(Oct. 3, 2002, Gazette)
|Photo by Amanda Crompton
Among those working on the Vieux Fort dig
in Placentia were (L-R) Amanda Crompton, and NAHOP students Blair
Temple and Regeena Psathas. Missing from photo is Catherine Murphy.
From finding artifacts to making history, Memorial is lending its support
to the town of Placentia as it digs into its past. Two mid-17th century
French forts were home this summer to three Memorial University students,
13 workers from Placentia, and Amanda Crompton, principal investigator,
as a world-class archaeological dig transpired in our own backyard.
In 1996, two archaeology students from Memorial discovered what is now
known to be the site of the first fort built in Placentia by the French,
Vieux Fort, believed to have been inhabited between 1662 and 1685. Five
years later, through the diligence of Placentias Heritage Advisory
Committee and the Placentia Area Historic Society, funding was secured
through Human Resources Development Canada and Memorials Newfoundland
Archaeological Heritage Outreach Program (NAHOP), run by Dr. Peter Pope.
This funding allowed for a large-scale dig that would incorporate Vieux
Fort, a second fort by the name of Fort Louis, and a fully equipped lab.
The advisory committee really saw the potential for tourism and
community growth, and pursued that vision, said Ms. Crompton.
As supervisor of this extensive uncovering, Ms. Crompton ran the Vieux
Fort site, delegating Fort Louis to Blair Temple, a graduate student in
archaeology. The stories of these forts, and the people who inhabited
them, came to life for these researchers this summer.
Several years after the initial fort was built for protection by
the French, Fort Louis was created. This second fort was built closer
to the opening of the Placentia harbour, and was later reestablished by
the British when they took over ownership of the community, Ms.
Crompton explained. These sites are rich with remains that allow
us to catch a glimpse of how these people really lived, beyond historical
From May to August of this year, a vast amount of diverse artifacts were
discovered and pieced together, attesting to the rich historical roots
that run deep into Placentias ground.
Weve found everything from fancy French pottery to hand-blown
glass, some coins that date back to 1630, and a French spigot, used to
draw beer from a keg, said Ms. Crompton. We can tell that
the forts were most likely home to the French officers, as we are finding
domestic materials that would normally be used for fine dining and entertaining.
The search and preservation of such artifacts proved to attract much interest
from locals and tourists alike. Everyday over the summer, people flocked
to the dig sites, as well as to the old Placentia drugstore that now houses
the lab, to behold for themselves the unfolding story of their past.
People love to watch other people dig, commented Ms. Crompton.
The community has been really great, and the people are getting
to truly see the benefits of research.
The value of such research may also be observed in the study of archaeology
itself. Projects like the Placentia dig have served as the subject of
honours dissertations for students in the past, and it is the hope that
such work will unearth increased interest in this field of study for others.
Interest in archaeology has really only taken off in the last 30
years, Ms. Crompton said. Memorials archaeology unit
has been instrumental in developing this interest, making research opportunities
such as this one possible.
Ms. Crompton and her crew, though cluing up for this summer, have boundless
interest in the potential underlying their work. From the two sites in
progress, to the mid-18th century houses buried near the opening of Placentias
harbour, the research potential is abundant. There will always be
more research questions than answers, according to Ms. Crompton.
But its like being a mystery novelist the process is
just as enjoyable as the product.
All of the pieces found can be accessed for further research at the Newfoundland
Museum, and will be distributed to local museums throughout the tourist
season. Similarly, the spirit of learning and cooperation created in the
throws of such intensive research will forever be embodied in the mounting
evidence of Placentias history and in the future of these committed
The NAHOP students and community crew were critical to the dig,
Ms. Crompton stated. The research really lent itself to looking
at the lives of people in the past, and the people I worked with really
made it happen.
To find out more about Memorials archaeology program and research,