Stellarton archeological dig unearths industrial past

Seven professional archeologists and volunteers spent two days digging near the Museum of Industry in Stellarton, N.S.

7 professional archeologists, volunteers spend two days digging near Stellarton Museum of Industry

Archeologists and volunteers spent two days at the site of the Albion Mines Foundry, an iron foundry that dates back to 1828. (Laura de Boer)

A two-day-long archeological dig near Stellarton's Museum of Industry has unearthed artifacts of Nova Scotia's industrial past. 

Seven archeologists and volunteers spent the weekend exploring the site of the former Albion Mines iron foundry. It was built in 1828 and was knocked down in the late 1800s.

Part of the draw, lead archeologist Laura de Boer said, is uncovering stories from the past.

"It's this sense that history isn't something that's dead and in a textbook. It's something you can touch, it's that thrill of disovery," de Boer said.

The group uncovered what appears to be a brick foundation that was part of an original foundry building. (Laura de Boer)

Some of the more interesting things they unearthed included a piece of machinery, part of a brick foundation that's believed to have been part of the former foundry building and the sole of a leather shoe, said de Boer.

"That shoe probably fell apart while the guy was working one day," she said. "You could almost kind of picture him cursing in a nice, thick accent and wrapping his foot up to get home and get a new shoe."

The archeological dig took place down the hill from Stellarton's Museum of Industry. (Laura de Boer)

De Boer said six of her professional colleagues from Industrial Heritage Nova Scotia helped with the dig, along with numerous members of the public.

Staff from the museum were on hand to help organize and the Town of New Glasgow donated tents to go over the dig sites.

Stellarton is where the industrial revolution came to Nova Scotia, de Boer said.

The Town of New Glasgow donated tents for the archeological dig. (Laura de Boer)

"They were manufacturing parts for machines, elements in the mine and for the locomotives that were operating here. Two of which still survive and are in the museum: Samson and Albion," said de Boer.

The weekend dig happened in the same area of previous digs that were started in 1989 and 1992 by another archeologist.

A big dig in the area was held last year, but de Boer said more excavation progress has been made this year.

People spent the weekend helping with the archeological dig in Stellarton. (Laura de Boer)

A dream find, de Boer said, would be an intact crucible, which were used to melt down molten metals.

"We've found fairly small broken pieces of what I think are those but they are quite small. They're the size of my palm or smaller. The size of an intact one would be the size of a lobster pot," said de Boer.

With any luck, de Boer said the team will be back digging next year, but she said more public support and funding is needed to replace and buy new equipment.

About the Author

Anjuli Patil

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Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.