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Nowhere did the numbers of seventeenth-century ceramics, tobacco pipes and other objects approach those that littered the shores of The Pool and every builder’s trench and garden.

Dr. James A. Tuck, 1996.

From local residents finding artifacts on the beach, to the discovery of a silver snuff spoon with the engraved initials S.K. in the late 1800s, to today’s professional excavations…. Archaeological discoveries of one sort or another have taken place in Ferryland for centuries.

Prior to the start of major archaeological excavations by Dr. James Tuck and his team in 1992, a number of successful small excavations had been conducted around The Pool (Ferryland’s inner harbour). Test pits were dug in the 1930s by Dr. Brooks, an entomologist or “bug doctor” from Baltimore, Maryland and in the 1950s by J.R. Harper, for the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. In 1968, a more serious test excavation was conducted by Memorial University of Newfoundland. It revealed a slate drain and many seventeenth-century artifacts.

Additional text digs were carried out in the 1970s, but then, in the 1980s, a three-year excavation was
mounted at four sites. The results of these and subsequent excavations confirmed three things. First, that the location of Calvert’s Colony of Avalon was indeed around The Pool. Second, that the Colony was better preserved than anyone could have hoped for. And third, that the site was deeper, richer and more complex than anyone imagined.

Now under the direction of Memorial University’s Dr. Barry Gaulton, ongoing excavations have revealed the locations and designs of many original structures including the Mansion House, forge, brewery and bakehouse, stores, well, seawalls and a sea-flushed privy; uncovered an impressive stretch of cobblestone road; and unearthed more than two million seventeenth-century artifacts. Pretty impressive considering archaeologists have uncovered just 35% of Calvert’s original four-acre site.

mansion house 2007

Figure 3 2008 report





Bottle Seals

Wine bottle seals are a molten glob of glass placed on the shoulder of a bottle and impressed with a circular seal. The colony’s extensive glass collection contains 19 bottle seals, eight of which date to the 17th century.

All 19 have the initials or names of private individuals on them. Of the nine seals containing initials, three contain a third initial that represents a spouse’s given name. One of these seals also carries the date 1723, perhaps the year the couple married.

Gold Rings

Gold Rings

Two women’s gold rings were unearthed in the fireplace of the Mansion House. It’s believed these rings were hidden beneath the stones during the 1696 French raid on the Colony.

Ancient Cross

Copper Crucifix

The small find that made a big splash! Discovered June 4, 2015 by archaeology student Anna Sparrow, this tiny Catholic cross symbolizes early dreams of religious freedom in North America.

The copper crucifix is 2.8 cm wide and shows a simple representation of Christ on the front and the Virgin Mary and Christ Child on the back. Dating from between 1623 and 1628, it is the first unequivocally Catholic artifact from that period found in Ferryland.

Back in 17th century England, it was not uncommon for Catholics to be fined, imprisoned, or even put to death for practicing their faith. The Colony of Avalon was founded as a place where all Christians could enjoy freedom of religion without fear of persecution. The presence of a Catholic crucifix at the Colony in the 1620s suggests this vision had started to take shape.

Grape Seeds

Charred grape seeds, discovered in Beothuk hearths dating from the 1500s. Since grapes have never grown wild in Newfoundland, they must have come from either wine or raisins obtained from Europeans. Evidence of peaceful trade? Perhaps.



dig-3 dig-4


Over two decades of excavation at the Colony of Avalon has unearthed one of the best collections of 17th-century material culture in North America.

During our dig season, we discover approximately 3,000 artifacts each week. Each of these artifacts receives a field tag containing a brief description along with its exact location, depth below surface, date of excavation and excavator’s name.

The artifact and tag are bagged together and taken to the Archaeology Laboratory on the second floor of our Visitor centre for cleaning and cataloguing.

There, more detailed records are filled out and filed. Artifacts may be restored for display or placed in collections storage in a secure and carefully controlled environment.

See for yourself! The Colony’s Archaeology Lab is open to the public. Access is included in regular admission. 2022 Season begins June 13th.

See What’s Happening!


Silver Coin

This William III silver sixpence was found in a midden outside of the Colon

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Mouth Harp

This Mouth Harp is a small musical instrument used in the 17th century.  I

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Bale Seal

Known as a lead cloth Bale Seal, this artifact could have been used for sev

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View recent reports and publications related to the research taking place at the Colony of Avalon archaeological site.

Field Reports

Archaeology at Ferryland 2016 – By Barry Gaulton, Catherine Hawkins and Robyn Lacy