• The Dig Site

    The Dig Site

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.

  • We had a wonderful visit!

    We had a wonderful visit! Lulu and Lori were so knowledgeable and kind. The made us feel like family.
  • You aren’t done exploring NL if this isn’t on your list!

    Really knowledgeable + fun tour guides. you aren't done exploring NL, if this isn't on your list. We got a family pass which averaged out to $14 p/p which is amazing value- considering all the knowledge the tour guides would have learnt to present it in a easily digestiable way for tourists, well done!
  • I was fascinated by this history

    The Museum Center is very easy to get to just off the main road. The people are phenomenally polite. The museum admission price is reasonable and the staff has done an amazing job put together the history of the site. The combination of artefacts and document research shows a vibrant community of various faiths living together in a new land. As someone from Maryland I was fascinated by this history and the connection of Maryland to this place. Go - it is worth the time and energy.
  • Very cool active archaeological site

    Very cool active archaeological site with tons of interesting history on the settlement and power struggles of NFLD. Walking through the cobblestone paths was a treat, and the sweeping shorelines and waves are amazing to enjoy. Would recommend a visit for sure when travelling along the Irish loop!
  • One of the best places to visit…

    We completed the Irish Loop and stopped in for a visit to explore the artifacts and items on display. This was one of our best places to visit on the Irish Loop.
  • So fascinating!

    And the walk up to the lighthouse was worth it! The museum there, the ladies were very helpful and shared some very cool stories and full of knowledge! I’m jealous of where they live and their jobs. History is just so fascinating for this tiny little area on the planet, you won’t be let down by coming here just to see it first hand. It’s a small little museum but very interesting!
    Scott H.

Follow Us

Last day for most of our team until next year. Saying goodbye to sunny days in the lab (at least for now ☀️).
We’re now closed for the season ✨ Thank you so much to our lovely staff and our visitors who made this year so memorable. We hope to see you next June!
Rainy days are lab days. One of the last ones of the season before we close 🌧🥲
🌧 Due to the poorly weather we’re closing today but we’ll be open again tomorrow for visitors. Thanks for your understanding 🌧
Uh oh, pirates and a colonist? We know how that story ends....
Recreating history here at the Newfoundland Ren Fair!
✨Come check us out at the Renaissance Fair this weekend! We have wares if you have coin ✨
We’ve got some lovely rocks being painted this colony day 🎨✨
Some finds (animal bones) from the defensive ditch. Do you think the tooth fairy takes late admissions 🧐✨