Nova Scotia

No Chinese ruins in Cape Breton: archeologists

Provincial archeologists are refuting a claim that Chinese explorers set foot on Cape Breton in the 15th century, long before the English or the French.

Provincial archeologists are refuting a claim that Chinese explorers set foot on Cape Breton in the 15th century, long before the English or the French.

Cape Breton-born architect Paul Chiasson says he found ruins of a settlement while hiking on Cape Dauphin, on theeastern edge of the island.

He says there's a road, a three-kilometre-long wall that snakes down a hill and stone platforms, all of which look similar to Chinese structures.

In his book, The Island of Seven Cities: Where the Chinese Settled When They Discovered North America, Chiasson concludes that explorers from China built the settlement.

The claim was so provocative, David Christianson, curator of archeology with the Nova Scotia Museum, and four other archeologists headed out to the site to investigate for themselves.

They concluded there was no settlement at all.

"There really was nothing," Christianson said. "It's a high windswept plateau, cool temperature, very little soil. It wouldn't be possible for anybody to farm there."

The archeologistssay Chiasson's wall is really a fire break from the mid-20th century.

"It's pretty clear by looking at the profile of the wall that it's not a wall at all, it's simply earth that's mounted up," said Christianson.

He said the road is not Chinese either, as other researchers in Cape Breton provided exact dates of when it was built.

The first part was constructed in the mid-20th century, Christianson said, "but the major portion of the road was built as late as 1989."

As for the stone, the archeologistssay the clean surfaces suggest it was not cut at all, as would be the case if settlers shaped their environment.

"Everything we observed is either natural or mechanical, associated with road construction," Christianson said.

Archeology is a field open to interpretation, he added, but it's also based on data. And in this case he said there is no data to interpret.

In the end, the five archeologists all agreed there was no human settlement in the area, Chinese or otherwise.