Spade & the Grave

death and burial through an archaeological lens


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Archaeology of Death: The Renews Grotto

This blog post was written by Jasper Pritchard, for the Archaeology of Death undergraduate course in Fall 2020 at Memorial University of Newfoundland, taught by Dr. Meghan Burchell. They graciously allowed it to be posted on Spade & the Grave, thanks Jasper!

By all accounts, the town of Renews is a serene landscape. Like many spots on the Southern Shore, the quiet but powerful presence of the sea envelops this small community like a blanket, and reminders of Newfoundland history are wrapped up with the clotheslines and sheds that make up daily life. Just one hour from the city of St.John’s, it’s a must visit when I make a day trip up the shore. I remember vividly when my friend Kathleen and I came upon it in 2015. In exchange for using her photos for this assignment I must refer to her as “my amazing, wonderful friend Kathleen”. Kathleen had taken me out to Calvert to meet her grandparents and we made a few stops before and after. We were nearing Renews and looking for a spot to turn around when we spotted an orange sign that read “RENEWS GROTTO” with an arrow pointing to the left. I didn’t even know what a grotto was at that point but decided I should find out.

We spent some time puttering around trying to find it. No one seemed to be around. There was a white shed with “COME IN BYE” written in red paint across the door, another with an abandoned coke vending machine sitting outside it that looked at least 30 years old. Long dead remains of a moose, and a dog gnawing at the pelt somehow did not detract from the picturesque quality of the town, if anything it added something.

Figure 1: A very scary shed, courtesy of Kathleen Walsh
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Archaeology of Death: The Amelia Earhart Statue in Harbour Grace, NL

This blog post was written by Hannah Cooper, for the Archaeology of Death undergraduate course in Fall 2020 at Memorial University of Newfoundland, taught by Dr. Meghan Burchell. They graciously allowed it to be posted on Spade & the Grave, thanks Hannah!

Photo of the Earhart Statue, Harbour Grace (image from Wikipedia)

Most of us have already heard of the famous aviatress.  Still, it was her untimely disappearance that mystified generations on end.  For this reason, it has sometimes been hard to remember that Earhart was first and foremost human, even with her massive and overarching legacy.  And so, statues like these remind us of the very human-side to such people as Earhart, before she disappeared into the history books.

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I suppose that it should not be unreasonable to work under the assumption that most of us would know at least the skeletal remains of Amelia Earhart’s story.  I still did want to include some history about her, though, so that we can have just a bit more context on the woman forged from bronze that we see in Harbour Grace today.

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Archaeology of Death: The Ocean Ranger Memorial Garden

This blog post was written by Megan MacKinnon, for the Archaeology of Death undergraduate course in Fall 2020 at Memorial University of Newfoundland, taught by Dr. Meghan Burchell. They graciously allowed it to be posted on Spade & the Grave, thanks Megan!

The sinking of the Ocean Ranger oil rig was a tragedy that felt close to home for Newfoundlanders for many reasons. The rig, a workplace for many Newfoundlanders, sank just off the shores of St. John’s.  The majority of crewmates who passed in the accident resided in Newfoundland, leaving the Island to grieve for their loss. The sinking of the rig beginning discussions of workplace safety offshore struck a chord with many Newfoundlanders finding trade jobs in remote, and often dangerous situations. In many ways, it is safe to say all of Newfoundland felt the loss that dark day in February.

Figure 1: Map of Newfoundland with Ocean Ranger location point (Collier, 2010)

The Ocean Ranger was the world’s largest semisubmersible oilrig, about 315km off the coast of St. John’s Newfoundland within the Hibernia oil field (Collier, 2010).

 “The Ocean Ranger was a self-propelled, semi-submersible offshore drilling rig, designed and built by ODECO (Offshore Drilling and Exploration Company) for use in offshore oil exploration. At 121 metres long, 80 metres wide, and 103 metres tall, it was the largest rig of its kind when it was launched in 1976.” (Collier, 2010) On February 15th of 1982 tragedy struck when a winter storm passed over the area forecasted winds of 90 Knots and waves up to 37 feet, sinking the rig (Collier, 2010). The Federal-Provincial Royal Commission on the Ocean Ranger Marine Disaster found the cause of the rig’s sinking to be that seawater entered its ballast control room through a broken porthole and caused an electrical malfunction in the ballast panel controlling the rig’s stability (Pitt, 2006). This accident took the lives of all 84 crewmembers, 56 of which were Newfoundlanders (Pitt, 2006). The tragedy was felt across the entire province and resulted in inquiries about workplace safety for the workers of the rig. The Royal Commission on the Ocean Ranger Marine Disaster determined that much of the hazards could be attributed to flaws of the workplace itself, “the shattered portlight and chain lockers that were not water tight, for instance. The crew did not fully understand what to do in the case of an emergency involving the Ranger’s ballast control system. The lifesaving equipment was judged inadequate, and the crew lacked training in its use (Collier, 2010).” These combined factors contributed to the great loss of life in Newfoundland that day and began an important discussion of workplace safety for those who work away within our province.

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Book Launch: Burial & Death in Colonial North America

I’m so pleased to announce the publication of my first book, ‘Burial and Death in Colonial North America: Exploring Interment Practices and Landscapes in 17th-Century British Settlements‘, published by Emerald Published Ltd!

This book has been in the works technically since 2018, but really several years prior, as it incorporates a lot of my Master’s research! It is also filled with a bunch of really cool other stuff about 17th-century burial landscapes and practices, coffins styles, soil stains (well, I think they’re cool), and protective symbols on graves!

Published in Emerald’s ‘Emerald Points’ series, the book is available for pre-order through the Emerald Publishing website, Amazon, and The Book Depository, as both an ebook and a print book (pre-orders are open on some sites). It will be available as an ebook through multiple carriers soon!

If you are interested in downloading the flyer, CLICK HERE.

Thank you to everyone who helped me through this process, my family, friends, editors, twitter, etc! My two goals in life as a child were to become an archaeologist and to publish books. I always assumed that my first published book would be a novel, but I think academic books also check that box off (don’t worry, novel(s) are in the works)! The archaeology part has been covered for a while!

Citation:

Lacy, Robyn S. 2020. Burial and Death in Colonial North America: Exploring Interment Practices and Landscapes in 17th-Century British Settlement. Emerald Publishing Ltd.: Bingley, UK.


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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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Burial Against All Odds

Today I’d like to write a short post to tell you all about a few amazing instances of the pursuit of a ‘proper’ burial against all odds. Before starting, I would like to state that this is a proper burial through the lens of primarily white settler communities in the 19th and 20th centuries in what is now Canada. Thanks!

What denotes a good burial? It can be defined by a person’s social status, their religion, their personal beliefs and choices, fads of the time, and a number of other things. A proper, good burial in the medieval period included being close to the altar, in ancient Egypt it meant having belongings with you to help in the afterlife, for southern USA enslaved families it meant being able to bury their dead in peace on their own terms. For settler communities in Newfoundland and mainland Canada, it meant being able to follow their traditional burial practices of  interment, regardless of the conditions.

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A buck at Woodland Cemetery (photo by author 2019)

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Curious Canadian Cemeteries: South side / Old Non-Denominational Burial Ground, Ferryland, Newfoundland.

This site is near and dear to my little heart, perched on the hill west of the historic site of the Colony of Avalon at Ferryland, Newfoundland. It was one of the sites I explored during my MA thesis (see my publications for a link to the thesis, or wait a few months for the book!), and come to think of it I could very easily populate this series with all NL sites from my thesis research. Would anyone want to read that? Maybe?

Exposed to the often harsh and relentless winds of the North Atlantic ocean, anyone visiting graves in Ferryland in the 18th and 19th centuries would have had an unobstructed view of any passing ice bergs or whales!

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View of the Colony of Avalon from the burial ground (photo by author 2015)

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Evolution of roman lettering in Newfoundland: A case study at Belvedere Roman Catholic Cemetery, St. John’s, Newfoundland

Today’s post is based on ongoing research that started as a prompt for a term paper in grad school. I’ve been conducting research on roman lettering development on upright gravestones for some time (there is a paper on the way, I swear. It’s bogged down in reviewer/edits land but it will be out there eventually!), and this research was based on my interest in the development of lettering styles on gravestones. More specifically, the development of lettering styles carved in a ‘remote’ area, that might not have access to lettering books or script trends as carvers in more urban centres in the British Isles were. Lets delve in, shall we?

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St. John’s Harbour (photo by author 2016)

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Public Engagement through Burial Landscapes: Cupids and Ferryland, Newfoundland

img_20181015_1539272683491709296464501.jpgI’m excited to be able to share my public burial archaeology paper, “Public Engagement through Burial Landscapes: Cupids and Ferryland, Newfoundland” with all of you!

It was released today, along with many other articles on public burial archaeology in AP: The Online Journal in Public Archaeology’s Special Volume 3: Death in the Contemporary World: Perspectives from Public Archaeology.

My article discusses ‘lost’ burial grounds – burial grounds which are known to exist, but have yet to be identified – like the 17th-century burial ground at Ferryland, and how discussion with visitors on historic burial practices can often lead to a dialogue on modern burial practices.

If you are interested, I’ve put a link HERE, where you can download the entire volume or each paper individually. It’s an open-access journal too, which is amazing! (If you’re going to do a Public Archaeology journal, it really should be open-access or it’s negating its own point.) I’m so pleased to be able to share this research with you all. While you’re at it, check out the amazing papers by everyone else in the volume, it’s chalked full of deathy-arch goodness!

 

Citation:
Lacy, Robyn S. 2018. Public Engagement through Burial Landscapes: Cupids and Ferryland, Newfoundland. AP: Online Journal of Public Archaeology, Special Volume 3: Death in the Contemporary World: Perspectives from Public Archaeology. Pp. 55-78. Available online: http://revistas.jasarqueologia.es/index.php/APJournal/issue/view/14/showToc 


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Inscriptions, Outcrops, and XRF

I have a quick announcment for anyone interested in my work with the Ferryland gravestones! A while ago I wrote a paper on the analysis of the gravestones with Drs. Barry Gaulton and Stephen Piercey, of Memorial University of Newfoundland.

The paper is being published in the North Atlantic Archaeology Journal, Volume 5, and I just got the pdf proof of the formatting. This is really exciting, as my first published academic paper, and also my first published piece of the script development work I did the fieldwork for waaaay back in 2012! (That paper is in the works, never fear)

If you are interested, here is the abstract, and I’ll update this post when I know the publication date of the journal.

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