The ancient site, called Nanook, was first discovered in the 1960s by Dr. Moreau Maxwell of Michigan State University.
Dr. Maxwell identified it as a Dorset Paleo-Eskimo site although he noted anomalies in the architectural remains, and obtained a series of radiocarbon dates ranging from 754 BC to 1367 CE.
Among the artifacts recovered by the archaeologist in association with the unusual architectural remains was a small stone vessel.
Dr. Sutherland and her colleagues from the Geological Survey of Canada-Ottawa and Peter H. Thompson Geological Consulting Ltd have now discovered that the interior of the vessel contains fragments of bronze as well as small spherules of glass.
The object, according to the scientists, is a crucible for melting bronze, likely in order to cast it into small tools or ornaments. Indigenous peoples of northern North America did not practice high-temperature metalworking.
“The object is 48 mm tall and has a straight sloping base meeting the slightly convex lateral wall at an angle of approximately 140 degrees. The base of the complete object may have been keel-shaped,” Dr. Sutherland and her co-authors described the find in a paper published in the journal Geoarchaeology.
“The artifact appears to have been roughly circular in plan, with diameter expanding from >35 mm at the base to >48 mm at the rim. The base is 15 mm thick, with the walls tapering to a thickness of 6 mm at the rim.
The exterior is smoothly finished, but portions of the interior are scarred by scratching or scraping.”
“An irregular break cuts across roughly the center of the vessel, indicating that approximately half is missing.”
According to the team, small ceramic crucibles were employed in nonferrous metalworking throughout the Viking world.
“We are aware of only one stone crucible, which was recovered from a Viking Age context in Rogaland, Norway.”
“Small crucibles with a circular plan and either flat or conical bases have been recovered from Early Mediaeval sites in the British Isles including one stone specimen from Garranes in Ireland.”
“The presence of bronze traces in the crucible from Baffin Island is notable, as brass (copper-zinc alloy) is more characteristic of finds from Scandinavia.”
Dr. Sutherland said: “the crucible adds an intriguing new element to this emerging chapter in the early history of northern Canada.”
“It may be the earliest evidence of high-temperature nonferrous metalworking in North America to the north of what is now Mexico.”
The remains of a military complex that predates both the Confederation and the foundation of Ottawa are buried under the flowers, trees and statues dotting Parliament Hill’s grounds.
Since April, an archeology team has been working to unravel the complex’s ruins as part of Center Block’s ongoing renovations.
What they’ve uncovered so far — barracks, an old guardhouse, and what was the former city of Bytown’s first jail — is just a small tidbit of what may be to come.
The complex contains the remnants of what existed on Parliament Hill before Centre Block was built, during the time the Rideau Canal was first being constructed.
“This was the headquarters for the entire canal construction for the soldiers,” said Stephen Jarrett, archeology project manager with Centrus, a consortium providing architectural and engineering services for the Centre Block rehabilitation project.
Coins, military tags, other items
The canal’s construction was overseen by Lt. Col. John By, for whom Bytown was named.
Three barracks, a guardhouse, a jail, stables, and cookhouses were all built on the north half of the hill starting in 1826 for the Royal Sappers and Miners Regiment, who were tasked with the backbreaking work of digging out more than 200 kilometers of earth from the Ottawa River to Kingston, Ont.
The items uncovered so far include a range of military items: chin straps, tags, gorgets — which officers often wore to hold their neckties in place — and other domestic items, like coins.
Check the outhouses
But there might be more left to uncover, in a somewhat unusual spot: the privies.”It’s an excellent place to dispose of things,” said Jarrett.
The complex had several multi-chambered outhouses to accommodate the 150 soldiers, plus around 40 of their wives, who all lived in the barracks.
With no modern-day plumbing, it doesn’t take much to imagine the odour.”You need to keep the smell down from the human waste, and so you put fill layers on top in order to keep the smell down,” Jarrett said.”So that comes with all the broken dishes and anything else that can help keep that smell down.
“One such latrine was built south of where the entrance to the Senate is now, near the east side of Centre Block. But there are likely many more dotting Parliament Hill.”
Privies fill up over time,” Jarrett said. “So they do get moved through time, as well.”
Ottawa’s first jail
Bytown became a city and was renamed Ottawa on New Year’s Day, 1855.
Before Ottawa became the country’s capital — or even a city, for that matter — it was a small town that didn’t have a jail. Prisoners had to be held at the courthouse in Perth, Ont., instead.
The military had the only three cells in the community, located in the back of the jailhouse (which was later converted to a hospital).”The three cells were some of the only places to hold individuals properly,” Jarrett said. “So the military allowed the constables to hold prisoners inside their jailhouse until they were able to transport them all the way to [Perth].”Three years after Ottawa came into existence, it was named the capital of the United Province of Canada by Queen Victoria.
Soon afterward, the military complex was demolished so that the first parliament buildings could go up.
The excavation of the guardhouse and barracks is set to be completed by the fall. It’s expected to cost around $1.2 million and is being paid for by Public Services and Procurement Canada as part of the budget for the Centre Block renovations.
The artifacts will be cleaned and analyzed by the department before being put on display for the public.
Why this retired archeologist is convinced New Brunswick is home to a lost Viking settlement
Did Vikings visit New Brunswick’s Miramichi and Chaleur Bay areas? According to the research done by Birgitta Wallace, senior archaeologist emerita with Parks Canada, they did.
“I’m really convinced that the Vikings did visit that area. Not all my colleagues would agree with me,” said the woman who’s been studying Vikings for 50 years.
While she is certain the Vikings did spend time in Miramichi and Chaleur Bay, she says she is not hopeful of ever finding anything to prove it.
Wallace said she determined that the second location that Vikings visited in North America, known as “Hóp,” meaning “tidal lagoon,” was in the Miramichi and Chaleur region after she studied the Vikings sagas. She also drew on her extensive work at L’Anse aux Meadows, located on the very northern tip of Newfoundland.
Sagas tell Viking history
The sagas are contained in medieval documentation from Iceland that goes back to the oral history of the Vikings. They were not written down until 300 years after the actual events occurred, so Wallace said the oral telling of the stories may have changed a bit over time. “There are two separate manuscripts…that talk about voyages to what must be North America because it’s land west and south of Greenland.”
Wallace said while Vikings settled on Iceland and then Greenland, they continued exploring — either by accident or intentionally – to new lands. “These were people who just settled in Greenland in 985. They were immigrating there from Iceland.” Wallace said when voyages began between Norway or Iceland and Greenland, it was inevitable that someone would get blown off course. She believes this is how they found North America.
The archaeologist said there are two versions of the story. One talks about Leif Erikson retracing the watery path of one of these off-course trips, but it only talks about one settlement where he built a base camp and made four expeditions.
The other story features a different person and combines all the expeditions into one that go between two areas: “Hóp,” meaning “tidal lagoon,” a summer camp and a settlement further north described as being in fjord.
“After working a lot with the L’Anse Meadows and what we found there, it’s really clear that L’Anse Meadows is base camp…it fits with everything,” said Wallace. “And from that camp… we know they went farther south and we know they must have gone as far south as eastern New Brunswick.”
Wallace believes those explorations were done through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which would have led the Vikings to find the Miramichi and Chaleur regions. Wallace based her conclusions on the finding of pieces of wood, butternuts and butternut wood at the L’Anse Meadows camp.”And butternuts have never grown north of northeastern New Brunswick. They are not native to either P.E.I. or Nova Scotia, so New Brunswick is the closest location.”
Wallace said the descriptions in the sagas match that part of N.B. well. “It talks about sandbars outside the coast, rivers and wonderful hardwoods and not the least, wild grapes. And it so happens that butternuts grow in pretty much the same location as grapes and ripen at the same time,” she said.
“So, whoever picked those nuts would have seen those grapes.”
Wallace said the area would have been considered of great importance because it was called Vinland in the saga, which means wine land.”Vinland wasn’t one particular spot, it was land like Iceland and Greenland, a country or region.”
The archaeologist says she believes about 40 men would spend 3 months exploring the region, sleeping in structures built with turf with no permanent roofs, just a canvas-like material.”And to find anything like that after 1,000 years, people that were very anxious I’m sure to take all their tools and belongings with them back, it’s not very likely that we can ever find particular, physical evidence like we do have in L’Anse Meadows.”
Encounters with Indigenous inhabitants
But Wallace points out another strong indication the Vikings visited the area is found in the strong similarities of the descriptions in Leif Erikson’s saga and Jacques Cartier’s journal.
“It is exactly the same type of description.” Her belief is strengthened by the saga’s description of the Vikings encounters with most of the Indigenous inhabitants at “Hóp.” “That would fit this area very well,” she said.
“It would be the ancestors of Mi’kmaq and you have Red Bank, Metepenagiag which has been inhabited for 3,000 years or more.” Wallace is finding the sudden interest in this part of the story of the Vikings’ expedition humorous considering she’s been researching and writing about it for several years. She thinks an article she recently had published is the reason. “Somehow, it grabbed people’s attention,” she said with a laugh. “The interest in Vikings is astounding to me.”
Low Water Levels Reveal Riverboat Artifacts in Canada
These days, take a walk along the Yukon River in Whitehorse and you may spot things you rarely see — historical objects and structures typically well hidden under water or ice.
“Like, here is a log cradle, or a crib, used to support sternwheelers when they were pulled out of the river in the winter,” archeologist Ty Heffner of the Yukon government said as he walked along the river bank.
Water in the Yukon River system is very low this spring. Vast gravel bars flank the stream in many areas, and Heffner says lots of artifacts can now be seen in the mud and rocks.
That might include anything from old rusty nails and wooden logs and planks, to iron fixtures. “If you think about all the activity that happened here, there were sternwheelers that were built here, there were sternwheelers that burned here.
There were warehouses and wharves and all kinds of activity — and the historical evidence here just relates to that,” Heffner said.
“People can come down here and have a look at these items, and it just provides that tangible link to the past.” Murray Lundberg, an amateur historian in Whitehorse, says there’s a lot to see.
Most of what he calls the “good stuff” — things made of copper or brass — has likely been removed over the years, but there’s a lot of wood and steel all over the place.”
Anywhere there’s a calm spot, there’s a pretty impressive deposit of artifacts, still,” Lundberg said.”One of the problems we have right now is that nothing’s ever been cataloged because we’ve never seen the river this low — so it all has potentially significant historical interest.”
Lundberg says that’s why it’s best if people don’t pocket the things they find. “Collectors have done a lot of damage to sites like this — not just here, but everywhere,” he said.
According to Heffner, removing an object could also be an offense under Yukon’s Historic Resources Act.
“People, you know, might not really think about that or realize that these are protected heritage resources and that they should not take it away,” Heffner said.”These pieces of our heritage are best left where they currently are.”