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School’s out(side)

Artificial burial ground enhances archaeology summer field school

Teaching and Learning

By Janet Harron

Summer school never sounded so good.

Shovels and brushes in hand, 15 archaeology students are currently excavating a migratory fishing site in Tors Cove while also conducting a non-invasive survey of the community’s old cemetery as part of their summer course work.

Supervised by Dr. Catherine Losier, the group is participating in a field school on the Southern Shore of the Avalon Peninsula.

Archaeology summer field school students digging at Tors Cove.
Archaeology summer field school students digging at Tors Cove.
Photo: Submitted

Unravel rich heritage

Earlier this summer, they spent six weeks researching the history of Tors Cove and of cod fishing in Newfoundland to better understand the historical context in which they are now working. With the earliest occupation of the community dating from 1675, students are hoping to uncover artifacts to further document life in Tors Cove between the 17th and 19th centuries and unravel the rich heritage of the Southern Shore.

“I feel more connected with the past the more I spend time unearthing it and recovering lost history.” –Mallory Champagne

While surveying the old cemetery, the students uncovered previously unknown headstones and recorded the inscriptions that remain legible. Ongoing excavation of the migratory fishing site has revealed ceramic fragments, clay tobacco pipes and gunflint flakes, among other finds.

“Being in the field is much better than sitting behind a desk,” said Mallory Champagne, a third-year archaeology student. “I feel more connected with the past the more I spend time unearthing it and recovering lost history.”

Forensic archaeology school

Prior to the Tors Cove dig, several of the students participated in an archaeology field school orientation at Memorial University’s Botanical Garden during spring intercession.

Prior to the Tors Cove dig, archaeology students unearthed a synthetic skeleton at Memorial University's Botanical Garden.
Archaeology students unearth a synthetic skeleton at the Botanical Garden.
Photo: Submitted

Earlier this spring, some landscaping activity at the Botanical Garden unearthed—to some surprise—two plastic skeletons. Twelve years ago, professors from the archaeology department designed an artificial burial ground featuring several plastic skeletons evoking different crime scenes. The objective of the project was to implement, not long after the artificial burial ground was created, a forensic archaeology field school. Various reasons led to the abandonment of the project and the artificial archaeological site was left undisturbed for almost 15 years.

‘Knowledge and techniques’

Dr. Losier decided to take advantage of the fortuitous discovery.

“This was a fantastic opportunity for students to get out of the classroom and learn archaeology techniques directly in the field,” said Dr. Losier. “And our current field school in Tors Cove is allowing students to put these new knowledge and techniques into practice.”

The team happily welcomes visitors of all ages to come and get a first-hand look into how history is discovered through archaeological methods. They are onsite in Tors Cove until Aug. 5. For further details, please contact Dr. Catherine Losier.

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