Spade & the Grave

death and burial through an archaeological lens


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Tales from the Trenches: Ferryland Week 3, 2017

Here we are, 3/4 weeks complete for the 2017 field season!
Cumulatively, this makes my 9th week excavating at Ferryland in search of the 17th-century burials. Lets go over what we uncovered this passed week, and then I’d like to talk about visitors to public archaeology sites and what we know so far about the burial ground!

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Tales from the Trenches: Fieldwork Week 2, 2017 (or, why does this keep happening?)

Halfway through through the fieldwork season, and I already cannot believe the amount of earth we’ve moved in pursuit of the burial ground! It’s amazing, thank you to the week 1 & 2 crews for all the hard work you put in, I couldn’t have gotten this far without all of you (and your digging hands)!

It was an amazing week over all, so lets dive right in to what we got up to at Ferryland last week:

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17th-century building rubble from the brewhouse dismantling. We found lots of early-mid-17th-century objects between the fallen stones, as well as rich organic soil, charcoal, burned bones, and other organic material. Photo by author, 2017.

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Temporary Graves – Burial in Luxembourg & the Transmortality Conference 2017

I recently had the honour of presenting some of my research at the Transmortality Conference in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. The conference dealt with the themes of materiality and spatiality of death and dying historically and in modernity, and as my research mainly deals with spatial aspects of burial landscapes, I was beyond excited to attend and present at the conference, and chat with like-minded researchers from all over the world!
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The Transmortality project is being conducted by Université du Luxembourg, and if you’re interested in their work, there will be a special issue of the journal Mortality coming out on the theme in 2019. More information on the project can be found here: https://transmortality.uni.lu/
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Outsourcing Monuments? – Gravestone carving VS. importation in Newfoundland

20160911_144257In a place often referred to as ‘The Rock’, it sounds a bit redundant to be importing gravestones, but for a period in the 18th-early 19th century, that is exactly what people in Newfoundland were doing. By people, I of course mean people who could afford to have gravestone carved overseas and shipped across the ocean. There are locally carved gravestones as well going back to the 17th-century! I even have a puzzle for all of you gravestone enthusiasts out there, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
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Ground Penetrating Radar in search of Graves – Newfoundland Edition

This morning I thought it might be fun to talk about geophysical scanning techniques.

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SmartCart with 500mhz antenna, GPR survey at Tors Cover, 2016. Photo by author.

If you are coming to this blog knowing about what I was up to in the field last year, or having read my CAA poster last week, you’ll know that I attempted a wide-scale Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey at Ferryland, Newfoundland, in May of 2016, with the help of our wonderful curator and GPR tech, Maria Lear. I was looking for anomalies in the results that could indicate a burial in the subsoil, either high-contrast anomalies that might suggest a coffin or coffin hardware or a depression or slump in the soil layers where a grave had settled over time. What were my results? We’ll get to that in a moment!

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Fallout Bunker Burials

I recently had the opportunity to visit Ottawa & Gatineau to attend the 50th Canadian Archaeology Association Conference, hosted by the Canadian Museum of History. It was an amazing meeting, and gave me the chance not only do discuss my research with a ton of Canadian archaeologists from all across the country and hear some really ridiculous stories, but also to connect with people whom until then I had only known through a digital network (twitter).

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There were several very interesting talks on indigenous and historic burials at the conference, including several on remote sensing of graves (that is for another day, however!). After the conference, I got the opportunity to go on a tour of the Diefenbunker! It’s one of those sites that you hear about in high school social studies, giggle at the name of, and then don’t think about again until it comes up in the list of events at your conference. I knew I had to be on the tour, but I didn’t know that part of the tour was going to be about death! Lucky me, rightContinue reading


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Welcome to Spade & the Grave

Good morning.

As I sit here trying to decide what to decide what exactly one is supposed to write to open a website up, to really invite people in, I can’t help but glance at my ‘academic’ bookshelf. There probably shouldn’t be quotations around that, that categorizes most of my books! There are books on medieval churches, old museums, lithic technologies, geoarchaeology, gravestone scripts, and the list goes on and on. The running theme between them all? Everyone that they talk about, all of the past peoples who used to populate the cities and countrysides of the world, have long since died.

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But that’s what archaeology is, isn’t it? We study the past, and that means dealing with mortality on a near-daily basis. As someone who originally intended to go into maritime archaeology and ‘got distracted’ in a graveyard during my field field school, I think about death and dying pretty regularly. My own research is fairly landscape based (we’ll talk about that later), but in order to get to a spatial analysis I have to understand why certain spaces may have been used as they were, which means trying to death and burial practices, anxieties, and ideals for lots of different groups of people.

This blog was created after several colleagues and many visitors to the dig asked if I had a website. Spade & the Grave will contain aspects of my ongoing research, fieldwork updates during the summer, and interesting explorations into death and burial as I come across them. I hope you all enjoy, and get in touch if you want to know more!

Welcome to Spade & the Grave.

(photos are my own)