MISCOUCHE – History happens. Heritage does not.
It is the result of research and collecting information and all of the things that put together the story of the past.
From 2008 to 2011, Dr. Helen Kristmanson, director of the Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat in the Department of Health and Wellness, and P.E.I.’s first Provincial Archaeologist along with a dedicated crew, did just that.
Kristmanson was part of the official opening at the Acadian Museum in Miscouche of “Digging into the Past: An Archaeological Discovery in Malpeque Bay.
The exhibit features the results of archaeological investigations at Pointe aux-Vie, a pre-deportation Acadian site on Malpeque Bay, near Port Hill. That site was the first European settlement in Prince County
“I spent four years conducting archaeological excavations, recovering and documenting the remains of this 18th century farmstead,” she said.
“Prince Edward Island has a long and a rich human history extending back nearly 12,000 years and this is the first archaeological exhibit to comprehensively explore a chapter of that history.”
She said the work was a race against time.
“We were confronted by the challenges brought about by rising sea levels, coastal erosion and diminished ice-cover,” Kristmanson said. “What began as an exploratory survey, became a rescue operation after three consecutive storms ravaged the site in December 2010.”
She said the site is now closed.
“After we had the three storms in December, it actually destroyed quite a bit of the site but, luckily, we had already excavated that portion,” Kristmanson said. “So, the next summer I finished excavating the site because I was worried that we would lose it.”
Although she knew the site was a former farm and could anticipate what would be buried there, there was always the unexpected discovery
“There are always some surprises at an archaeological site,” Kristmanson said. “We knew what we were dealing with. We knew that we were dealing with and early to mid-18th century Acadian farmstead. At this particular site the Acadian family had been able to pack up all of their belongings and leave in advance of being deported. So we’re really dealing with the leftovers. We were surprised to find some items of personal importance, some religious items of personal importance.”
A cellar where an Acadian family had been putting their refuse before they capped it over with a layer of clay offered more finds.
“That particular feature was absolutely full of interesting artifacts including some of our most interesting artifacts from the site including the coins that we have which are a little unusual,” Kristmanson said.
She said there were also glass beads, the religious objects and the remains of food, bird bones, snowshoe hare.
“We have over 50 species of animal at the site,” Kridstmanson said.
One of the birds that was discovered was a passenger pigeon, which are now extinct.
She said one of the most interesting finds was a religious pendant.
“It’s probably off of a rosary or some kind of religious object,” Kristmanson said. “It’ a very rare piece and would have been extremely important to the person who owned it. The fact that we found it, between 200 and 300 years later, tells me that was a lost object and would have been dearly missing by its owner. It’s connects us directly with the person. I think we were all surprised to find such a valuable piece.”
The exhibit will be open for the next 12 months at the Acadian Museum in Miscouche.