Spade & the Grave

death and burial through an archaeological lens


1 Comment

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
Continue reading


1 Comment

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.

History

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.

Continue reading


1 Comment

Archaeology of Death: ‘Betty’s Statue’: A Grandfather’s Remembrance

This blog post was written by Alison Batstone, 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 Alison!

The Peter Pan Statue (Branes, 2020)

Above is a photo taken of the Peter Pan Statue located in Bowring Park, St. John’s NL. The statue is centered in the picture, a bronze sculpture of children, animals and plants swirling around a rock perch as Peter stands atop playing flute; most characters, including Peter, are wearing small shifts as clothing. The statue sits on a stone walkway, and is framed by a duck pond and leafy trees. It is autumn, and green, orange and yellow leaves cover the grass and stones behind the monument. (Branes, 2020).

Continue reading


1 Comment

Archaeology of Death: The Controversial Statue of Gaspar Corte-Real

This blog post was written by Emma Nugent, 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 Emma!

Image of the statue of Gaspare Corte-Real, the statue is outdoors and his arms are crossed (image from VOCM).

Across from the Newfoundland Confederation building, there is a statue of Portuguese explorer and slave trader, Gaspar Corte-Real (commonly mistaken for John Cabot). It has become one of the many targets in the recent push to remove monuments of slave traders and colonialists internationally. The push to remove this statue is not only because of Corte-Real’s history as a slaver, but also because of the very shady political baggage it carries.

The history of Corte-Real is a short one. He is presumed to have lived between 1450 and 1501. He was a Portuguese explorer who possibly came to Newfoundland, or maybe Labrador, or maybe Greenland in 1501. After reaching Newfoundland (or Labrador, or Greenland) he kidnapped 57 Indigenous people, took them back to Europe to be sold as slaves, then returned to Atlantic waters where he went missing in 1501 (McLeod 2017). One of his brothers searched for him, only to go missing himself in 1502. There was a third brother, but he was denied permission to search for the first two (Marsh 2008). Overall, his impact on discovering the Americas was a very small one, as well as his impact on establishing a Portuguese presence in Newfoundland. What he did was what many European explorers were doing at the time, kidnapping Indigenous people and going missing. His history isn’t even very conclusive, and he clearly isn’t well remembered (considering he is mistaken for many other prominent colonialists). All of this begs the question: Why does this guy have a monument, especially in such a prominent location?

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Archaeology of Death: Student Blog Post Mini-Series

Landscape photo at St. John the Evangelist Cemetery, Newfoundland (photo by Dr. Burchell 2020)

Hello readers, I am very excited to be writing this introductory post for you all with Dr. Meghan Burchell, of Memorial University of Newfoundland. Dr. Burchell taught the undergraduate course ‘The Archaeology of Death’ this Fall 2020 semester, and I had the honour of being her TA! One of the student’s assignments for the course was to create a ‘blog-style’ post which would explore a monument, mostly within the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, to examine the history and politics of monumentalization. 

Part of the challenge with the course and its assignments this semester was, of course, the fact that it was not face-to-face teaching in light of the pandemic. Adapting to the sudden switch to remote teaching brought to light the importance of creating records for, and digitizing said records for, historical artifacts and sites such as graveyards. While part of their coursework was to do just that, create digital records and analysing gravestones in Newfoundland, this blogging assignment asked different questions.

Their blogs answered a number of questions, including:

  • “What does the landscape of monuments in Newfoundland and Labrador look like?”
  • “How can we create a digital landscape of monuments, whether they are memorials, graves, or other monumental sites or objects?”
  • “How are people and events commemorated and remembered in Newfoundland and Labrador?” 
  • “What does a memorial tell us about the site / event / person, as well as the people who erected it?”

Everyone did an amazing job on their blog posts, and in the end I selected six examples to post on Spade & the Grave, that I thought fit well into the theme of this website and with the research that I undertake in death and burial archaeology. The next six posts, written by undergraduate students at MUN, examine monuments and their meaning across the province. In this series we will look at the Peter Pan Statue in Bowring Park, the Terry Fox statue by the harbour in St. John’s, the Statue of Amelia Earhart in Harbour Grace, the Ocean Ranger Disaster Monument, the Renews Grotto, and the controversy of the Gaspar Corte-Real statue. 

It was wonderful to read what the students thought about monumentalization within the province, as well as how these sites impacted their view of the historic events or people they commemorated. Please join us for the series, as we share this series over the last two weeks of 2020!

Student Blog Post Links:

  1. Emma Nugent: The Controversial Statue of Gasper Corte-Real
  2. Alison Batstone: Betty’s Statue – A Grandfather’s Remembrance
  3. Calum Brydon: Terry Fox Memorial, St. John’s, NL
  4. Megan MacKinnon: Ocean Ranger Memorial Garden
  5. Hannah Cooper: Amelia Earhart Statue, Harbour Grace, NL
  6. Jasper Pritchard: The Renews Grotto

Thank you for joining us for this exciting series!