Archaological dig

Near Lady’s Lookout on Signal Hill

“We’re finding garbage,” says Stéphane Noël, when asked to describe the type of artefacts he and fellow Archaeology students are uncovering on Signal Hill.

But, of course, that’s what he’s after.

“It’s giving us more information on how the soldiers were living,” says Noël. “People ask if we’re finding treasure, and for them treasure means gold or coins or whatever, but for us treasure are pieces of ceramics that tell us about life back then. Things like that.”

The Signal Hill Archaeology Field School is a chance for Memorial Archaeology students to put their classroom learning to use in the dirt and stone of a real National Historic Site.

Since July 2, the project’s 15 students and one instructor have been digging up a military barracks near Lady’s Lookout, to the left of Signal Hill when coming up the road. The barracks were built around 1800, occupied until the 1840’s, and destroyed by 1880.

Originally meant to house 228 soldiers, the 140 by 24 foot stone masonry structure was wood framed and two stories high. And it wasn’t a very comfortable place to live—not that many buildings could make living on the top of Signal Hill comfortable.

“It wasn’t well insulated,” says Noël. “People died in the winter because wind was blowing through the chimneys.”

So far, they’ve found animal bones, broken wine bottles, copper-scaled chin straps, Royal Artillery buttons, and a hand-made domino. Surprisingly, the animal bones might be the most valuable find.

“They could help us interpret the diet of soldiers,” Noël says.

The field school completed their dig on August 8.

— Shawn Hayward

Suggestion for a nook?

Photos by Elling Lien