Category Archives: CANADA

19th-Century Military Complex Unearthed in Canada

19th-Century Military Complex Unearthed in Canada

Workers on Parliament Hill dig through the remains of one of the three barracks used to house soldiers and their wives from 1826 to the late 1850s, during the initial stages of the Rideau Canal's construction.
Workers on Parliament Hill dig through the remains of one of the three barracks used to house soldiers and their wives from 1826 to the late 1850s, during the initial stages of the Rideau Canal’s construction. 

The remains of a military complex that predates both the Confederation and the foundation of Ottawa are buried under the flowers, trees and statues dotting Parliament Hill’s grounds.

Since April, an archeology team has been working to unravel the complex’s ruins as part of Center Block’s ongoing renovations.

What they’ve uncovered so far — barracks, an old guardhouse, and what was the former city of Bytown’s first jail — is just a small tidbit of what may be to come.

The complex contains the remnants of what existed on Parliament Hill before Centre Block was built, during the time the Rideau Canal was first being constructed.

“This was the headquarters for the entire canal construction for the soldiers,” said Stephen Jarrett, archeology project manager with Centrus, a consortium providing architectural and engineering services for the Centre Block rehabilitation project.

Coins, military tags, other items

The canal’s construction was overseen by Lt. Col. John By, for whom Bytown was named.

Three barracks, a guardhouse, a jail, stables, and cookhouses were all built on the north half of the hill starting in 1826 for the Royal Sappers and Miners Regiment, who were tasked with the backbreaking work of digging out more than 200 kilometers of earth from the Ottawa River to Kingston, Ont.

The items uncovered so far include a range of military items: chin straps, tags, gorgets  — which officers often wore to hold their neckties in place — and other domestic items, like coins.

Many of the items uncovered during the excavation date to the early 19th century, when time the Royal Sappers and Miners had a military complex on the hill during the construction of the Rideau Canal.
Many of the items uncovered during the excavation date to the early 19th century, when time the Royal Sappers and Miners had a military complex on the hill during the construction of the Rideau Canal.
Two coins from 1813 and 1844 were uncovered on Thursday. 

Check the outhouses

But there might be more left to uncover, in a somewhat unusual spot: the privies.”It’s an excellent place to dispose of things,” said Jarrett.

The complex had several multi-chambered outhouses to accommodate the 150 soldiers, plus around 40 of their wives, who all lived in the barracks.

With no modern-day plumbing, it doesn’t take much to imagine the odour.”You need to keep the smell down from the human waste, and so you put fill layers on top in order to keep the smell down,” Jarrett said.”So that comes with all the broken dishes and anything else that can help keep that smell down.

Stephen Jarrett is the project manager for the excavation taking place on Parliament Hill.
Stephen Jarrett is the project manager for the excavation taking place on Parliament Hill. 

“One such latrine was built south of where the entrance to the Senate is now, near the east side of Centre Block. But there are likely many more dotting Parliament Hill.”

Privies fill up over time,” Jarrett said. “So they do get moved through time, as well.”

Ottawa’s first jail

Bytown became a city and was renamed Ottawa on New Year’s Day, 1855.

Before Ottawa became the country’s capital — or even a city, for that matter — it was a small town that didn’t have a jail. Prisoners had to be held at the courthouse in Perth, Ont., instead.

An 1853 map of Barrack Hill — now known as Parliament Hill — shows where the soldiers' barracks, officers' quarters, stables and guardhouse used to be.
An 1853 map of Barrack Hill — now known as Parliament Hill — shows where the soldiers’ barracks, officers’ quarters, stables and guardhouse used to be. 

The military had the only three cells in the community, located in the back of the jailhouse (which was later converted to a hospital).”The three cells were some of the only places to hold individuals properly,” Jarrett said. “So the military allowed the constables to hold prisoners inside their jailhouse until they were able to transport them all the way to [Perth].”Three years after Ottawa came into existence, it was named the capital of the United Province of Canada by Queen Victoria.

Soon afterward, the military complex was demolished so that the first parliament buildings could go up.

The excavation of the guardhouse and barracks is set to be completed by the fall. It’s expected to cost around $1.2 million and is being paid for by Public Services and Procurement Canada as part of the budget for the Centre Block renovations.

The artifacts will be cleaned and analyzed by the department before being put on display for the public.

A worker sifts through the remnants of the site of the old guardhouse and jail cells just east of Centre Block. A variety of items have been found there, including pins and chin straps.
A worker sifts through the remnants of the site of the old guardhouse and jail cells just east of Centre Block. A variety of items have been found there, including pins and chin straps. 

Why this retired archeologist is convinced New Brunswick is home to a lost Viking settlement

Why this retired archeologist is convinced New Brunswick is home to a lost Viking settlement

Birgitta Wallace, a Parks Canada researcher, in Greenland.

Did Vikings visit New Brunswick’s Miramichi and Chaleur Bay areas? According to the research done by Birgitta Wallace, senior archaeologist emerita with Parks Canada, they did. 

“I’m really convinced that the Vikings did visit that area. Not all my colleagues would agree with me,” said the woman who’s been studying Vikings for 50 years.

While she is certain the Vikings did spend time in Miramichi and Chaleur Bay, she says she is not hopeful of ever finding anything to prove it.

Wallace said she determined that the second location that Vikings visited in North America, known as “Hóp,” meaning “tidal lagoon,” was in the Miramichi and Chaleur region after she studied the Vikings sagas. She also drew on her extensive work at L’Anse aux Meadows, located on the very northern tip of Newfoundland. 

Sagas tell Viking history

The sagas are contained in medieval documentation from Iceland that goes back to the oral history of the Vikings. They were not written down until 300 years after the actual events occurred, so Wallace said the oral telling of the stories may have changed a bit over time. “There are two separate manuscripts…that talk about voyages to what must be North America because it’s land west and south of Greenland.” 

Wallace said while Vikings settled on Iceland and then Greenland, they continued exploring — either by accident or intentionally – to new lands. “These were people who just settled in Greenland in 985. They were immigrating there from Iceland.” Wallace said when voyages began between Norway or Iceland and Greenland, it was inevitable that someone would get blown off course. She believes this is how they found North America. 

Two versions

The archaeologist said there are two versions of the story. One talks about Leif Erikson retracing the watery path of one of these off-course trips, but it only talks about one settlement where he built a base camp and made four expeditions. 

The other story features a different person and combines all the expeditions into one that go between two areas: “Hóp,” meaning “tidal lagoon,” a summer camp and a settlement further north described as being in fjord. 

Vikings settled at the L’Anse aux Meadows site on the northern peninsula of Newfoundland. 

“After working a lot with the  L’Anse Meadows and what we found there, it’s really clear that L’Anse Meadows is base camp…it fits with everything,” said Wallace. “And from that camp… we know they went farther south and we know they must have gone as far south as eastern New Brunswick.” 

Wallace believes those explorations were done through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which would have led the Vikings to find the Miramichi and Chaleur regions. Wallace based her conclusions on the finding of pieces of wood, butternuts and butternut wood at the L’Anse Meadows camp.”And butternuts have never grown north of northeastern New Brunswick. They are not native to either P.E.I. or Nova Scotia, so New Brunswick is the closest location.” 

Description fits

Wallace said the descriptions in the sagas match that part of N.B. well. “It talks about sandbars outside the coast, rivers and wonderful hardwoods and not the least, wild grapes. And it so happens that butternuts grow in pretty much the same location as grapes and ripen at the same time,” she said.  

“So, whoever picked those nuts would have seen those grapes.”

Situated in Newfoundland and Labrador, L’Anse aux Meadows is believed to be where the the Vikings, the first Europeans, landed in the new world. In 1978 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Wallace said the area would have been considered of great importance because it was called Vinland in the saga, which means wine land.”Vinland wasn’t one particular spot, it was land like Iceland and Greenland, a country or region.” 

The archaeologist says she believes about 40 men would spend 3 months exploring the region, sleeping in structures built with turf with no permanent roofs, just a canvas-like material.”And to find anything like that after 1,000 years, people that were very anxious I’m sure to take all their tools and belongings with them back, it’s not very likely that we can ever find particular, physical evidence like we do have in L’Anse Meadows.” 

Encounters with Indigenous inhabitants

But Wallace points out another strong indication the Vikings visited the area is found in the strong similarities of the descriptions in Leif Erikson’s saga and Jacques Cartier’s journal.

“It is exactly the same type of description.” Her belief is strengthened by the saga’s description of the Vikings encounters with most of the Indigenous inhabitants at “Hóp.” “That would fit this area very well,” she said.

Birgitta Wallace says the Vikings likely encountered the Indigenous inhabitants of Metepenagiag. 

“It would be the ancestors of Mi’kmaq and you have Red Bank, Metepenagiag which has been inhabited for 3,000 years or more.” Wallace is finding the sudden interest in this part of the story of the Vikings’ expedition humorous considering she’s been researching and writing about it for several years. She thinks an article she recently had published is the reason. “Somehow, it grabbed people’s attention,” she said with a laugh. “The interest in Vikings is astounding to me.” 

Source: nationalpost

Low Water Levels Reveal Riverboat Artifacts in Canada

Low Water Levels Reveal Riverboat Artifacts in Canada

These days, take a walk along the Yukon River in Whitehorse and you may spot things you rarely see — historical objects and structures typically well hidden under water or ice.

“Like, here is a log cradle, or a crib, used to support sternwheelers when they were pulled out of the river in the winter,” archeologist Ty Heffner of the Yukon government said as he walked along the river bank.

Water in the Yukon River system is very low this spring. Vast gravel bars flank the stream in many areas, and Heffner says lots of artifacts can now be seen in the mud and rocks.

That might include anything from old rusty nails and wooden logs and planks, to iron fixtures.  “If you think about all the activity that happened here, there were sternwheelers that were built here, there were sternwheelers that burned here.

There were warehouses and wharves and all kinds of activity — and the historical evidence here just relates to that,” Heffner said.

Government archeologist Ty Heffner says the artifacts can make for an interesting walk along the river, but people should be sure to leave what they find. 

“People can come down here and have a look at these items, and it just provides that tangible link to the past.” Murray Lundberg, an amateur historian in Whitehorse, says there’s a lot to see.

Most of what he calls the “good stuff” — things made of copper or brass — has likely been removed over the years, but there’s a lot of wood and steel all over the place.”

Anywhere there’s a calm spot, there’s a pretty impressive deposit of artifacts, still,” Lundberg said.”One of the problems we have right now is that nothing’s ever been cataloged because we’ve never seen the river this low — so it all has potentially significant historical interest.”

‘It all has potentially significant historical interest,’ said amateur historian Murray Lundberg. 

Lundberg says that’s why it’s best if people don’t pocket the things they find. “Collectors have done a lot of damage to sites like this — not just here, but everywhere,” he said.

According to Heffner, removing an object could also be an offense under Yukon’s Historic Resources Act.

‘People can come down here and have a look at these items, and it just provides that tangible link to the past,’ Heffner says. 

“People, you know, might not really think about that or realize that these are protected heritage resources and that they should not take it away,” Heffner said.”These pieces of our heritage are best left where they currently are.”

Source: vtn

Discovery of Viking site in Canada could rewrite history

Discovery of Viking site in Canada could rewrite history

An iron working hearthstone was discovered on Newfoundland, hundreds of miles from the only noted Viking location to date.

Another thousand-year-old Viking colony might have been found on the island of Newfoundland, Canada. The finding of the old Viking location on the Canadian coast could drastically change the story of the exploration of North America by the Europeans prior to Christopher Columbus.

A Newfoundland fishing outport
A Newfoundland fishing outport

The excavation of the stone, once used in iron working, on Newfoundland took place a hundred miles south of the only known Viking site located in North America.

This proposes that Vikings may have traveled much farther into the continent than previously thought.

A team of archaeologists have been unearthing the newly-found location at Point Rosee, a narrow, windswept peninsula on the most western part of the island.

To date, the only official Viking site located on the American continent is the L’Anse aux Meadows.

This 1,000-year-old way station was found in 1960 on the northern tip of Newfoundland. That colony was abandoned after just a few years of being inhabited.

Archaeologists have spent the last 50 years looking for any other signs of the Viking expedition from Europe to the other side of the Atlantic.

American archaeologist Sarah Parcak, who has used satellite pictures to locate lost Egyptian cities, tombs, and temples, is now applying the same technology to explore the island and looking for traces of Viking settlements.

Newfoundland
Newfoundland

Last June, she was drawn to this remote portion of Canada after satellite pictures unveiled ground features that seemed to indicate human activity.

Sara had looked at the modern day plant cover to discover places where a possible Viking colony may have altered the soil by changing the moisture on the ground. She had previously used this technique in Egypt.

After identifying a possible location, archaeologists discovered a hearth stone. This was used for iron working, close to what seemed to have been a turf wall.

Douglas Bolender, an archaeologist specializing in Norse settlements, states chronicles suggest a short period of activity, and a brief and failed settlement attempt.

The exact date of the L’Anse aux Meadows settlement’s active period is unsure. A location like Point Rosee has the possibility of revealing the extent of the initial wave of Norse colonization; not only for the Newfoundland but for the rest of the North Atlantic.