Erosion threatens historic Acadian site

Stephen Brun
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A small group of volunteer archaeologists have begun excavating along the shore of Malpeque Bay at Low Point, near Port Hill, for the fourth straight summer. The site was once home to pre-deportation 18th century Acadian settlers. From left are Isaac Stewart, Meghan Ferris and Shalen Trask.

SUMMERSIDE - An archaeological dig at a rare 18th century Acadian home near Port Hill has become somewhat of a race against the elements.

Not that it seemed like anything more than a day at the beach for the small group digging there earlier this week.

The site is located at Low Point, along the shores of Malpeque Bay. But the picturesque location masks the fact that erosion has taken a toll on the historical goldmine.

"Erosion is an issue all over the Island and, since these Acadian sites are often coastal, it's a big concern for us," said Dr. Helen Kristmanson, director of archaeology for the Province.

"Last winter the ground was unfrozen and the storms chewed it out."

Kristmanson identified the pre-deportation home while surveying the area back in 2006.

She and her team of archaeologists have been excavating for a few weeks each summer for the past three years.

An estimated 8,000 artifacts have been found at the site since that time: glass beads, religious pendants, smoking pipes, nails and animal bones, which indicate what the Acadian settlers were eating back in 1728.

"This is a site where the Acadian families got advance warning of the deportation, so they probably had enough time to collect up things and pack before they left," Kristmanson said. "After they left, the British didn't destroy their houses, which they usually did."

This past January, the home was designated as a protected site under the Archaeological Act. The designation commemorates the area in recognition of its Acadian history, and also protects the land from purchase or vandalism.

But the Act can't protect against the weather.

That's why it's so important to document the finds on the site, before the erosion steals the land away.

"We had a portion documented last year, and now that area is almost completely gone," Kristmanson said. "You can try to stabilize the shoreline, but in the end Mother Nature's going to win the battle."

Kristmanson plans to meet with the transportation and environment departments to develop a strategy to keep the erosion at bay.

She also hopes to work with climatologists to identify historical sites around the Island that are most vulnerable to erosion.

Kristmanson will make a public presentation about her group's work at the site at Green Park Provincial Park, June 28 at 7 p.m.

Archaeological intern Meghan Ferris has also been blogging about the dig, which can be found at

Geographic location: Iceland, SUMMERSIDE, Port Hill Low Point Malpeque Bay Green Park Provincial Park

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