Wednesday, August 11, 2010

If You go out to the Woods Today...

Back to work and back to the various odd occurrences which make working in the heritage community around Annapolis Royal so appealing. This evening I had a bit of an adventure which, as they often are, was quite unexpected. Yesterday I received a phone call from one of our volunteers at the Annapolis Heritage Society. She told me that an elderly neighbours knew about what he believed were Acadian graves on the South Mountain just outside of Annapolis Royal. He wanted to share the location of these graves with someone before he was no longer able to get to the site. Being interested in history, graves and adventure, I figured that this could be a bit of fun.

At about 7:00 a group of four of us met at a location on the South Mountain just outside of Annapolis Royal. This particular location would have been known to both the Mi'kmaq and the Acadians. Later generations of English settlers would also have lived in this area, but it is now overgrown. It is amazing how quickly a forest will grow up to erase signs of human habitation. After a short hike into the woods we made our way to the edge of an escarpment. Here we searched for what we were told were a series of evenly placed depressions in the ground. As you can imagine, a series of depressions which are hidden by brush at the edge of a steep hill are not the easiest things to find. There were no crosses or headstones to make the search easier. After some searching, we managed to locate the spot that we were looking for. There were indeed a handful of body sized depressions but the exact number and physical size were difficult to determine. I have decided to take another trip in the autumn or spring when the brush has died down. Photography was also impossible since images images only look like a collection of tree branches and wild roses. The photograph in this post was taken on the hike out from the site.

If we accept that these mysterious depressions are individual burials, the question of the day is are these possible graves Acadian? I have my doubts since Acadians tended to bury their dead in consecrated ground. While Acadians did live near this spot, there were at least two consecrated burial grounds nearby. If they are not Acadian, who else might be buried here? The Mi'kmaq prior to contact with Europeans tended to bury their dead at Cape Sable Island. After contact and the introduction of Catholicism, burial patterns changed. Add to this that there is a well documented presence of the Mi'kmaq in this particular area and there is the possibility of this being a member of that community. While later European settlers tended to bury their dead in graveyards, other types of home burials were not unheard of. Were these possibly the victims of an epidemic?

Are these perhaps just naturally forming depressions which look like they might be graves? You will note that I have not shared the exact location of the site. For the time being I figure that it can remain a secret shared by a few. This will offer some protection to the site. In the coming months I may be hauling one or two of my archaeologist friends out to the site to get an additional opinion.

All for now,
RGS

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