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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 6

The Excavation and Historical Identification of Rocky Mountain House

by William C. Noble


The excavation and historical identification of Rocky Mountain House is the direct result of many combined and co-operative efforts. It is, therefore, with great pleasure that I take this opportunity to thank the various people and institutions contributing to the success of the excavations and the production of this report.

To the Glenbow-Alberta Institute of Calgary is extended sincere appreciation for their interest in sponsoring the explorations and excavations at Rocky Mountain House. This historic site represents but one of the many archaeological projects the Institute has sponsored since 1955. Laboratory space for the analysis of the excavated artifacts was made available in the Archaeology Department of the Institute, and all photographs reproduced herein are produced through the courtesy of that institution.

To Dr. Richard G. Forbis, formerly of the Glenbow-Alberta Institute and now associated with the Department of Archaeology at the University of Calgary, I am especially grateful. It was through his direction of the Glenbow's 1963 summer archaeological programme that this author was introduced to some of the aspects of northern Plains archaeology in Alberta. Dr. Forbis has also been particularly helpful and informative throughout the realization of this report. As a token of my esteem I have dedicated this report to him.

To Mr. and Mrs. William Brierly of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, I also extend sincere thanks and appreciation. They kindly granted permission to excavate the site on their property, and were most obliging and cooperative throughout the activities conducted on their ranch. Recently they turned the site area over to the Alberta government for the creation of a provincial historic site.

To Mr. Don R. King of the Glenbow-Alberta Institute is also extended sincere appreciation. Mr. King spent some time at the site in both 1962 and 1963, and was responsible for the tedious task of cataloguing the recovered artifacts and taking the photographs of artifacts reproduced in this report.

Mr. Hugh A. Dempsey, Archivist at the Glenbow-Alberta Institute, drew together many threads of historical information pertaining to Rocky Mountain House which, considered in conjunction with the archaeology, have afforded valuable cross-checks in the historical identification of the fort. His special knowledge of the archival history of the Canadian West and Alberta in particular has been of inestimable value.

Mr. Gordon Gay of the Military Department of the Glenbow-Alberta Institute was most helpful with the identification of the various calibres of lead shot and spherical lead balls recovered from the site. This information adds considerably to the knowledge of the munitions at the fort.

Dr. Allan B. Dove, Senior Development Metallurgist, Wire and Fastener Divisions of The Steel Company of Canada, Limited, analyzed the nails from Rocky Mountain House. This analysis is most detailed and includes an identification of nail types, dates of manufacture and a metallurgical analysis. Dr. Dove's report is included verbatim in this monograph.

Mrs. A.H. Vanderburgh of Port Credit, Ontario, analyzed ceramic fragments from the site. Dr. Walter A. Kenyon of the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, aided us by identifying copper kettle bail fasteners. Dr. Kenyon also made available his excavated specimens from Fort Albany, which proved valuable for comparative purposes. The late Mr. H. Gieger Omwake examined photographs of some of the pipe stems and bowl fragments recovered from Rocky Mountain House and many of his comments are included in the following pages.

The Hudson's Bay Company generously made available their post records covering Rocky Mountain House from 1828 to 1868, and the advice of the Company's Archivist, Mrs. Joan Craig, was found most helpful with regard to interpretation of some of the data.

The five student members of the 1963 field crew are in a large part responsible for the success of the excavation. As initiates to archaeology, Brian Reeves, Ron and Wayne Getty, Kirk Meade and Terry Moore all displayed a high degree of willingness and efficiency in completing total excavation of the site. Photographs taken in the field were handled by Wayne Getty. I also wish to extend appreciation to Helen Devereux, Vera Burns and Jean Noble for their supplementary information and aid rendered toward the realization of this monograph.

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