History of the Dig
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.
From the Earth to the Lab
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. 2023 Season begins June 12th.