Archaeology Returns to Anse à Bertrand
Updated: Jul 15, 2022
Week One at MUN's 2022 Field School at Anse à Bertrand, Saint-Pierre et Miquelon
For the first time since the summer of 2019, archaeological investigations are underway at Anse à Bertrand site located on the south shore of Saint Pierre’s harbour in Saint Pierre and Miquelon. This year, Memorial archaeology field school is composed of seven undergrad students, four field assistants (grad students) and field director Dr. Catherine Losier. The team is conducting archaeological excavations with the aim of documenting the fishing settlements of Anse à Bertrand since the 17th century and the material environment of the fisherfolks.
This summer’s excavations began on June 27, 2022, when an excavator (thanks to the DTAM for their kind contribution) was used to remove the sod and fill from previously excavated contexts, as well as two new 5m by 7m sectors (sectors 9 & 10) to be investigated this summer.
Fig.1: Dr. Losier on the first day of excavations cleaning up a previous year’s sector.
Once the sod was removed, the team began excavating the units in two separate teams. Sector 9 completely encircles Sondage 2, which had been excavated in 2017 and emptied using the excavator. Both teams discovered that the first layer consisted of soil used as fill in a 2005 reconstruction of the shoreline. Sector 9, however, also had a stone feature present, a possible continuation of a foundation uncovered in Sondage 2 (2017) and in Sector 8 (2019). Since Sector 10 had no such features, Patrick Alain (our backhoe hero!) was called on site once again in order to remove the remaining fill layer and access the site’s occupation layers.
Fig.2: Dr. Losier and teaching assistant Valentin work to remove the fill layer in sector 10 with the backhoe, at the forefront the trench of sondage 2 excavated in 2017.
Fig.3: Excavation of a stone feature in sector 9
By the end of the week, the top layer (the fill) had been completely removed from both Sector 9 and Sector 10 and the elevations of both the surfaces and bases of the layer in both sectors had been completed using a total station. There is one major layer present beneath the fill in both sectors, consisting mainly of silty textured brown soil and patches of gravel. This new layer is probably associated with the site's abandonment at the end of the 1970s. In Sector 9, a section of the fill put in place around 2005 to reconstruct the shoreline is present in the northwest corner. This fill was previously identified during the excavation of Sondage 2 (2017) and in Sectors 3, 5 and 6 (2018), it marks the northern limit of the archaeological deposit.
As the uppermost layer (the fill) was not associated with occupation of the site, few artifacts were recovered. However, several sherds of glass and ceramic, as well as pipe stems, nails, and other metal waste, were found. Of note was a sherd of 19th-century salt-glazed stoneware from Sector 9, as well as a large sheet of linoleum attached to wooden planks, and a porcelain doorknob in Sector 10.
Fig.4: Linoleum and piece of wood unearthed in sector 10
Fig.5: MUN Archaeology student Hannah holding the doorknob from sector 10
We would like to mention that the archaeology class of Cédric Borthaire and Sabrina Châtel (lycée Émile Letournel) came to visit the site on Wednesday, June 29th 2022. The students got a tour of the site and were super excited about getting in the trench and excavating with the team.
Fig.6: The archaeology class and teaching assistant Valentin
As excavations continue in the following weeks, the focus will be on excavating the layers that represent the 350 years of French occupations at Anse à Bertrand. This will allow for the features present in Sector 9 to be properly analyzed, and for a better understanding of the socioeconomic and cultural activities that took place at Anse à Bertrand. Join us next week as we will update on the excavation of the site's 20th century context. Don’t miss next post!
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:
Calum Brydon Victoria Ryan-Whiffen