Thursday, 19 September 2013

Searching for clues of times gone by

In the spring of 2013 I attended a community information session for the Quidi Vidi Village Field School. I was intrigued when a woman from the village spoke up and mentioned the degree to which the area had changed in recent years, and how a great number of buildings had either fallen down or been demolished in recent years. This is a theme that I have heard again and again since beginning the field school this September.

As an archaeologist my ears instinctively perk up when I hear about architecture and other physical remains that no longer exists: those that have long ago, or even recently, vanished into the landscape. I often find myself inspecting old timbers sticking out of an eroding bank while pondering their origins, or picking up discarded objects found along a pathway to try to decipher what the discarded garbage used to be. At the field school, I’ve embraced this curiosity and descended into the village to look for clues and traces of the architecture and physical objects that were once a common part of this bustling little place, but have now disappeared. On Tuesday I climbed to the top of a hill behind the village to look at the foundations of what was once a farmhouse. Today the tide was the lowest that I have noticed yet so it was the perfect day to look for traces of old structures along the waters edge.

Remains of a wharf in front of the Flake House

Ballast pound, likely from an old stage

Directly after leaving the Plantation – which itself is named after a building that no longer exists – I caught a glimpse of broken and submerged timbers in front of the now vacant Flake House restaurant. I asked a man who was working on a boat near by if he knew what they were and he told me that they once belonged to a wharf that the owners let go. Further down the road, past the Quidi Vidi Brewery, I stumbled upon two old ballast pounds - as well as bricks and old timbers - all of which were likely the remains of fish stages once situated on the bank of the bay. My journey ended at Land Rock, the site of an eighteenth and nineteenth-century fishing station. While visible remnants of the station’s architecture are likely long gone, signs of the areas past activities can still be found in the form of eighteenth and nineteenth-century ceramics, glass, and pipe stems littered across the beach and eroding from its banks. While much of the village has changed, my short walk has clearly shown me that clues about its former shape can still be easily seen inscribed within the contemporary landscape.

Building rubble along the bay

A late 18th or early 19th century pipe stem fragment 

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