What have you learned while being on this field course?
This field course has been an important learning experience for me. While it is not my first excavation, it has provided me with a new context within which to work as well new techniques and methodology. I have a much better understanding of soil composition, stratigraphy and their significance. Furthermore, the project has been an exciting introduction to GIS, which I hope to learn more about in the future as it allows for virtual reconstruction of a site in 3D space. Beyond methodology, I have been given an opportunity to learn about the histories of Montreal and the surrounding region, a city I have called home for nearly 5 years. More broadly, my supervisors and peers have taught me much about leadership and teamwork and how to approach an archeological project in a scientifically rigorous and socially responsible way.
What do you think about contributing to archaeological research in the region?
I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to contribute to archaeological research in this region. As a Canadian and resident of Quebec, I am glad to have an opportunity to better understand the histories of my figurative backyard. We have a tendency to sensationalize foreign and monumental civilizations, while neglecting local histories. Worldwide archeological exploration remains necessary to our understanding of humanity, and I believe that local archaeologies are an essential piece of that puzzle.
How has the public aspect of this project added to your experience?
Archaeologists do research for a variety of reasons, but I do not think we should feel as if they have ownership of their findings. Rather, narratives of the past belong to all possible stakeholders: indigenous communties, the residents of Verdun and Quebec, Canadians, travellers, educators and students. By conducting a public archaeology project, we have been able to involve the community throughout our dig. I have heard stories of artifacts found in backyards, the dances that used to be held in Maison Nivard as well as interesting theories of how the land has been used. Further, it has been highly rewarding to be able to share some of my passion for archaeology and this site with visitors and school groups. The excitement of the community and young people further affirms my conviction of the importance of archaeology as a pursuit both academically and socially.
What is the most interesting artifact you’ve found this summer?
The most interesting artifact I have found this summer is a historic shoe heel. I found it 10-20cm down in the historical layer of trench 20, close to Maison Nivard, on the second week of the dig. While a shoe heel is perhaps a mundane and utilitarian thing to most, it is significant in an archaeological context due to its craftmanship and the mystery of whom it may have belonged to. It was meticulously constructed with layers of hide, cut into a horseshoe shape and then nailed tightly together. I admire the craftsmanship that allowed it to remain intact for perhaps over 300 years. I am further interested in what it can tell us about who it belonged to. In a sense, it’s mundane qualityness only adds to its significance, as shoes are items essential to many people’s daily lives, past and present. The trench’s close proximity to Maison Nivard leads me to wonder if it belonged to a nun of the Congration of Notre-Dame-de-Grace, a theory perhaps corroborated by its small size. While much of my approach to anthropology and archaeology is scientific in method, my inspiration for pursuing a career in this field remains a fascination with the human experience in time and space.