New research sheds light on the mysterious walls of Bayers Lake
Researcher explored theories of the curious site ranging from military forts to domestic use
The so-called Bayers Lake mystery walls have inspired grand and fanciful theories about their origins over the years.
Researchers and archeologists have puzzled over the five-sided stone structure and 120-metre-long wall tucked in the woods between a busy Halifax highway and a maze of big-box stores.
Some writers have suggested links to the Knights Templar and Oak Island and speculated that the structures could be pre-Columbian, or even date back thousands of years before the Viking era.
That's the theory of Jonathan Fowler, an associate professor in the anthropology department at Saint Mary's University and the former president of the Nova Scotia Archaeology Society. Fowler studied the site in 2017 with the help of $5,475 from the Halifax Regional Municipality and $2,000 from SMU.
"They are now beginning to look less like fabrications of wonder and mystery and more like the work of ordinary labouring people," Fowler wrote in his report, obtained by CBC News under the freedom-of-information law. "We should value their stories more than fanciful speculation about foreign princes and buried treasures."
Similar structures in U.K.
Fowler used an X-ray fluorescence analyzer to look for traces of human activity in the soil, particularly phosphorus, which can indicate the presence of human or animal urine or feces, bone, meat, fish or plants.
While the tool did not find elevated levels of phosphorus, Fowler said he still favours the animal husbandry explanation. A sheep pen might be expected to produce higher levels of phosphorus, but the levels at the site could be low simply because it wasn't used for long or for many sheep, Fowler said.
He said the structure "strongly resembles" similar enclosures in the United Kingdom used to isolate small numbers of sheep for examination or treatment. The wall, he adds, could have been used to help herd the sheep toward the pen, as is the case at similar Scottish sites.
Other researchers have found documents showing the area was logged in the 1760s, and Fowler notes that could have produced some good grazing land for the farms along Dutch Village Road.
The military theory also falters in Fowler's view because the style of the walls isn't in keeping with other types of defences built in early colonial Nova Scotia.
Fowler pokes holes in the theory that the five-sided structure was once a house, saying there's no evidence of a hearth and no artifacts like windowpane glass or other domestic debris.
Mystery walls vs. BdCv-9
Although Fowler may have pinpointed the function of the walls, he's still not sure when they were built.
"There's no easy way of getting at that answer," he said, especially as previous digs have turned up only modern debris.
At the request of the provincial archeological regulator, Fowler's report refers to the site not by the moniker "mystery walls," as they've come to be known since they were found around 1990, but by the decidedly less alluring name BdCv-9, which refers to the site's position on an archeological research map.
While the walls may now be a little less tantalizing to the public imagination, Fowler said there's still plenty of mystery.
"I still have questions about what this site was, how old it is, who built it," he said. "In terms of solving it, no, I don't think we've got a conclusive answer or set of answers just yet."