Digging to uncover the past

Raissa Tetanish
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Archaeological dig in full bloom at Beaubassin

Carmen Bernard holds up four of the pieces that were uncovered in a two-metre by three-metre pit on Saturday at Beaubassin. Bernard's holding a nail, animal tooth, piece of pipe and a black glass bead. Raissa Tetanish - Amherst Daily News

AMHERST - I don't remember the last time I played in the dirt, but am glad I had the chance to again.

This past Saturday, I traveled to Fort Beausejour and Beaubassin to participate in Parks Canada's Public Archaeology Experience.

Upon arriving at Fort Beausejour early Saturday morning, we had a chance to speak to lead archaeologist Charles Burke and learned about the history of Beaubassin, which included Port Royal region colonists settling in the area in the 1670s, followed by the French coming from the St. Lawrence River area.

The Acadians, under the leadership of Jacob Bourgeois, founded Beaubassin, which turned into one of the most prosperous villages in Acadia thanks to the high salt content in the hay.

When two other dig participants and myself reached Beaubassin, two members of the team greeted us - anthropologist Catherine Lapointe and archaeologist Clarice Valotaire.

Picking up a bucket with a trowel, dustpan and kneeling pad, participant Carmen Bernard and I followed Valotaire to our subsection - a pit of two metres by three metres.

Valotaire gave us a brief overview of how to go about the dig, which Bernard is no stranger to.

"I've been doing this for five years," Bernard said of her experience every year Parks Canada held the public dig. This is the fifth year for the dig, and Bernard travels from Moncton each year to participate.

When I asked Bernard what brings her back every year, she laughed.

"I think I chose the wrong career path. I just love this," she said while scraping back a layer of earth.

While the day would have been made better with more sun and less rain, the weather didn't matter once we started to uncover artifacts.

In our subsection, the most common items found were daub and bone (animal of course).

Bernard uncovered one of the biggest pieces - that of an animal tooth - throughout the day, however it was my sharp eye that helped find one of the day's greatest hits.

"I found a bead," I said to the exclamation of a Parks Canada employee helping as I sifted through the dirt at the screening pit.

It may have been small enough to fall through the screen, but it was significant enough that it warranted its own plastic box for fear it would be lost.

The public archaeological dig continues for another three weeks, with digs Thursday to Sunday each week.

It's something I would participate in again, and something I would recommend to anyone.

For more information or to register, call (506) 364-5080. Registration is open to 12 participants each day.


Organizations: Parks Canada, Port Royal

Geographic location: Fort Beausejour, AMHERST, St. Lawrence River Acadia Moncton

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