Spade & the Grave

death and burial through an archaeological lens


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Community Mortuary Archaeology & Folklore – New Perlican, Newfoundland

This Saturday I was invited to speak at and participate in a community heritage & folklore event in the town of New Perlican, Newfoundland. New Perlican is located on the eastern coast of the Avalon Peninsula, and has dated back to the 17th-century through records such as the 1675 Berry Census and archaeological evidence of a ‘plantation’ in the area. It is suspected that several of John Guy’s settlers from the 1610 Cupid’s Plantation may have settled in New Perlican in the early 17th century, but there has yet to be any physical evidence of that move identified.

The event I was involved with was a collaboration between the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and Heritage New Perlican, and involved something really that I’m pretty passionate about…burial grounds! Students and community volunteers would join us for the day to learn about the history burial places in this historic town, hear about the town’s history from members of the Heritage group, meet the cemetery cleaning ‘Goats of New Perlican’, and help the community clean up one of their most historic burial spaces. I was there as an additional help supervising the students, to answer questions on burials and gravestones (and have some awesome conversations about headstone preservation with local folks!), and to give a talk about my research as a historic mortuary archaeologist. Also, to map a bunch of gravestones!
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Robyn’s Guide to Master’s Thesis Writing, or, How I Scheduled Everything.

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The victorious, tired grad student!

This is my first post in about a month, so I thought I’d start by updating you all about what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks!

Basically, I finished my thesis draft in the two weeks after my fieldwork was completed (and the last post was written). Guys, I did it, I wrote my thesis!!

I added in the rest of the fieldwork information, updated references and formatting, and wrote all of the discussion and conclusion sections before sending it over to my supervisor for the rest of the edits. When I got the edits back, I made the changes, got everything prepped, and sent it off as a PDF in it’s final form. My thesis is out for review now, you guys! It’s been in review for a few weeks now, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that it comes back to me soon!

As my friend Steph Halmhofer just did a post about how she put her thesis together, I was inspired to do the same. Everyone has different and interesting ways of approaching a project the size of a masters thesis and it’s always interesting to see their processes! I wanted to share mine, along with any advice from my experience that might be useful for future grad students.

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Tales from the Trenches: Ferryland Week 4, 2017. The Final Push

Well here we are, the final week of my Masters excavation! The title of this post may say week 4, but including last year’s dig this would be week 10. Week 10! For a Masters, I believe that is a bit more time spent digging than was necessary for the degree, but in terms of pursuing the questions I was asking… maybe it wasn’t enough time?
We’ll have to wait and see! We got up to quite a bit at Ferryland this week, and I spent part of the week gathering my thoughts about the research, the end of a major part of my project, and what conclusions we can draw from the results.

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I’m standing up in this photo! The trench got a little deep towards the end of the week. Photo by Ian Petty, 2017.

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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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Tales from the Trenches: Fieldwork Week 1, 2017.

It’s time.
The trowels are cleaned*, the boots are dusted off**, and the car is ready and full of excited and bright eyed volunteers***. The fieldwork season has begun!

*it’s never really going to be clean again, is it?
**Same goes for the boots, they are as dusty as ever
*** No one isĀ thatĀ bright eyed at 6:30AM!

If you remember from my last post, I had indicated where I was going to be excavating this summer by a large circle on the map. Of course, I’m not going to be digging literally all of the space inside that circle but a few select trenches to get a better idea of what is going on in the subsurface.

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The first trench laid out over the gravel slope. It’s mostly slopewash and debris from above, and parts of the area were previously excavated so the ground lever was actually much higher than it currently appears to be! 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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