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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

Other Work

Resistivity Survey

During the summer of 1964, the University of Pennsylvania Museum's Applied Science Center for Archaeology conducted tests at Fort Lennox of the Geohm resistivity meter and the proton magnetometer. Elizabeth K. Ralph, Associate Director of the Center, and Hugh Bergh were in charge of this project. Results with the latter instrument were unrewarding, but the Geohm meter proved highly successful in locating buried structures (Rainey and Ralph 1966).

The following year, Albert E. Wilson carried out further Geohm tests in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. The Fort Lennox work had demonstrated the efficiency of the meter on shallowly buried masonry in sandy soil and the Newfoundland sites were chosen because of the radically different conditions prevailing there. At both Castle Graves and Signal Hill, bedrock is very close to ground surface and the masonry structures are frequently built

directly on bedrock. The tests at Castle Graves were unsuccessful, partly because the masonry remains were not massive enough to give meter readings which would distinguish them from bedrock. Furthermore, the fortifications occupy the entire hilltop and it was not possible to move outside the fort area to obtain "background" readings against which the surveys over areas of masonry could be compared. The Signal Hill tests were also unsuccessful, in this case, primarily because the overburden was so full of broken rock that no clear resistance patterns could be established. The final tests were carried out at Fort Anne where soil conditions are similar to those at Fort Lennox, but where the masonry remains are generally buried several feet deeper. The results here were very rewarding with many clear and easily interpretable resistance patterns emerging (Wilson 1965).

While the results of two seasons of testing show some of the limitations of resistivity surveys, they also indicate the usefulness of these instruments in the investigation of archaeological sites. This is particularly true of historic sites where the comparison of documentary evidence with resistance patterns will frequently permit scientific identification of buried structures. Admittedly, field operation can be slow, but, as a means of determining where to dig and what is likely to be found, the resistivity survey can represent a substantial savings in time and money over test trenching.


Archaeological Training Program

The simultaneous development of archaeological research programs by the National Historic Sites Service and the Fortress of Louisbourg Restoration Section created a new demand for experienced field assistants which existing university training resources were able to fill only in part. Moreover, a number of students trained on small, unstratified prehistoric sites found some difficulty in adjusting to the problems of supervising labour crews and recording complex stratigraphy and architectural features. As a result, the Service has, for the past four years, conducted a summer training program in archaeological field techniques. The primary goal has been to create a body of trained students available for subsequent summer employment by the Service as field assistants. It is expected that the students selected will obtain the requisite theoretical background in their regular university courses and, for this reason, selection is almost entirely limited to those majoring in history or anthropology. This has the added advantage of introducing prospective historians to the applications of archaeology to their discipline and of perhaps convincing anthropology students that excavation experience gained on large, stratified historic sites is also applicable to smaller, prehistoric excavations.

Two basic teaching approaches have been tried: on-the-job training and training in a formal field school situation with lectures, examinations, etc. The drawback to the former approach is that problems are dictated by the work situation and not by teaching requirements; hence, pressures of work may force students to spend an excessive amount of time on one aspect of excavation to the exclusion of necessary experience in other phases of the work. In the formal school situation, this problem is largely eliminated because one can select for excavation areas which provide a broad range of typical field problems. One obvious drawback is that the field school is an artificial environment which may or may not approximate the "real" excavation situation and this is recognized by, and reflected in the attitudes of, the students. More importantly, the training function can only be incidental to the main work of the National Historic Sites Service and this precludes the field school approach except under certain conditions such as existed at Fort Lennox in 1964 and 1965. Here, the site development problems were such that excavating any of a wide variety of areas was likely to produce useful information and the development schedule permitted a pace of excavation which could be geared to student needs. Completion of this phase of the work at Fort Lennox dictated a return to on-the-job training methods in 1966.

Over the past four seasons, both approaches have produced comparable numbers of good students. While the field school students may finish their initial summer with a somewhat broader knowledge than the others, the differences tend to be minimal by the end of the second season in the field. Since on-the-job training seems more compatible with the Service's basic role, it is likely that this system will continue in use as long as it is considered necessary to carry on the training program.



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