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soapstone pot found at the Chesley Drive site.
The hill near where the YM-YWCA will
build hides so many ancient Native treasures in its soil that special steps
must be taken to protect them.
By Mac Trueman
Thinly covered in grass and blueberry bushes,
a stark, rocky ledge overlooking Chesley Drive hides countless treasures of
history in its shallow soil, say archeologists.
Wayne Burley, the director of New Brunswick's heritage branch, says he will
meet as soon as he can with the Saint John YMCA-YWCA officials who are buying
He wants to find out what the Y intends to do with
this one-acre patch of land that stands at the top of the 8½-acre
property the Y wants to build its new headquarters on.
the Y wants to put as much as a walking trail across this ledge, which three
years ago was designated under the Historic Sites Protection Act, it must have
the approval of the heritage branch and likely the Maliseet Advisory Committee
Many of the fragments of weapons, tools
and dishes found here were left behind as long as 4,000 years ago. They date
twice as far back as Christianity.
strongly suspect that several of the Native artifacts they found lying amid
20th-century nails and broken glass may be 10,000 or 11,000 years
Patricia Allen, whose government archeological
survey led to the site's protective designation in 1998, vividly recalls the
slippery touch of a soapstone fragment, barely two inches long, at the moment
it was unearthed.
She knew immediately it was part of a
soapstone pot used by the Susquahanna some 4,000 years ago, she
"I looked and I saw it had a lip-edge on it from a
pot. Oh my gosh, I was absolutely ecstatic... I've never in my 29 years of
working in the province - and I've done quite a bit of field work - I've never
run across a piece of soapstone pot.
One of several
scrapers found here was shaped in a spur design characteristic of Paleoindian
tools, more than 10,000 years old. These people are thought to have been among
the first humans to walk North America, arriving as the last glaciers
Another was carved of red-and-green chert from
Lake Munsungan, in northwestern Maine.
"I've worked on a
Paleoindian site in Maine once as a volunteer, but I never have actually
excavated anything that I thought was from that very early period.
Her collegues in New Brunswick and Maine agree with her
that these tools seem to date back to Paleoindian time. But if there is
definitive proof that Paleoindian people camped on this spot - such as a
slender, fluted Paleoindian spearhead - it still lies beneath the soil.
Several stone cores left here from carving of spearheads
are also Paleoindian in character.
treasure also includes:
- Spearheads of the Maritime Archaic
people, who roamed this area 3,700 to 4,500 years ago.
- A piece of neck ornament, made of ground
and carefully perforated slate, from 3,000 years ago. There were also pieces of
stone blades and arrowheads chipped in the Meadowood style.
- Maliseet arrowheads from the time of
This is the only site, Ms.
Allen knows of that combines the history of all four Native
"There are cultural connections to, just about
every time period that, we have identified where there was Native use of the
landscape. It's a terrific site.
In all, her team of five
turned up around 200 prehistoric Native artifacts, which are sitting in a
repository in Fredericton. But what the team found in this four-week project
represents only the tip of the iceberg.
Her project was
only a sampling test, based on digging holes 55 centimetres wide and 10 metres
"What we have is a very small sample. But it gives
us a good impression of what the site would have to offer as a research tool.
"It is just totally amazing that this site with all
these time periods represented, continued to exist with the building of Saint
John all around. Our Port City was built right up around this, and they left it
here intact. It's "a fantastic site. "
entire site and systematically cataloguing its contents would be out of the
question for her tiny staff for lack of funding.
caught digging at a protected heritage site can be fined from $120 to
Ann Ralph, the Saint John YM- YWCA's chief
executive officer, said her group doesn't intend to harm the ledge, which is
not in the pathway of the new facilities she will build on Chesley
"We're not going to do anything that would infringe
on the conditions that go with a historic site."
there's any way it can make use of the property's historical significance - by
making it into a park or displaying some of the provincial government's
artifacts collected from here - the Y would not turn the opportunity down, she
Mr. Burley said he has already had preliminary talks
with Ms. Ralph, and is waiting for more details of what she has in
"We had a very good, positive discussion, and we're
looking forward to getting together."
This story was taken from
the Times Globe, September/2001
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