Dig starts for lost Rocky fort

arks Canada archaeologists are digging at the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site in hopes of finding the fifth fort, which was used by the Hudson’s Bay Co. Last year, scans conducted by magnetom

Parks Canada archaeologists are digging at the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site in hopes of finding the fifth fort, which was used by the Hudson’s Bay Co.

Last year, scans conducted by magnetometry and ground-penetrating radar revealed two areas of interest where buildings may have been lcoated.

Brad Himour, a Parks Canada terrestrial archaeologist, said the scans found several anomalies they want to check out.

“We’ll do some testing and find out exactly what they are and figure out how to best protect them.”

Magnetometry picks up metal that may have been a part of the fifth fort, specifically nails used in the wooden foundation or other artifacts.

The radar provided an overview of where soils were intact and where soil would have been interrupted for the building of a foundation.

“Right now there is soil above most of the remains from the fur trade era,” said Himour.

“Part of that area was cultivated at one time, so there is about 20 cm of soil on top of the site.

“Other portions of the site are completely intact and they have remains on the surface.”

This year’s testing involves setting up one-metre-by-one-metre excavation units and digging slowly, about five to 10 cm layers, screening all the material that comes up.

“We have two targeted areas from there that look like they could be structural features,” said Himour.

“Those will probably be the first two places we test.

“One looks like it may be the corner location of where two walls may have met, it’s hard to say until we do the testing.”

For some time, it has been thought that a fifth fort existed.

The floods of 2013 eroded the river bank near the historic site, expediting the quest to find it. The fifth fort site has never been located.

Himour said it was called the “temporary fort” and was operational from 1864 to 1868 while they were building a more permanent site.

Located close to the river, there was concern that earlier erosion had damaged the site.

The first testing of the sites that could contain historic ruins starts in June with three or four Parks Canada staff doing the testing.

But the hope is to include the public archaeology program, which allows students, community members and the general public a chance to help in the dig, starting in August.

“We hope to have found some good features that we can invite the public to dig with us in August,” said Himour.

While the belief is what they have found through scans is the fifth fort, Himour said it could also be homesteads.

“We’d really like to find out if that fifth fur trade post is still in place along the edge of the river,” said Himour.

As part of the dig, there will also be work done to secure the river bank and prevent further erosion from negatively impacting the historic site.

The National Historic Site is located six km west of Rocky Mountain House on Hwy 11A.

Anyone interested in working hands-on on an archaeology dig can get more information by visiting the Parks Canada website at www.pc.gc.ca or by contacting the site manager, Greg Joyce, at greg.joyce@pc.gc.ca.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com

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