Spade & the Grave

death and burial through an archaeological lens


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What’s in my (Field) Bag?

Today’s post isn’t exactly death-related, but I wanted to take a sec and share what I carry with me into the field. If you are starting out in archaeology or are heading into your first field season in cultural resource management (CRM) or a field school, I hope this post can be a little helpful to you!

I’ve been doing fieldwork on and off since 2011, in Ireland, the Isle of Man, the UK, and Canada (BC, NL, and ON), and these items are things that I always like to have on me, and items that have stood the test of time being dragged around the mountains, overseas, corn fields, and most recently the blistering heat and random rain storms of Ontario! Lets dive in and take a look at what’s in my (field) bag!

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My field bag & gear I always carry! 

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Book Review: Changing Landscapes in Urban British Churchyards.

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This post is a formal review of the newly published ‘Changing Landscapes in Urban British Churchyards’ by S.E. Thornbush and Mary J. Thornbush (2020), for Bentham Science Publishers, Singapore.

While academic and public interest books on burial grounds are often published, they tend to only consider the gravestones, and not the spatiality of the burial ground. This book by Sylvia E. Thornbush and Mary J. Thornbush examines gravestones within multiple east coast cities in England and Scotland, as well as the sites’ locality. However, for a text that is titled ‘changing landscapes’, I was hoping for more of a study of the sites as landscapes and spaces over the gravestones.

The sites focused on in this book are situated close to the coast, as to examine the effects of coastal erosion on headstone legibility and weathering rates, although other sites, such as York, were also selected based on the quantity of gravestones available for examination. The goal of the research was to compare the classic Dethlefsen & Deetz 1966 iconographic study (reprinted: Deetz 1977) to trends in the UK. The authors note that there are linguistic features which marked ‘Puritanism’ used on epitaphs, as well as within the iconography. However the iconography, in particular the ‘Death’s Head’ is still wrongly associated with specifically Puritan beliefs. The main goal of the study is stated as looking for differences in style of headstones in England and Scotland from the C17th-C19th after the Protestant Reformation, and how were they distinct from those found in C19th New England.

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An Introduction of Archaeological Illustration: Small Finds Workshop

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Portion of metal axe head (Lacy 2017)

This Friday, June 19th (Juneteenth), I taught an online workshop for the Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeology Society (NLAS). In case you missed the workshop or wanted a refresher after we wrapped up, I’ve turned the step-by-step drawing tips in a blog post. I presented the workshop from the occupied traditional territories of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Lūnaapéewak, and Attawandaron peoples, under Treaty 6.

This post is a departure from my typical death and burial posts, The following post uses illustrations I drew specifically for the workshop, and I hope you find it helpful! In the field, I use my drawing skills in a number of ways, and it is always a skill worth investing time into. Please let me know if you have any questions.

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Pinning Historic Gravestones: A case for wood pins

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Example of an old rusted iron pin, Woodland Cemetery.

Yesterday I went for a social-distancing walk at Woodland Cemetery, visited a few repairs that we did last summer (all are holding up well!), and made note of a few gravestones that have suffered some new damage. One of these stones was one that was repaired a few years earlier by another team, using one of the pinning methods that is accepted as a safe conservation technique for historic gravestones.

Historically, gravestones that had pins in them were attached together using iron, lead, or copper. The issues with the iron pins is, of course, that they can easily rust the moment moisture gets into the space, which in turn will cause the stone to crack from the inside. This damage is difficult to repair, which is why we don’t use these anymore! In place of iron, stainless steel pins have been used in more recent decades to hold broken stones together, and more recently these are being replaced with fibreglass rods. However, these materials, while they don’t rust, they have their own issues.

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Death & Monumentation through Built Heritage

In my last post, I mentioned the ‘London Marble and Granite Company Limited’, which was originally founded by J.R. Peel, a renowned artist and gravestone carver. Today I’d like to talk a little more about about Peel, his shop, and the idea of death within the built landscape and our cultural heritage.

If you haven’t heard of John Robert Peel before, let us review. An artist, Peel was born in England in 1830, and married Amelia Margaret Hall in 1849. The couple relocated to London, Ontario in 1852. Peel became an art teacher, highly involved in the growing city’s art scene, and eventually carved gravestones! John and Amelia had several children, including Paul Peel and Mildred Peel, both noted Canadian artists.

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Curious Canadian Cemeteries: Kilworth (Baker) Cemetery, Delaware Township, Middlesex County, ON

Today’s Curious Canadian Cemeteries is brought to you by being trapped inside during Week 3-to-4 of work-from-home-quarantine. What an interesting time we are living in…? Let me help distract you for a moment with this post about a small burial ground near London, ON, the Kilworth (Baker) Cemetery, Delaware Township, Middlesex County, Ontario.

I came across this site while heading out to a sugar bush (several weeks ago, when we were still able to go outside and do things! #socialdistancing). Despite living in Ontario since 2017, I hadn’t managed to go to a sugar bush before, so that in itself was exciting! Of course, I was more than happy to add a little burial ground visit into the trip when we spotted this one along the side of the road.

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View looking east from the entryway (photo by author 2020)

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Curious Canadian Cemeteries: Ellis Chapel, Puslinch Township, Wellington County, ON

It’s been a while for this series, hasn’t it? Today we will be exploring a historically very rural site, the Ellis Chapel, which is located in Puslinch Township, Wellington County, Ontario. The chapel can be accessed from the parking lot of the Cambridge On Route off the 401, west-bound, or from Ellis Road. The address of the site is: 6705 Ellis Rd, Cambridge, ON, N3C 2V4.

While this site is mostly known for its historic, coursed masonry chapel, constructed in 1861, the grounds include a small graveyard. Let’s take a closer look!

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Rear of the chapel, as seen from the south (photo by author 2020).

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Return to the Rock: PhD Research Outline!

Hi friends, it’s been too long since I’ve written a post! Hope everyone is washing their hands and staying out of large gatherings during this ol’ covid-19 outbreak we’re all dealing with. Also you don’t need that much tp, friends. Ok, since coming back from Boston in January, I’ve started a new position with a local CRM firm, TMHC, as their archaeological, cultural heritage, and social media technician! It’s been amazing so far, and I can’t wait for the field season to start! If you follow me on social media though (or, you know, read the title of this post) then you’ll know I’ve had another big thing happen in the last few months…I’ve been accepted into Memorial University of Newfoundland’s PhD program for Archaeology, which starts Sept 2020!

Yay!!

I decided I wanted to do a PhD because my favourite part of archaeology besides the excavation is the research & the writing. I really love writing up results, explaining the thoughts behind doing specific things, digging into the backgrounds, and learning about how people operated in the past. Since finishing my MA in 2017, I’ve been continuing my research and writing on my own time, published 2 papers, have been working on a manuscript, and have another project up my sleeves, along with giving some public talks and stuff….and that takes a lot of time! What better way to balance all this free work than diving back into a PhD where all this research I’m already doing can move to the forefront of my priorities? I’m really excited to focus more of my energy on this research.

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The author with a cemetery sign, 2018.

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Holiday (/Conference) Diaries: SHA 2020 Boston, MA

Fresh off the airplane from Boston, and back to the blog! This past week I had the pleasure of attending the Society for Historical Archaeology’s (SHA) 2020 Annual Meeting in Boston, MA. It was my first SHA conference, and definitely one of the largest conferences I’ve had the change to attend so far, and it was such a wonderful experience! Of course, we did some touristing while we were in town…and most of the talks I attended had everything to do with colonial burials & settlements!

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Back Back, Boston MA

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Podcast appearance: The Arch & Anth Podcast

Hello friends! Recently, I recorded a podcast episode for The Arch & Anth Podcast, with Dr. Michael Rivera. We chatted about my research in death and burial, work in CRM archaeology, and gravestone conservation. It was lovely, and the episode is out now!

You can listen to the episode by clicking on the link below, or by looking for the podcast on Spotify, Stitcher, iTunes, etc.

Episode 91: What is involved in cultural resource management, cemetery conservation and public archaeology? 

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Hanging out with Samuel Dale at Brickstreet Cemetery.