Spade & the Grave

death and burial through an archaeological lens


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Curious Canadian Cemeteries: Union Cemetery, Calgary, Alberta

We’re heading back west for this week’s Curious Canadian Cemeteries installment (ok I know its been a few weeks, but there is work to do and papers to write!), lets take a look at the famous (and rather large) Union Cemetery in Calgary, Alberta.

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Funeral procession at Union Cemetery, Calgary, 1911. (Glenbow Archives, NA-2315-6)

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Curious Canadian Cemeteries: St. Saviour’s Anglican Cemetery, Penticton, British Columbia.

Hello there, death and burial aficionados! I come to you today with a new series that I’m starting on Spade & the Grave called ‘Curious Canadian Cemeteries’ (cemeteries because it works for the 3 C’s, not because I totally agree with the term for all sites). Recently, I’ve noticed that a lot of publications that talk about burial sites around the world tend to gloss over Canadian sites, and I’d love to bring a few of the amazing burial grounds across the country into a bit of the spotlight! So if you have any interesting suggestions, I’d love to hear them! I’m going to try to make this either a weekly or bi-weekly feature on the blog, amidst other posts as I think of them.

Burial grounds, graveyards, cemeteries…whatever the terminology is for the site, every one holds a unique history and place within the landscape. While large, famous sites like Mount Auburn Cemetery or the Granary in Boston see visitors every day due to their publicity (and amazing monuments), there are hundreds of smaller burial grounds across North America and the world, that have just as rich of a back story, but might not be quite so obvious to the burial ground visitor on the go. Sites like these were meant to be visited, cared for, and enjoyed. They were created for the living just as much as the dead, and visiting historical burial grounds isn’t morbid. So without further adieu, lets virtually visit some unique burial grounds, from across Canada!

For my first post in the series, I wanted to feature a graveyard from one of my childhood homes (we moved a lot!), and the place that I lived in for the longest:
Penticton, British Columbia.

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Skaha Lake, looking south towards Okanagan Falls (Image from westjet.com)

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Winter Corpses: What to do with Dead Bodies in colonial Canada

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Dead house in Nain, Labrador (Jarvis 1995. From the Memorial University of Newfoundland-Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory

Welcome back, dear readers, to another installment of a blog about burial practices and archaeology! Today I’d like to talk about something that is close to by heart (as the result of arguing about it during my thesis): What did people do with their dead bodies during the winter, in colonial Canada?! Well, there are a few options to discuss but the short answer is…

Keep them.
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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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Search for the 17th-century Ferryland burial ground, 2017: Introduction

Tomorrow is the day! The 2017 excavation at Ferryland is finally going to start and I couldn’t be more excited! (That’s a lie, I will be more excited when I get on site tomorrow). I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you all a bit more about this year’s excavation and where I am taking it for the next 4 weeks. I’ll be blogging every week about the latest adventures and finds as well and I hope you all come along for the ride!

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Map made by Robyn Lacy & Bryn Tapper, 2017.

This is a map I made under the guidance of Bryn Tapper, a PhD candidate in my department who knows way more about GIS that I do! It’s an aerial photo of the Ferryland harbour, centered on the 17th-century British settlement area in the Pool, with a later, known burial ground circled in red on the left side of the image. The Pool refers to that little curl of land in the middle of the image, which formed naturally, if you can believe it! It’s the perfect little protected harbour, and deep enough to bring ships into, making it a wonderful location for a small settlement 400 years ago.
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Death & Commemoration at Ferryland – What we know so far.

I did say that my next post was going to be about the Ferryland gravestones, so here we are! Before I can get into the stone analysis bit though, we first need to discuss death at Ferryland.

Ferryland had long been known as a good harbour before the establishment of the 1621 settlement. In fact, there have been Beothuk hearths found at Ferryland, but their relationship (if any) with migratory European fishermen prior to the settlement being founded is unknown. The natural spit that juts out into the water creates a protected harbour, breaking waves and keeping boats sheltered from the harsh Atlantic storms. It was a natural place for people to want to live, and to die.
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