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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 1

Archaeological Investigations of the National Historic Sites Service, 1962-1966

by John H. Rick


During the first half of this century, the Government of Canada was involved in a few archaeological excavations of historic sites (e.g., Harper 1960, Kidd 1959), but large-scale federal sponsorship of historic archaeology has developed only within the past five years. This new role has been given impetus by a growing awareness of national identity manifested, at a political level, in increased appropriations for historical and archaeological research and for the educational aspects, such as commeorations and restorations, that derive from such research. Virtually all of the federal government's historic-period excavations have been carried out by two units of the National and Historic Parks Branch of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, namely, the Fortress of Louisbourg Restoration Section and the National Historic Sites Service. The present paper is an outline of the Service's first five years of archaeological investigation and is intended to acquaint both archaeologists and the public with the nature and scope of this research program.

In the autumn of 1961, the author joined the National Historic Sites Service in the newly-created position of staff archaeologist. At the same time, the Fortress of Louisbourg Restoration Section was established as a separate unit of the National and Historic Parks Branch to carry out the partial reconstruction of the 18th-century French Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

The decision to restore Louisbourg had its genesis in the report of the Rand Commission on Coal (Canada 1960) and was partly based on the need to provide additional employment in the coal mining region of Cape Breton Island. The first area chosen for development was the seawall of the Royal Battery, an outlying fortification across the harbour to the northwest of the fortress proper. This choice had the merit of providing protection for the Battery which had been, and was being, seriously eroded by the sea. Moreover, the project afforded a good deal of employment in aspects of the work which required relatively little archaeological supervision. The author was temporarily attached to the Louisbourg Restoration Section for a number of weeks over the winter and spring of 1961-62 to direct the archaeological phases of the work.

1 Map of eastern Canada showing locations of archaeological investigations of the National Historic Sites Services between 1962 and 1966. (click on image for a PDF version)
1 Fortress of Louisbourg
2 Signal Hill
3 Castle Graves
4 Port Royal Habitation
5 Fort Anne
6 Halifax Citadel
7 Fort Beausejour
8 Fort La Tour
9 La Coupe Drydock
10 Fort Meductic
11 Fort Gaspereau
12 St. Andrews Blockhouse
13 Fort Amherst
14 The Old Jesuit House
15 Cartier's Wintering Place
16 Montreal Town Walls
17 Villa de la Broquerie
18 Fort Lennox
19 Coteau du Lac
20 Fort Wellington
21 Dollier and Galinée Wintering Place
22 Cahiagué
23 Hovenden-Walker Expedition
24 Burnt Island
25 Main Duck Island
26 Patterson Bay

These investigations, plus some earlier tests by Harper (1959), formed a prelude to major archaeological excavations at the site during the summer of 1962. The King's Bastion, an important segment of the defenses of the main fortress, was chosen for excavation. This initial summer's work was directed by James H. Howard (1963) with the assistance of Iain C. Walker, the newly-appointed staff archaeologist for the Louisbourg project. Additional excavations were carried out over the autumn and winter by Walker (1963).

Also during the summer of 1962, Stephen J. Gluckman (1962) directed a detailed underwater archaeological survey of Louisbourg harbour and the adjacent coast, a preliminary reconnaissance having been conducted the previous year by Acadia University (Hansen and Bleakney 1962). A limited amount of salvage was carried out, but Gluckman's main task was to determine the extent and condition of the archaeological material on the harbour bottom; identify, if possible, the remains of the French vessels known to have been sunk in the harbour; and assess the value of a future program of underwater archaeology or salvage in the area. Although there is doubt as to the identity of some of the wrecks found, the results of these surveys are generally encouraging and the harbour at Louisbourg has been closed to diving in order to protect the remains for future research.

In the spring of 1963, Edward McM. Larrabee was appointed senior archaeologist of the Louisbourg project and the excavations at this site continued under his direction through the fall of 1965. Larrabee's report outlining the work at Louisbourg from 1961 to 1965 will appear in the next issue of this series.

Coincident with the first summer's excavations at Louisbourg, the National Historic Sites Service began its own series of archaeological investigations. About two thirds of this work has been done by outside institutions or individuals under contracts with the Service. The remaining third consists of staff-directed excavations. William J. Folan joined the Service as staff archaeologist in 1965 and he was followed by Jervis D. Swannack, Jr. and Iain C. Walker in 1966. Walter Zacharchuk was appointed assistant supervisor of underwater research in 1965. The following year, two positions for artifact research were authorized and these are filled by Karalee A. Coleman and Jean-Pierre Cloutier.

2 Map of western Canada showing locations of archaeological investigations of the National Historic Sites Service between 1962 and 1966. (click on image for a PDF version)
1 Fort St. Joseph
2 Fort Malden
3 Rainy River Burial Mounds
4 Lower Fort Garry
5 Sturgeon Fort
6 Rocky Mountain House II
7 Yuquot
8 Meldrum Bay

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