Sections

‘A heritage catastrophe’: Upcoming artifact event in East Port l’Hebert highlights importance of local heritage


Published on August 3, 2017

Matthew Betts, curator for eastern archeology with the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., will be at the Harrison Lewis Coastal Discovery Centre in Port l'Hebert Aug. 22.

©Canadian Museum of History

East Port l’Hebert, NS - Anyone with artifacts is invited to share, talk or learn about them at the Harrison Lewis Coastal Discovery Centre in East Port l’Hebert Aug. 22.

The idea behind the show and learn called ‘What’s the Point,’ says Dirk Van Loon, executive director of the centre , is to help put together the picture of the indigenous community.

“We’ll identify it for them, we’ll tell them how old it is, what it was used for (and) who may have used it,” said Matthew Betts, the curator for eastern archeology with the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.

“What we’ll ask from them in return is to tell us on a map where they found the site and what they might know about it.”

Betts says this will help identify endangered sites and those locations that might not be endangered. He also says it will help involve and educate the community about erosion and the risk of climate change.

‘What’s the Point’ is part of the Harrison Lewis Coastal Discovery Centre’s Never-2-Old (N2O) program.

Betts says anyone interested is welcome to attend the event, whether they have artifacts or not. Additionally, there will be a digital component with a Twitter or Facebook feed, so people can send photos of artifacts.

Local heritage important: Betts

Archeological surveying is takes time and resources. One of the ways to involve the community and reduce the workload is to ask locals what they know about the archeology of their areas, said Betts.

 “We’re in the midst of a heritage catastrophe in Nova Scotia,” he said.

He says archeological sites along the coast are being endangered by the rising sea level caused by climate change.

Betts’ latest project will be to look for earlier sites and assess the impact of erosion on these sites.

“We’re dong this with full collaboration of Acadia First Nation because most of the sites are pre-historic sites that are being impacted, and of course it’s their history that’s being washed into sea,” he said. “We need their involvement to figure out which sites are most important to salvage [and] which sites are most important to put our resources toward.”

The project is called COASTAL, which stands for Community Observation Assessment and Salvage of Threatened Archeological Legacy. He says the word community is in the acronym because Acadia First Nation is involved and because it’s a partnership with the Nova Scotia Museum. There’s also close communication with the Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative.

“My archeological research is primarily focused on the south shore of Nova Scotia,” said Betts.

Port Joli has a large number of shell middens, or refuse heaps, he said.

“But they’re composed of a large number – usually thousands or sometimes tens of thousands – of clamshells.”

Artifacts don’t preserve very well in Nova Scotia soils because of high acidity. He says the clamshells are full of calcium carbonate, which leaches into the soil and reduces acidity.

“In Nova Scotia in general, Port Joli’s known to have one of the densest concentration of shell middens in the entire province,” he said.

That’s what drew Betts to Port Joli.

He also worked on a project in Port Joli Harbour excavated between 2008 and 2012. He finished most of the analysis this year and is writing a book about the archeology of Port Joli he says should be out early next year.

“One of the interesting things we discovered about Port Joli is that it doesn’t have a history that descends much before 1,500 years ago,” said Betts. “That was completely unexpected.”  

The event is scheduled to happen from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Van Loon says he would like to people to try to RSVP if they plan to attend the session. To do so, visit http://www.harrisonlewiscentre.org/about-us/.

 

If you go: The Harrison Lewis Coastal Discovery Centre is located at 339 Sandy Bay Rd. in East Port l’Hebert