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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Losier

It’s Always Sunny in Anse à Bertrand (Except When It Is Not)

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

La version française sera disponible bientôt


Week Two at MUN's 2022 Field School at Anse à Bertrand, Saint-Pierre et Miquelon


Week two at Anse à Bertrand began with a foggy Monday morning, so maybe calling the site sunny is stretching the truth a bit, but as archaeologists we work in many conditions, and always with a sunny disposition! The poor visibility would not stop us from continuing our work leftover from the previous week. While the teams in Sectors 9 and 10 continued to work on excavating the site, the Total Station was set up across the road. A Total Station is a useful device that we’ve learned can take five minutes to set up or an hour, depending on how cooperative it is feeling at the time. We used it to measure the altitudes of the layers and record the location of different points of Sectors 9 and 10 to create a digital map of the site.

Fig. 1: Your humble authors Hannah Wade and Jesse Reid learn to operate the Total Station to take altitude points on site.


Fig. 2: The Total Station is set up on a foggy day to measure the altitude points on the site in the distance.


One of this week’s goals for Sector 9 was to figure out if the building foundation from Sector 8, which was excavated in 2019, continued into Sector 9. We found some large rocks that were laid out in a line that corresponded with the building foundation, and upon further excavation we uncovered some red brick laid out in the same line! This was a promising lead for the team! By Friday, we had discerned the possible limits of the building based on the soil differences and the layout of the rocks on the site. Stay tuned to our blog posts to further delve into the mystery of just how far this building extends!

Fig. 3: The rocky feature of a building foundation in Sector 9. Above is the building foundation that was excavated in Sector 8. Both features in the site appear to line up with each other, with the possible Eastern limit of the building being shown in the bottom of the picture.


Glass, window glass, and more glass was excavated in Sector 9 near Sondage 2, a trench that was excavated in 2017. One beautiful piece of glass that was excavated in Sector 9 was the almost intact embossed emblem of a bottle that read “Elixir du Guillet…” Upon further investigation (Google is our friend), we came across a cure-all tonic “for all of the disorders of the intestine” called Élixir Du Guillié from a certain Dr. Guillet that has been around since 1812.

Fig. 4: The embossed logo of an Élixir du Guillié bottle found in Sector 9. To learn more about this artifact, check out "Élixir du Guillet" Heals Every Diseases!


Over in Sector 10 of the site we began excavating the first occupation layer under the fill level. The shoreline was reconstructed in 2005 because of coastal erosion and this deposited a layer of soil originating from elsewhere to ‘fill’ the space over the site. Last week we removed this layer to uncover an older layer with signs of human activity (see Archaeology Returns to Anse à Bertrand). The soil was a darker and siltier sand than the fill layer above because there is more organic material associated with the occupation layer. This layer is associated with the final occupation and abandonment of the site in the 1970s and 1980s to make way for the expansion of the old airport. Within the first few hours of excavating the layer we discovered a third layer of the site, another occupation layer dating to the nineteenth century.


During the excavation we uncovered more artifacts this week than the previous one. Some of the interesting artifacts we found in this layer were a cufflink, a sock, some marbles, many types of ceramic sherds (a fancy word for fragments), linoleum flooring, and an abundance of glass from windowpanes. The building materials found are potentially left over from the abandonment of the foundation of the building in Sector 9. The window glass and the ceramic sherds are all characteristic of the late to mid 20th century which strengthens our belief that the layer is associated with the last occupation and abandonment of the site.


As we excavated Sector 10, we uncovered multiple large rocks naturally present in the anse while excavating the twentieth century occupation layer. At Anse à Bertrand, these natural rocks were often use for building foundation during the eighteenth century occupation, so we are very excited to see what they might bring, stay tunes! Along the interface, the area where one layer meets another, was also a cause for interest this week. We found many fragmented bricks which have raised more questions than answers because of their curious arrangement along the surface. This area is also rich with ecofacts, plant and animal remains, associated with human activities. In one corner of the sector, there is a flat accumulation of crushed mussel shells and in the opposite corner there are crushed scallop shells. Shellfish like scallops were often used as bait for cod fishing which would explain their abundance at the site. The layer of mussel shells lies just outside the building in Sector 9, leading us to believe that this layer in Sector 10 represents a work area that was used when the building was still standing. We began excavations to this layer on Friday to find the next, older (eighteenth century?) occupation layer and are looking forward to uncovering more!


On Wednesday night we had a great team building exercise: Lab work! All seven students from the field school gathered around the fresh-from-the-ground artifacts and gave them a little TLC with toothbrushes and water. Amongst the singing and joking, we managed to clean a ton of artifacts! This exercise was capped off with pizza and a trip to a local hangout for a drink Après le Travail!

Fig. 5: The team cleaning artifacts in the basement of L’Arche Musée on a rainy Wednesday.


Although it rained on Wednesday we returned to Anse à Bertrand the following day to bail out the puddles and clean the site for Dr. Catherine Losier to go around and take many, many pictures of the site. These photos will be process in a photogrammetry program to make a 3D model of the site.

Fig. 6: A foggy, puddle-filled site awaits the team in the morning.

Fig. 7: Sectors 9 and 10 looking photoready after a long day of cleaning.


Anse à Bertrand lies just outside of the town of Saint-Pierre, and is a popular walking destination for many of the locals who like to stop by and catch up on the latest findings at the site. On occasion, a local tour company, Caillou Blanc, brings a tour group along to look at the site. On Thursday, we had a tour group from New York come to visit us! Our fearless leader, Dr. Catherine Losier shared the history of the site with the group while the students showcased some archaeology in action for our guests!

Fig. 8: A tour group from Caillou Blanc visits the site. Dr. Catherine Losier explains the history of the site while the students showcase archaeology in action to our guests.


For the past two weeks we’ve been lucky enough to have a special guest on site. Our canine friend’s name is P’tit Loup. He finds great pleasure in sitting in Sector 10 and barking at the people who pass but don’t let him scare you away from coming for a visit next week, his bark is worse than his bite!

Fig. 9: Our site companion P’tit Loup guarding the trenches. This photograph also displays the lovely stratigraphic layers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries uncovered in Sector 10.


We’ve been working hard at Anse à Bertrand and look forward to our next week of field school and uncovering more about the history of the site. Just remember that despite the weather, it’s always sunny in Anse à Bertrand.


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:

Jesse Reid Hannah Wade







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