Top News

Recent archeology dig at The Hawk in Shelburne County provides interesting finds

From left, Tanya Schnare, Jessica Munaittrick and Martin Hubley (curator of history for the Nova Scotia Museum) sifted through earth dug by archeologist John Campbell from one of the formations on The Hawk Beach containing rocks thought to be part of the manmade structure that has puzzled local residents for years.
From left, Tanya Schnare, Jessica Munaittrick and Martin Hubley (curator of history for the Nova Scotia Museum) sifted through earth dug by archeologist John Campbell from one of the formations on The Hawk Beach containing rocks thought to be part of the manmade structure that has puzzled local residents for years. - Kathy Johnson

SHELBURNE COUNTY, N.S. – The Hawk is not giving up its secrets very easily.

An archeology dig that started Aug. 12 and wrapped up Aug. 25 on the remains of a manmade structure in the intertidal zone on The Hawk Beach on Cape Sable Island made for some interesting finds, but many questions remain.

Led by archeologist and Memorial University graduate student John Campbell, excavation work was done at several sites, including the hillock along the beach, a big hill behind the intertidal zone and in the intertidal zone. Mapping of the site was done using a real time kinematic (RTK) device and metal detection was carried out.

With the excavations, “what we’ve found is an absence of any cultural materials except for beer cans and bullet casings in the hillock in the intertidal zone,” and in the big hill, the cellar of the 1800s home of Willard Atwood, said Campbell. “In the intertidal zone we’ve located some fishing gear, some more modern lures, maybe an older cod jig and a couple of clasps that are a mystery at the moment, but we’re going to do some research to see what those are.

Red flags dotted the beachscape on The Hawk near posts that were part of a manmade structure being investigated by archeologist and Memorial University graduate student John Campbell. KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO
Red flags dotted the beachscape on The Hawk near posts that were part of a manmade structure being investigated by archeologist and Memorial University graduate student John Campbell. KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO

“We’ve also done some mapping with the RTK device to see what the layout of this structure might have been, and the layout is not at this moment a sheep pen or a weir,” said Campbell. “It looks more to be potentially ship cribbing. A cribbing dock for ship repair or ship building, a wharf or a stage. There seems to be a breakwater to it and we don’t quite know the age of it yet because of the absence of the artifacts.”

Campbell said they were able to uncover evidence of cribbing. “Based on the mapping we have done it doesn’t look to be a pen and it’s certainly not a weir. There are no posts or stakes on the side of it, so nothing is going perpendicular to the coastline. It’s all two rows and that to me is more indicative of a structure.”

Campbell said one stake is being taken for a dendrochronological analysis, which measures the tree rings and gives a timeframe of when it was cut. From that information, as well what has been learned during the archeological dig, Campbell hopes to determine what the age range of the structure might be. Campbell suspects it is 18th century or earlier.

Further analysis is also going to be done on fragments of red roofing tiles found on a cobble shelf just south of the dig.

“We did find some that can potentially give us a size of the tiles and to my indication personally I’m more inclined to say of Basque origin or origin of Iberian Peninsula culture, so we would have southwestern France, Spain and Portugal as a potential, but the Basque were known to be in this region historically in the 16th to 17th century … Clay and sand and inclusions that are in there will tell us the location of their origins and will give us a date range and we can figure where they originated from and who may have brought it over and when.”

As part of the archeological investigation at The Hawk, Campbell said it has “also been prudent to gauge and address the effects of coastal erosion in the region, as well the effects erosion and climate change take on the ecological environment here and all the ecological inhabitants of the area ...”

Campbell will file a report on his findings with the province and the Nova Scotia Museum. He also will do a conference presentation in Halifax in October at the Conference for the Council for Northeastern Archaeology, and in the future will do a talk at the Fisheries Museum in Lunenburg.

“The mystery continues to a degree, but I think we’ll be able to try and figure out the date range,” said Campbell, adding “like all other archeology excavations, the excavation is the beginning point.”

Recent Stories