BOYD’S COVE – A fallen tree sent archeologists to the Beothuk Interpretation Centre Provincial Historic Site for the first time since 1985.
Archeologists Ken Reynolds and Steve Hull worked through the heat July 23 and 24 to assess damage done to the site by the uprooted tree and recover any items of interest near the surface. Mr. Reynolds was at the site with the discovering archeologist, Ralph Pastorie, in 1981.
“When (the tree) fell down, it pulled up the house pit there, and the house pit there,” said Mr. Hull pointing to what once were neighbouring Beothuk houses.
At the site the house pits are numbered one through 11 with distinctive dips in the ground at the centre of the pits and a raised outer ring where the walls used to be. The Beothuk, when moving in to one of these house pits, would dig the remnants of the previous owner’s floor to make walls. The house pit unearthed by the fallen tree had root running through the wall and into the centre of the pit, turning up artifacts from several pervious occupants.
“We’re finding the cultural level, the top level of this pit, being pulled forward. All the debris that made up (the neighbouring wall of house pit nine) and parts of the anterior are now all piled up here for us. And once we get through (the loose topsoil), we’ll stop,” said Mr. Reynolds.
The public was able to go down to the dig site to interact with, and to see how meticulous the work of an archeologist can be. Karen LeDrew-Day, site co-ordinator for the centre, said she was pleased with the public interest.
“You could go on, hands on and basically intermingle with the archeologists, ask about the artifacts, and (the archeologists) came over, talking with tourists and telling them about the artifact and what type of material it was,” said Ms. LeDrew-Day.
During the cleanup, the archeologists found grinding stones, fire-cracked rocks, flakes from tool making, iron, and at least one confirmed Beaches point, named after the site with ongoing excavations in Bonavista Bay.
The job on the centre’s site was to clean up the damage, and the only artifacts to be recovered were those the tree lifted up.
“We will get all the loose stuff out of there that we can and just backfill it and leave it for perhaps someone to come back and work at it,” said Mr. Reynolds.
But it’s not all shovels and sifting trays, the two archeologists will now return to the Provincial Archeology office to catalogue all they found, and run tests to determine the authenticity and time period of the artifacts. The centre can look forward to a formal report on the findings of the ninth house pit, but Ms. LeDrew-Day said she isn’t hopeful for another dig any time soon.
“I don’t see it, not in the near future. Ralph (Pastorie) was a great believer in never fully excavating the site. Even back as early as 1985 when he stopped, he probably could have got more funding if he wanted to,” she said.
The centre is open until Oct. 5 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day. Guided tours and event schedules are available at seethesites.ca.