Digging in the dirt

Darrell Cole
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Parks Canada public archaeological excavation resumes

Digging in the dirt

FORT LAWRENCE - Gordon Beanlands doesn't mind getting his hands dirty when it comes to uncovering history.

The Halifax man was among a group of people participating in a public archaeological dig in Beaubassin early Thursday.

"I did it last year and thoroughly enjoyed myself, it's like a treasure hunt for old folks like me," Beanlands said as he looked over an assortment of items he had unearthed from one of several pits located off the Fort Lawrence Road on the site of the former Acadian village. "I like what Charles (Burke) is doing here and wanted to help out. It's important that we continue to explore our history."

This is the third year for the Beaubassin and Fort Lawrence Public Archaeology Experience and the project's head archaeologist is thrilled with what's been accomplished to date.

"We are uncovering the past of this landscape. We are looking for and finding evidence of the Acadian occupation from 1672 to 1750 and the British occupation of Fort Lawrence, which was the next five-year period," Burke said. "Not a great deal of information has come out of the excavations yet because we're sort of limited in where we're digging."

Located on the Isthmus of Chignecto, near present day Amherst, Beaubassin was an important Acadian village and trading centre and was at its height one of the largest communities in Acadia. It was first settled by Jacques Bourgeois in 1655 and known as Bourgeoisville for a time until its name changed to Beaubassin.

The village was burned by the French in 1750 to keep it from falling into British hands with the population moving across the marsh to Fort Beausejour, from where many Acadians were deported to South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Georgia in October 1755.

Burke said evidence of domestic occupation have been found on the site including foundations, fencelines and the possibility of some paths and trails. Using a dustpan, a mason's trowel, brush and knee pads, participants have discovered plenty of nails, pottery and pieces of pipes.

"I found some nails, pieces of pottery and a flintstone already today. It's just amazing," said Fay DeViller of Halifax. "My husband and I are history buffs and this is a great opportunity to experience history."

There have also been pretty significant finds as well including lead seals that can be traced back to who owned them, along with coins and buttons. Several of the buttons were modified by the owners with little designs on them.

Burke said the future includes testing various parts of the property looking for evidence of the Acadian occupation. Hopefully in a few years there will be enough information to be able to draft a plan of the location of roads through the community, walking paths and buildings.

"It would be awfully nice to find enough information that if there was a walking trail through this area, the walking trail (part of the interpretive centre) should be in the area that the Acadians walked on in 1720," Burke said.

Eventually, he's hoping to see the information and artifacts collected to be included in some sort of interpretive centre.

Among those participating in the opening day of the dig was a group of employees from the Cumberland Regional Economic Association, which has been very supportive of preserving Beaubassin's past.

"It's not necessarily a day off, it's participating in something that's very special, very historic," Geoff deGannes said while sifting through a pail of dirt he collected.

From Thursday to Sunday for the next four weeks, ending Aug. 16, the public can join crews from Parks Canada in digging at the village site.

Burke is pleased to have so many back from previous years adding it's an indication of how popular the dig is.

To participate in the dig, call Fort Beausejour-Fort Cumberland National Historic Site of Canada at 506-364-5080.


Organizations: Parks Canada, Fort Lawrence Public Archaeology Experience, Cumberland Regional Economic Association

Geographic location: Fort Lawrence Road, Chignecto, Acadia South Carolina Pennsylvania Georgia Canada

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Recent comments

  • Jeremy
    January 18, 2010 - 10:52

    People of Amherst,

    I Congratulate you on your mighty find!

    Having once found a button which at one time belonged to Henry John Temple (in a section of peat whilst perusing with a common stick no less), I am full of admiration for and humbled by the gravity of your discovery.

    This day our souls are just a little bit warmer, and my glass now a little bit lighter. Here-here