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Month: August 2021

Exploring Stratigraphy and the Law of Superposition at Fort Louis

Exploring Stratigraphy and the Law of Superposition at Fort Louis

Math, models and multidimensionality were the words that flitted in and out of Colleen Tamblyn’s talk on the 24th August at St. Luke’s, a former church now largely a community centre. Her talk, entitled “Archaeological Ups and Downs: Exploring Stratigraphy and the Law of Superposition at Fort Louis” focussed on introducing the preliminary ideas and concepts that will serve as the foundation for her dissertation.

As Colleen explained, the crux of the story is how, when, and why something was used, as well as how, when, and why it was discarded. Over the centuries, Placentia has witnessed the comings and goings of countless groups. The discard patterns that have developed over this time have, in turn, formed depositional layers with the oldest at the bottom and the most modern at the top. Each layer is distinguished by a complexity of colour, texture, and also smell, something Colleen added is another distinctive quality some may miss.

Archaeology is, by its nature, a destructive undertaking and science. Hence, archaeologists are prolific note-takers. The abundance of notes and different typologies are then used to form what is known as a Harris Matrix, after the man who first conceptualised the idea, Dr. Edward Harris.

The Harris Matrix is based on what archaeologists know as the Law of Superposition—the layers at the bottom are the oldest while those at the top are the newest, provided they are undisturbed. The Harris Matrix, Colleen notes, “reflects the relative position and stratigraphic contacts of observable stratigraphic units, or contexts.” It’s a standardised framework, she says, for additional research which allows one to use the layers to determine when something was occurring.

Offering a vertical timeline based on the excavated record, the Harris Matrix means one can assign years to artefacts without relying on historical records. After all, with the Harris Matrix, the archaeologist knows where certain ceramics or other items are located in relation to others. So, it’s either older or younger dependent on where an item is located in the Harris Matrix.

Remember Colleen’s 5 fs? Form, From, Function, Fragility, and Faïence. These will come in handy when assigning points to specific ceramic pieces. Afterwards, this will go on to pave the way for the construction of two dimensional, three dimensional, and multidimensional models.

Using the Harris Matrix, Colleen can compare specific types of ceramics across the entire site in two dimensions by using the 5 Fs. The end result will permit her to create stacked bar graphs that can also allow inter-event comparison.

In three dimensions, it’ll be possible to have the Harris Matrix down one side with the site map across the top to create a form of diorama. This will allow an archaeologist to get an overall sense of how items are being used and then discarded.

For a multi-dimensional model, interpretation lies between data points, yielding something referred to as meta-data or data about data. Using mathematics, it will be possible to prove the existence of wealth patterns that Colleen can see, but she can’t yet prove. By assigning points of value to each of the 5 Fs and similarly assigning points of value to the ceramic pieces, she can create meta-data. The meta-data, in turn, can shed light on methods of wealth that Colleen could only previously indicate with images.

Ultimately, the idea will be to understand how the three models express data and how this also varies amongst them. There is a considerable amount of work left to do in order to hone the techniques Colleen will be using, but thus far, she is confident they hold much promise for her work.

In her conclusion, Colleen confirmed what many sought to hear. As she notes, Placentia, in her words “is so culturally dense. There is so much here that I am amazed that nothing’s been done except put it in a box. So there will be people who come after. I am the first of many.” Her words were no doubt music to the ears of everyone listening.

Hear What I Say

Hear What I Say

Listen. Don’t interrupt. People don’t always want us to suggest a solution. They sometimes just want us to listen. We underestimate how important and comforting it is to be listened to.

Wakeham Sawmill

Wakeham Sawmill

Wakeham Sawmill was designated as a Registered Heritage Structure because of its historic, aesthetic and cultural values. Originally constructed as a fishing stage in the outport of Petite Forte by John Wakeham in 1912, the building was partially dismantled and transported onboard a schooner across Placentia Bay in 1942. It was reassembled at its current location in Placentia, where it housed a carpentry business operated by brothers Cyril and Leonard Wakeham.

The aesthetic value of Wakeham Sawmill lies in its appearance as a vernacular, painted, wooden fisheries building exhibiting features of that form, as well as features reflecting its adaptive reuse as a carpentry business with an on-site sawmill. Modifications towards the building’s second function included the addition of four windows on the upper south side; inserting a trap door in the floor for disposing of sawdust; replacing two second storey windows with a double door; and erecting steps to the new door. (The steps were removed in the 1980s.) The interior of the building retains its sawmill infrastructure (benches, machinery, hardware), as well as unfinished surfaces including exposed beams, rafters, timber walls and wood floors.

The “shored up” post and beam fishing stage foundation was maintained, and was well suited to the building’s use as a sawmill. At the time that Wakeham Sawmill was erected in Placentia, Orcan River flowed under the building such that logs could float from neighbouring Southeast to the sawmill. The boundaries of Orcan River have since been altered to protect low-lying Placentia, so Wakeham Sawmill now stands on dry land.

Part of the cultural value of Wakeham Sawmill lies in its status as a traditional fishing stage adaptively reused. Wakeham Sawmill also played a significant role in the local economy at its current location, as a site for processing a natural resource for commercial purpose, producing wood products for the local market. Wood was cut downstairs, while the second floor was used for making doors, windows, furniture, caskets, boats and other wood products. Wood from the mill was also used in the renovation and construction of other buildings in the area, both commercial and domestic, and by local boatbuilders.

Wakeham Sawmill also has notable community level status as a familiar landmark, and as a reminder of the former course of Orcan River. Furthermore, Wakeham Sawmill is the only building of its type remaining in Placentia proper.

Source: Historic Places

Taking the Time

Taking the Time

It happens every day. Someone changes a tire for another person, laughing while they decline any payment. “No worries,” they say. Another holds a door with a wink and a smile. Somewhere else, a person patiently sits with a stranger listening attentively to their difficulties. Random acts of kindness, to be sure. But they are more than that. Deeper than an isolated act, they are all examples of how many of us have invested our hearts and taken the time to serve others.

To serve. “To be of service or use; function,” the dictionary says. It’s a word that effortlessly slips into our everyday lexicon in numerous ways. Still, when we look more closely, we realise it carries with it a heartfelt meaning that plumbs the very depths of what it means to be human. To serve is to give a part of ourselves to others, in so doing making manifest that we are all truly one.

In the act of serving, at its most simplistic, albeit vital, way, we demonstrate sentiments such as gratitude, kindness and compassion, qualities that not only help another person. We too benefit. Showing just a little gratitude actually diminishes our fatigue, at the same time as improving our sleep. Just being kind also raises our level of ocytocin, a hormone that moderates social interaction and emotion. So, it can’t hurt to be kind or compassionate.

But what serving others also does is create an intangible bridge between people. It could be just for the moment one holds the door for another or longer if someone listens while another shares their heartfelt feelings. Showing emotions such as gratitude, kindness and compassion helps to solder the bond that ultimately unites us as one.

Serving another and demonstrating kindness are all part of the balance we must seek in our lives. Rather than solely taking throughout our lives, it is essential to balance with giving. We are forever grateful for acts of kindness done to us. But we must “pass it on” and to do so is to seek balance. The reverse is also true. We would be frail thin and ragged of spirit if we were to always be giving, for there would be nothing left. These sentiments have been with us for centuries, across cultures and religions alike.

When we serve one another, we are distinctly stating that it is more important for me to take the time to help you than to do something solely for myself. It is an exercise in humility, one which recognises that for this moment, my needs must stand back while I service yours. We are placing the importance of others ahead of ourselves.

A warm feeling of comfort arises when we serve others, as we are reminded that there is something greater than we are, a deeper and meaningful layer to life. We feel a comfortable tug of purpose in our lives.

We are not alone, but rather bound to one another by an unspoken commitment and loyalty to one another. We have all been witness to someone, who, in the midst of utter devastation, genuinely assures total strangers — “I won’t leave you behind,” they cry out. They mean it with every ounce of integrity they have. It doesn’t matter what it will take. That is how we serve. Because to not do so, would be to somehow betray ourselves and in truth, our humanity.

We serve one another in a multitude of ways. Whether we are a health professional, musician, teacher, painter, garbage technician, writer, member of a road crew or anything else, we are somehow serving one another. But many of us live hectic lives and we go from place to place busy working, eating, playing. It is non-stop, a never-ending merry-go-round. However, it is vital to just stop. Then take a moment to think of how we can be of service to others. It is essential.

In so doing, we strengthen the underlying unity that binds humanity and makes us one. In a way, when we are in service to another, we are looking at ourselves in the mirror. We are all one and when we help others, we are helping ourselves. And so we find peace.

Taking the Time to Be A Friend

Taking the Time to Be A Friend

Someone once said that “A friend is one to whom you can pour out the contents of your heart, chaff and grain alike. Knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” Whether it’s something you receive from, or in fact give to a friend, a family member, it is indeed a treasure! Pssst … pass it on.

The Hidden Mysteries of Ceramics

The Hidden Mysteries of Ceramics

Trust me. Step back in time and take a moment or two to look around. There are secrets to be revealed, mysteries to solve. And if you have someone like Colleen Tamblyn as your guide, you’re sure to not be disappointed.

Colleen has spent a month in Placentia doing the initial phases of her research of Fort Louis ceramics. While in Placentia, she was headquartered in the former St. Luke’s Anglican church, now a community building owned by the Placentia Area Historical Society. And on the 28th July, 2021, Colleen gave a presentation of her work thus far on the ceramics of Fort Louis, a fort that was built by the French when they controlled Plaisance, the term they used for Placentia. Her efforts have been guided by a firm commitment to the community. She stated how she wants her work “to be accessible to the people that the research is for, as much as possible.” Notably, she’s committed to involving the community in the archaeological investigation which will “allow the community to engage with their past.”

As Colleen poignantly explained, she wants to give people an opportunity to “touch history,” to be able to “put a 400 year piece of pottery in your hand and think, oh my gosh, I’m holding something that somebody 400 years ago held and drank out of and survived out of.”

To lay the groundwork, Colleen eagerly discussed French history that spans vast distances, its arms reaching from the deltas of Louisiana in North America to the rice paddies of Asia and numerous places between. The actions in these far reaching regions would go on to play a significant role in the evolution of Plaisance.

Colleen then explained how either in 1655 or 1658, the first people arrived in Plaisance, their survival placed now in the hands of mercantile ships from Boston anchored in the harbour. In 1663, the French soon began to construct the first of several forts—Vieux Fort atop Mount Pleasant. It was none too soon because 1672 would be the first of three long wars that would rage and largely determine the place of France in the colourful history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Centuries later, beginning with Jean-Pierre Proulx in 1969, historians and archaeologists began trying to decipher and unearth this history. As one of those archaeologists, Colleen has chosen ceramics to be the lens through which she will explore the Placentia area’s history.

For the initial prodding of Colleen’s research, many of her questions had been posed by people coming to see her display at St. Luke’s, one being why look at ceramics in the first place.

She noted how ceramics provided an ideal platform by which to study history, as there are a wealth of typologies which have been developed to classify the pieces focussing on qualities such as colour, material, patterning and so on. One can then obtain information on price and deduce ceramic usage. From this information, it’s possible to understand the nuances of wealth and to better understand how wealth has changed over time.

Another question wondered how this would all be done. Colleen responded by explaining how she had arrived at what she termed “Colleen’s Five Fs” of ceramic analysis.

Colleen’s Five Fs of Ceramic Analysis

FormWhat does the vessel look like?
FromFrom where does the ceramic come? What is its origin?
FunctionWhat is its intended purpose?
FragilityWhat would it take for this vessel to break?
FaïenceHow decorated is the vessel?

She stated that when taking these into account, one arrives at the cost or perceived cost of a ceramic. Understanding these qualities she explained allows her to track cost, figuring out patterning styles and exploring “the psychology of a colony that was given up on.” In so doing, there are a multiplicity of factors that muddy the waters.

Colleen discussed how certain vessels are found in the excavation at a layer that does not make sense. But factors such as some being heirlooms would explain this confusion. Otherwise, they may be plundered goods. Any number of other factors place the ceramics where they are not supposed to be.

Another question that materialised for her, amongst many others, was where all the money went that was being given by France. The forts were notoriously short on uniforms and other items and as far as Colleen was concerned, the missing money was certainly not in the ceramics. But she pointed out that several of the governors had been recalled for “discharging their duty badly,” a hint to Colleen that they were likely “lining their pockets.” This will no doubt be another side avenue her research may take.

Colleen has done excellent work in her initial explorations into the ceramics of Fort Louis in Placentia. She will likely face considerable obstacles in her efforts to build an “interconnected network of wealth expression,” as well as in her attempt to explore patterns of usage and consumption in Fort Louis as well as Placentia as a whole. However, if her work to the present is any indication, she is more than up to that challenge.