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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Losier

Archaeology on the TV and Radio, Lobster & Bastille day

Week Three at MUN’s Field School at Anse à Bertrand, Saint-Pierre et Miquelon


Week three at Anse à Bertrand started on a Saturday morning with the anticipation of a delicious lobster meal near the local bar, Le Rustique, which gave the crew extra encouragement to complete their tasks! So that at the end of the day they enjoyed some drinks and a much deserved break.


The team in sector 9 kept excavating around the rocky feature possibly corresponding to the foundation of a 19th-20th century structure (US 904) to determine its limit. Half of the team focused on removing some rocks on the northeast corner that most likely were not part of the building. These rocks had been dutifully documented in both pictures and notes, and they were removed alongside the layer (or fill) of earth we called US 902. A somewhat large piece of wood was found inside the wall. The other half followed the edge of the structure (mostly rocks but also a few bricks) on the south corner which seemingly continued the rectangular foundation past sondage 2 (2017) all the way to sector 8 excavated in 2019. The removal of the upper layer revealed the surface of a silty, black layer designated US 903, as opposed to the gravelly texture encountered in the area of the building.

Fig. 1: Quick 3D model featuring the stone foundation of the 19th-20th building in the upper section of the model


Throughout the week, the team found several artifacts from the 19th and 20th centuries, including whiteware from circa 1810, Normandy stoneware, pieces of metal and shreds of glass (among them an insulator), iron nails, pipe stems, a metal fish bait, flints, two marbles, a 1900’s coin, a round lead object resembling a wine bottle cap, a linoleum fragment, a photo negative and the button of a military uniform, of which the latter three were found in the northeast corner. There are many ways to date these items, and we particularly relied on differences in materials and stylistic changes, for instance we know that glass production was highly refined in the 19th century and that the shape and size of pipes varied from the 1600’s/1700’s to the 1800’s. Occasionally you will see labels on the pipes or even ceramics and glass bottles that tell us where they were produced. Apart from artifacts, the soil around the building presented various ecofacts, such as wood, mineral coal (indicating fire), bird’s bones and mussel shells that tell us a bit of the habits and diet of past occupants of Anse à Bertrand. At the southeast corner close to sector 10, some boulders uncovered.

Fig. 2: The base of a glass bottle


About mid-week, the Anse à Bertrand project the subject of a TV and radio story at the local media SPM1ère, and local reporters showed up at the site to ask questions of crew members on two consecutive days. This was a great opportunity to share the work done at Anse à Bertrand, which has shed light to the practices of the well-established French fishery, from the 1680’s to the 1970’s.

Fig. 3: Crew member Calum being interviewed


As explained in the previous post, the total station was used to measure the altitude of certain points of the excavated area in regards to the sea level, so that an accurate representation of the site could be created on the computer using a database called GIS (Geographic Information System).

Fig. 4: Crew member Frida and teaching assistant Valentin discussing the total station


The site was then cleaned and the excavated layers were documented by photogrammetry, a method that consists of taking pictures to register everything present there and create 3D models. After studying early 20th century photos that probably depict the structure in sector 9, and measuring the nearby Maison Briand (built c.1860) for comparison, the team concluded that perhaps it was originally bigger than the remaining foundation. One hypothesis is that part of the structure may have been too close to the shore and therefore eroded.


In week 3 of excavations in sector 10 of Anse a Bertrand we continued the excavation of the third layer, what we call US 1002, from what had been started on Friday. This layer like the one above is dominated by the boulders located in the sector as mentioned in the previous week's post they are believed to be natural rocks that might have been used as part of a foundation in the eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries. Although these are the most obvious details in sector 10 they are not the most interesting to the team, that place falls to the collections of brick found in the layer. There are four brick clusters in the sector along with the brick fragments scattered throughout the layer, of these the first and fourth have the closest to being in a coherent layout. The first is located in the far northeastern corner of the sector and is a group of four bricks that are positioned in a rough square shape, what exactly this was is still under discussion in the team. The fourth cluster in the north of the sector consisting of three bricks seems to be in the shape of a large right angled U, again what it is is under debate it could just as easily be nothing with some bricks having happened to have fallen into a pattern that appears to be significant while actually not being of any significance. In that same area of sector 10 there is a patch of sand, and sandy soil that might be more significant, it is possible that it is associated with the construction of the building just north of it, but that is still under debate. Although identifying the exact purpose of these features has yet to have been accomplished, their presence along with all the other brick, window glass, and other materials associated with buildings portrays a strong connection with the structure found in sector 9.

Fig. 5: A view of Sector 10 from the east after US 1002 has been cleared


In this week's layer of sector 10 we found a large quantity of artifacts, predominantly a variety of nails, glass and ceramics. A personal favorite from the later category is a fragment marked “--oisy -e roi” which has been identified as being from the brand “Choisy Le Roi” or “choose the king.”


Fig. 6: The fragment of Choisy le Roi whiteware made in France in Val-de-Marne region


Besides the more common artifacts we have found a variety of other less common ones but no less interesting. The most common of these was pieces of pipestems, but we also found some cloth, a buckle, a couple gunflints, a ceramic cup handle, a coin, and some plastic and wooden buttons. In addition to the artifacts we also found ecofacts, most notably a large number of scallop and mussel shells in two distinct areas of the sector. These shellfish likely used as bait to fish cod support the idea that sector ten was used as a workspace just outside the building in sector 9.


On the final two days the bottom of US 1002 was cleaned, measured, and photographed. Leaving us ready to move onto the next layer below it, what we have named US 1003, similar to issues we had when starting to excavate layer 1002 following the bottom of layer 1003 has been slow going, but like 1002 we expect it will get easier with time, which we are already starting to observe. This layer has notably less artifacts than what we were finding in 1002, of those artifacts glass has become relatively less common compared to nails and ceramics.


Finally, after a long but rewarding week of work, the team prepared for the festivities of the Fête nationale française on the next day, popularly known in English as Bastille day, that marks the storming of the eponymous fortress in 1789 and the Fête de la Fédération in 1790 celebrating the union of the French people.

Fig. 7: Many of the team watching the fireworks


The third week of excavations at Anse à Bertrand has revealed more of the past and intricacies of this site, and we look forward to what more it can teach us in our final week of this year's excavation.


References:

  • 2021 Losier, C., Saint-Pierre et Miquelon : 500 ans de pêche française dans l’Atlantique Nord. Exhibit catalogue, 21 pages.

  • 2020 Livingston, M., Losier, C., Champagne, M., “Excavation Anse à Bertrand, Saint-Pierre 2019”. Provincial Archaeology Office 2019, Archaeology Review, Vol. 19, p. 160-166.

  • 2019 Champagne, M., Losier, C., Livingston, M. and Barras, M. “Excavation Anse à Bertrand, Saint-Pierre 2018”. Provincial Archaeology Office 2018 Archaeology Review, Vol. 18, p. 38-44.

  • 2018 Livingston, M., Losier, C., Champagne, M., Barras, M. “Excavation Anse à Bertrand, Saint-Pierre 2017”. Provincial Archaeology Office 2017 Archaeology Review, Vol. 17, p. 164-167.

Blog post authors:

Brian Howe Frida Arlon




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