Spade & the Grave

death and burial through an archaeological lens

PhD Fieldwork 2: Graveyard Tours & NLAS talks

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Back for another research blog instalment! The past few weeks have been pretty busy, with Black Cat projects, some comps reading, a camping trip and hiking in Gros Morne, getting my 2nd covid vaccine, and my parents coming out to visit. We still managed to sneak in a little community archaeology engagement though, which turned out to be sort of a conjuncture between the NLAS (Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeology Society) ((I’m the VP this year)) and my own research in New Perlican.

The town of New Perlican was holding their annual Heritage Day this past Saturday, and the NLAS went down with our museum in a box / ‘edukit’ to talk to anyone interested about archaeology in the province. I was also asked to give a short tour and talk about the Bloody Point burial site, which is part of my PhD research! Check HERE and HERE if you need to get caught up on the site! It was an amazing day, and I’m excited to share it with you all!

Looking towards New Perlican from the road to Bloody Point (photo by author 2021)

The day started off with, of course, a drive out from St. John’s and a stop at Dark Start Cafe in Carbonear. That place makes an amazing flat white, and they even restored a historic building in the town for their cafe! We made it out to New Perlican on this very muggy, hot weekend by 11 am, and began setting up the NLAS table. My supervisor, Dr. Shannon Lewis-Simpson (& President of the NLAS this year) joined us for some old fashioned community archaeology!

Our NLAS table at the heritage landing (photo by author 2021)

New Perlican Heritage Day was a delight! We got to admire the new wriggle fence that had been built during a workshop at the heritage landing, there were local venders selling their artwork, and demonstrations by the Wooden Boat Museum from Winterton! Our table had some info from the heritage committee on St. Mark’s Cemetery, another one of the sites I’m working with for my research, as well as the NLAS edukit.

I actually designed and put together the edukit together back in 2017, on a contract for the NLAS! It is a teaching collection for schools and museums, with replicas of artifacts from all cultural groups within the province, so people can handle them without worry. Shannon brought a lot of Viking replica objects from her teaching collection as well, and we had a great time showing people how Indigenous peoples used different types of stone tools, and how a historic clay smoking pipe was made. I even started to learn how to nalbind! It was great to be involved in such a lovely day!

At 2:30pm that afternoon, we gathered all interested parties, and headed out to Bloody Point with our tour group! The tour leaders consisted of myself and Shannon, who undertook a GPR survey at Bloody Point with other folks from MUN in 2019. Besides the heat and humidity, we had very good weather for the tour, and more people than I expected joined us on the walk!

When we arrived at the site, after picking a few blueberries along the way, I gave a land acknowledgement. We are occupying the traditional territories of the Mi’kmaq and Beothuk people, as were the European settlers before us, including those who were buried at Bloody Point. I talked about the fieldstones that we recorded a few weeks ago at the site, including the few that were hiding in the rose bushes that we recorded during my survey a few weeks ago! Shannon talked about what the GPR survey told us. Ground Penetrating Radar is the technology used to work with communities and investigate the grounds of residential ‘schools’ across Canada and in parts of the United States.

My dad took some excellent photos of us talking to the group (above), don’t I look like a professional? One of my favourite parts of the tour was getting to show everyone how interesting fieldstones are, and what they actually can tell us about the people who used to live there. They can tell us about folks’ economic status, whether they could afford an imported gravestone, if they chose to have something local made, whether it was even shaped or not. As archaeologists, we don’t excavate human burial spaces unless it is absolutely needed, say for a rescue excavation due to construction or accidental disturbance. We don’t want to disturb a burial place unless we have to, and this goes triple for Indigenous burial spaces. There is so much we can learn about a people and a community from the surface though!

The Bloody Point site shows us some amazing things about the life and death of the early 18th century (and possibly 17th century!) settlers who lived in New Perlican. The site is surrounded by old gardens, root cellars, and spaces for houses and fishing, and it was wonderful to be able to share what we already know about the site at the beginning of my project with the people who live there today!

Thank you so much for supporting my research, New Perlican!

View from the porch of the Seaglass B&B on Sunday morning (photo by author 2021)

Author: Robyn S. Lacy

Archaeologist / Cultural Heritage / Burial Ground Restoration

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