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Grant to facilitate additional excavations at Ferryland

The Ferryland dig is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.


By Janet Harron

FOR Three months every summer Barry Gaulton gets to live every aspiring archaeologists dream – working on an active dig, in a beautiful location by the sea.

And as a result of a SSHRC standard research grant, he hopes to be able to shed more light on the shifting social and economic climate at Ferryland that began to occur in 1638. That's when London-based merchant Sir David Kirke appropriated Sir George Calvert's colony of Avalon, originally established in 1621.

"Kirke had new ideas on how to promote settlement and how to make money," said Mr. Gaulton. "He was a merchant who purchased wine and was involved in the fishery. He taxed local residents and ultimately, made an enormous amount of money."

Calvert, on the other hand, as one-time secretary of state for King James 1, saw the Colony of Avalon as a way of promoting England's interests overseas and as a place of religious tolerance. He however, only managed to stick out one Newfoundland winter before returning to England.

The $109,000 grant will go towards additional excavations at Ferryland that Mr. Gaulton hopes can be carried out between 2011 and 2013. Archaeologists will focus on two different areas, both of which were initially occupied by the Calverts and later utilized and/or modified during the Kirke period.

Determining why certain structures were modified through excavation and analysis will help Mr. Gaulton and his team unravel the operations of the two very different proprietors and the implications for other colonial residents.

Preliminary excavations inside one of the structures suggest Kirke was manufacturing his own lead tokens - a crude form of currency that turns out to be the oldest coinage minted in English colonial America.

"What we're looking for is the architectural evidence for changes in the former domestic and/or communal functions of the earlier Calvert era buildings to one that operated within the confines of the Kirke's business practices. The artifacts should also mirror these changes and demonstrate differences in their form, function and quantity between the Calvert and Kirke occupations," says Gaulton.
Mr. Gaulton acknowledges the strong partnership between the archaeologists and the Colony of Avalon Foundation that exists to preserve the site and develop tourism.

"It's such a great example of a partnership between the community and the university – and we're celebrating our 20th year of the dig in 2011," he noted.