Stamps, dishes, books among objects retrieved from Montreal parliament dig site | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Stamps, dishes, books among objects retrieved from Montreal parliament dig site

Chief archaeologist at the Pointe A Calliere museum Louise Pothier holds an artifact taken from the site of the old Parliament of the United Province of Canada during a news conference in Montreal, Tuesday, October 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
October 17, 2017 - 11:30 AM

MONTREAL - Archeologists digging up the site of a pre-Confederation parliament in Montreal this summer came across plenty of items they expected to find hidden deep in the earth — and a few they didn't.

Digging began in late July at the Old Montreal site that housed the parliament of the United Province of Canada between 1844 and 1849, when it was burned to the ground.

A handful of the 300,000 unique items plucked from the site in the last few months were put on display Tuesday by officials at Montreal's history museum.

Dishes, plates, bowls and cutlery likely used in the parliamentary restaurant were uncovered, as were oyster shells — the seafood apparently being a rich parliamentarian snack of the day.

In addition, grooming items were also found — toiletries like a straight razor, a basin for washing and a pair of scissors.

But the prize of this year's digging were two stamps, which were used to authenticate official documents.

"To find some unexpected things is at the heart of archeology," said Louise Pothier, chief archeologist at Pointe-a-Calliere museum. "This summer, we found some very incredible artifacts."

One of the stamps, believed to be made of a copper alloy, was found in an area thought to house the clerk's office and was inscribed with the words "legislative assembly Canada" in capital letters.

The other was marked "legislative council library" and was located where historical documents suggest the library would have been. It was also near where charred books were found.

"These are very precious items, very rare," Pothier said. "They're probably the only ones in Canadian collections."

The parliament was housed in a building known as St-Ann's Market, which was rebuilt following the fire and then razed in 1901.

After that, the site was used as a parking lot for several decades, enabling it to be preserved as a sort of time capsule.

In all, about 50 per cent of the former building was excavated in 2017.

The items from this summer will be added to the 500,000 items found in two previous digs dating back to 2010.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre was on hand Tuesday after the city spent $6 million on the dig as part of its 375th-anniversary celebrations.

"It's great to know where we're coming from and learn from the past," Coderre said.

Many of the items will take on added significance in the months to come, says Hendrik Van Gijseghem, the museum's project manager.

"We can expect more discoveries because there are a lot of artifacts that have been taken from the ground and waiting to be processed," he said.

"It's often during cleaning and during inventory ... we find things."

Work is expected to wrap up by mid-November with the site to be filled in with sand for future generations to explore.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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