Picture of the Week

More than archaeology…

In addition to looking for historic resource sites when in the field we are always on the lookout for noxious weeds like these oxeye daisies. When we encounter them we report them to our clients so they can manage them appropriately. In this case the client requested that we pick them out by the roots so they could spray the area with herbicide before they went to seed.

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Photo of the Week

It’s that time of year again! The bears are waking up and the field workers are heading into bear territory. One of our archaeological field crews encountered this little guy in 2013 and found that he was a little less scared of them than the average bear.

Usually bears are skittish and will leave the area as soon as they know humans are around, especially if you have a noisy ATV running but this bear was a bit curious and stuck around long enough for a photo shoot. The crew scared him away and didn’t have another encounter. Remember to review your bear awareness training before heading into the bush for work or play!

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Keep an eye open for fresh bear sign while you are out and keep alert!

What should I do if I find an arrowhead?

It is not uncommon for farmers, gardeners and outdoors-men and women to find artifacts like arrowheads, spear points, stone axes and hammerstones. Farmers often find them in their fields after plowing. In fact many farmers have more impressive artifact collections than a lot of museums do! Click here to read about some of Alberta Culture’s work documenting artifact collections across the province.

One thing people often are not sure about is how to report finding an archaeological site and who to tell when they find an artifact. Reporting artifact finds can help archaeologists to better predict where other historic or archaeological sites are likely to be. The more sites we can identify the better our understanding the past gets. You never know, your find might be totally unique and groundbreaking. Maybe it’s the oldest spear point in Alberta! We can learn about and protect our historic resources better if we work together.

To report a find you can go to the Alberta Culture website link below:

http://culture.alberta.ca/heritage-and-museums/programs-and-services/archaeological-survey/archaeological-discoveries/default.aspx

from here you will be asked to provide a digital photo of the artifact, a location (can be a GPS coordinate, a legal land description, a permanent landmark or an image of a map), your phone number (optional) and your organization, institution or corporate affiliation (optional). This is the minimum but if you could add a description of what you found and the circumstances around your find that would be helpful too.

When you click on “Report your Discovery” you will be brought to a blank page with the email address for the Archaeological Information Coordinator in the address line. Simply email the above information to that address.

What Happens Next?

The Archaeological Information Coordinator will confirm that this is a new archaeological site and assign the site a Borden Number. The site will then be entered in to the Archaeological Site Inventory database which will help archaeologists to predict where other sites in the region are. If it is a known site, she will contact the archaeologist that initially recorded it and confirm with them that it is the same site and discuss whether a site form update is required for the site. If you provided a phone number when you reported the find you may get a follow up phone call to let you know the outcome of your report. When you find an artifact please leave it where you found it. Removing artifacts from where they were found means we might lose important information to help determine the age of the find and whether it is associated with other artifacts.

If you’re not sure that your find is an artifact, or are not sure what to do about it, you can contact us, call us toll free at 1-866-873-3846, or email [email protected]. We would love to hear about your find and can help to confirm what it is and help with the next steps. We can even take care of reporting it to Alberta Culture for you.

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Artifacts collected during the 1950s by tobacco pickers near Delhi, Ontario. Photos courtesy of Teresa Tremblay.

What is a Borden Number?

The Borden System is used to provide each archaeological site in Canada with a unique identifier, called a Borden Number. These identifiers consist of two parts – four letters (formatted AaBb) and a number separated by a dash. The letters represent the Borden block which is the geographical location of the site and the number indicates the sequence when it was identified.

The Borden System was invented by Charles E. Borden with the help of Wilson Duff in 1952 at the University of British Columbia. Charles E. Borden is sometimes referred to as the “grandfather of British Columbia archaeology” despite not having a background in archaeology. He was born in New York City in 1905 and then moved to Germany as an infant where he lived until at 22 he discovered that he was an American citizen. He returned to the United States and went to university in California to study German literature. Continue reading “What is a Borden Number?”

Why is Archaeology Important?

Archaeology provides us with the opportunity to learn about past cultures through the study of artifacts, animal bones and sometimes human bones. Studying these artifacts helps to provide us with some insight about what life was like for people who left behind no written record. In the case of historical archaeology the artifacts can help us to recognize that historic documents often don’t speak for all the people and can provide us with a picture of what life was like for people who are seldom responsible for the written record such as illiterate peasants in medieval Europe and pre-civil war era slave populations in the southern States of the USA.

In Canada and around the world archaeology has been used as evidence in court in the cases of Aboriginal land title claims to corroborate oral histories and to document land and resource use over time. Archaeology can be used to learn about the successes and failures of past cultures and societies. Knowing what has been tried in the past can help us to make better decisions about the future. Learning about archaeology and past lifeways can help to give us perspective about how life was compared to how it is today; this helps us to remember the hardships of people of the past and to recognize and respect that the technologies we take for granted today have been hard won by our ancestors.