Parks Canada Banner
Parks Canada Home

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

The Excavation and Historical Identification of Rocky Mountain House

by William C. Noble

Artifact Descriptions

The artifacts excavated from Rocky Mountain House are of interest to the layman, historian and historical archaeologist alike, but in differing respects and attitudes. To the interested layman the recovered items have an aesthetic and romantic appeal in that they are "old" and represent something beyond memory. The historian, dealing with written documents, finds the nature of the goods interesting in terms of the degree to which they confirm or deny accounts of fur trade logistics, economics and trade goods inventories. The historically minded archaeologist, on the other hand, is interested in the artifacts from the point of view of the data they provide regarding the time period represented and the cultural inferences obtainable. The proveninences and the nature of the artifacts also aid in his reconstruction of the way of life and function of specific structures in the fort.

Information may also be gained concerning the industrial changes made in the manufacture of exported goods from Europe to the Canadian West. As Rocky Mountain House dates from 1799 to 1834, it spans part of the important era of the Industrial Revolution in England and other European countries. Machine-made products do appear at the fort during the 1810-40 period, as exemplified by the different types of nails recovered.

The artifact sample recovered from the fort includes 11,464 items of which 10,832 or 94.4 per cent comprises glass trade beads. This over-whelming percentage obviously skews the sample, but the remainder of the sample appears to be truly representative with many different types of artifacts included. The one notable exception is the paucity of heavy tools and hardware which no doubt were of premium value and probably salvaged for use in a later version of Rocky Mountain House.

The artifacts are described under five major headings of general functional use. Each item in a class of artifacts is considered in detail according to specific function. Throughout, commentary either explicative or interpretative accompanies the analysis. It is felt that the detailed descriptions presented here will be of use to future researchers analyzing materials from other western Canadian historic forts. While the interpretations and historical identifications are of the most general interest, I feel that the real value of this report rests in the detailed description of the raw data.

previous Next

Last Updated: 2006-10-24 To the top
To the top