Each of the six dig areas making up the Pointe-à-Callière archaeological site produced discoveries that shed new light on Montréal’s 350 years of history. The interns explain what treasures they unearthed with their picks, trowels and whisks.
Conducting digs in the heart of the city is definitely a challenge. Urban archaeologists have to contend with the impact on the remains of the different occupants in every period. The total demolition and deep excavations required by modern-day construction projects make it even more urgent that these remains be studied properly. Professor Brad Loewen and archaeologist Christian Bélanger explain how their team overcame the difficulties associated with conducting digs in an urban setting.
Step by step
The archaeological process involves a number of steps. The scientific findings of the process are made widely available through specialized publications, works for the general public, exhibitions, etc.
For the eighth straight season, a team of professional archaeologists and student interns carried out digs on Montréal’s birthplace this summer. They completely excavated six new units, covering a total area of 24 m².
On the morning of May 5, 2008, for the seventh consecutive year, students from the Université de Montréal Anthropology Department reported for duty at Montréal’s birthplace. It was their turn for a hands-on introduction to archaeology and Montréal’s past. Three dig areas, adjoining others from previous summers and each covering about 8 square metres, were awaiting them. This season’s goals were to continue sampling the soil on the site and consolidate knowledge from previous years. In the course of their five-week internships, the students would be exploring soil from the seven periods of occupation in the site’s history.
The 2007 campaign, from May 7 to June 8, gave us a chance to build on our previous findings concerning the layout of Fort Ville-Marie. In 2007, the digs were carried out in an area where a masonry structure had been partially unearthed in 2006. At the time, archaeologists were able to confirm that it was indeed a wall from Fort Ville-Marie, but its purpose remained a mystery. This year, the hypothesis that it might be a building serving an artisanal function was confirmed when a deposit of ferrous slag, mineral coal and ash was unearthed.
Archaeological research during the 2006 season, from May 1 to June 2, followed up on the results of the previous digs, which had confirmed the presence of the remains of Fort Ville-Marie, erected by Maisonneuve and his companions.
The 2005 dig season brought some exceptional discoveries at 214 Place D’Youville.
Excitement was running high at the start of the 2004 dig campaign. The team would finally be exploring a large expanse of the archaeological contexts associated with the French Regime. Everyone was looking forward to some thrilling discoveries.
In 2003, the archaeologists decided to expand the dig site perimeter, to give them an overview of the occupation of the entire site. This meant that most of the digs that year were limited to the upper layers, corresponding to periods after 1805. These digs provided a better picture of commercial activities throughout the 19th century, in both space and time.
In summer 2002, 25 m² of cement floor were removed in the former warehouse of the Townsend ship chandlers, marking the launch of the first archaeological dig campaign at BjFj-101. For the first season, the team set itself two objectives. First, to verify whether there were actually remains of a stone structure presumably associated with Governor Callière's residence and, second, to continue taking samples from the site to better understand the chronology of the stratigraphic deposits and their content.