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Dig near the Museum of Industry unearths local history

Brian Knight works near an old brick vent support wall, which was originally dug up nearly 30 years ago.
Brian Knight works near an old brick vent support wall, which was originally dug up nearly 30 years ago.

More of Pictou County’s industrial past saw the light of day over the weekend.

“The artifacts on the site, they don't just belong to me or whoever digs them up, they belong to everybody in the province, so it’s my responsibility to make sure that everything is actually recorded, ” says Laura de Boer, an archaeologist with Industrial Heritage of Nova Scotia.

De Boer helped lead an archaeology dig near the Museum of Industry in Stellarton, where beginning in 1827, a foundry stood for decades as part of the earliest large-scale coal mining in Nova Scotia.

De Boer helped lead a dig on these grounds a year ago, where thousands of artifacts were uncovered. They would subsequently be cleaned, processed and catalogued for storage, as would the items that were unearthed this past weekend.

Well over 20 signed up for the morning shift on Saturday and more would be getting their hands dirty later Saturday and also Sunday, guided by de Boer and several other professional archaeologists.

“It’s the thrill of discovery, exploring the past through physical objects,” de Boer said, as around her, amateur archaeologists slowly dug up history, carefully turning over the soil, sifting through the mud, finding pieces of brick, metal and glass, and even part of a hobnail shoe, which has nailheads inserted in them to help provide traction – probably worn by an employee more than a century ago.

“You get so many people say ‘oh, I always wanted to be an archaeologist.’ We’re giving them the opportunity to be one today.”

Michelle Hicks spent some time studying archaeometry in Greece a couple years back. Now living in New Glasgow, she showed up on Saturday to take part in the dig.

“This is actually a chance to do some hands-on stuff,” she said.

“It's history and local culture. It’s just fun to discover something.”

The area is a national historic site, recognized by the federal government because of the importance of Nova Scotia's coal mining industry to the development of Canada. The first coal pits were located behind where the museum now sits.

Three previous digs were conducted at the site back in the 1980s and 1990s, leading to the discovery of the walls of the foundry. 

The foundry was built to support the mine established by the General Mining Association in 1827.

 

 

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