Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Archaeology at the Garrison Burial Grounds

As with any writing, through the history of this blog there have been some days when I have stared rather vacantly at the screen wondering what to write. On the other hand, there are days like today when the topic jumps forward fully formed and ready to be written down. I do not even need to come at this topic from a strange or obscure angle. An archaeological excavation in the middle of the Garrison Burial Grounds on St George Street is as much of an Annapolis Royal Heritage topic as I could dream of.

Earlier in the year I was told that there was going to be archaeological work going on in Garrison Burial Grounds which are located within the earthenworks at Fort Anne. The purpose of the dig was to find a location within the cemetery where a monument to the Acadian Sainte Jean Baptiste Cemetery could be mounted. For those who do not know, the Acadian cemetery is located within the larger burial grounds. Since the wooden grave markers in the Acadian section of the graveyard have long since rotted and disappeared, there was nothing to indicate where these people were buried. It is estimated that there are over 2000 burials but just over 200 stones can be found. The oldest stone, that of Bathiah Douglass, dates to 1720 which is 10 years into the British occupation of the town. Thanks to our friends at the Historical Association of Annapolis Royal there will now be a marker to indicate where the graves of the Acadian community can be found. From the drawings I have seen the monument will be a stone cross with an inscription about the historic cemetery.

Now when you are putting a monument in a historic cemetery the last thing you want to do is put it on top of someone's remains so Parks Canada archaeologist Charles Burke arrived to conduct a small dig. Sometimes in archaeology you are looking to find something but this was one of the occasions where they were hoping to find nothing. There were a couple of minutes of excitement when an object was unearthed which looked like it may be part of a human skull. Thankfully, the with a bit further digging the object turned out to be a flat whitish rock. By the end of the day it looked like the monument would be able to be located in the chosen location.

Whenever this sort of activity is going on in Annapolis Royal I am irresistibly drawn to the dig. I am allowed to flash back to my undergrad years sitting in darkened lecture halls and watching slides of digs from exotic venues from around the world. I now have a wonderful collection of images from many of the digs which have happened in and around Annapolis Royal in recent years. While it may not seem exotic to some, our community has a potential for archaeological exploration which is unparalleled in Canada.

All for now,

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