People can dig through time at Orwell Corner archeology project

Islanders and tourists have a unique opportunity to dig through time at a public archeology project at the Orwell Corner historic village.

Sharing the magic of archeology 'when a person connects personally with the past'

Nine-year-old Spencer Cook, and his 12-year-old sister, Ashley, from Hamilton, Ont. get to try out archaeology for the first time at Orwell Corner, with the help of dig assistant Liam McKenna. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

Islanders and tourists have a unique opportunity to dig through time at a public archeology project at the Orwell Corner historic village.

Over the next two weeks, anyone is welcome to drop by the excavation of a mid- to late-nineteenth century home that was part of the Scottish settlement at this historic site. 

Archaeological dig leader Helen Kristmanson loves the magic of archaeology when a person connects personally with the past. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

Helen Kristmanson is leading the dig. She's director of Aboriginal affairs and archeology for the province. She describes it as an everyday household but one that's offering some pretty spectacular personal finds from the 1870s through to the 1920s. 

"Like jewellery. We've had different pieces of jewellery. This morning actually somebody found a beautiful little stick pin," said Kirstmanson. The pin head is decorated with four tiny glass jewels and would have been worn by a woman on her dress or the lapel of her shirt.

The magic when you find something special

One of the most spectacular finds at this year's Orwell Corner dig so far is this woman's stick pin. It would have been worn on a woman's dress or shirt lapel. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

The family of five from Montreal, Quebec that found that pin were thrilled. They almost missed it, but they found it after screening the dirt they'd excavated from one of the quadrants. 

"We were very, very excited," said father Andres Finzi of children aged nine, six and almost three. He said all of them helped screen the dirt when the pin was found.

"What is beautiful is that you know digging in our past all together, with the family, we love that." 

"That is the magic of archeology … when a person connects personally with the past," said Kristmanson. 

"Some of the people who lived here start to come to life. So when you connect with that artifact you're connecting directly with the past." 

Fun of getting to do actual archeology 

Nan Chen was really happy her eight-year-old son, Joey Tong, could get to do this. When they lived in China they went to a museum that had buried fake dinosaur bones in sand in a box in the museum and got kids to dig them out. She said today was a lot more meaningful.

Charlottetown's Nan Chen and her 8-year-old son, Joey Tong, try their hand at real archaeology for the first time. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

"But here it's real. Real life and real work," said Chen.

"Especially for the children, they can have real idea about what archaeology is." 

Chen and her son Joey found some pieces of plates, bricks, bits of window glass and charcoal. She thinks her son is interested in learning more about archaeology after today. 

"I thought it was pretty cool," said 12-year-old Ashley Cook from Hamilton, Ontario. She enjoyed plotting the pieces of ceramics, glass and charcoal she found on the site map. Still, she said she probably wouldn't do it again.

"I don't like getting dirty, and stuff." 

12-year-old Ashley Cook and her nine-year-old brother Spencer enjoyed finding pieces of ceramics, glass and charcoal, even though Ashley doesn't like getting dirty. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

But Cook loved seeing all the different artifacts that have been found at the site in the three years this project has been going, including the handle of a white, china tea pot. 

Plan to eventually display artifacts

Another boy taking part today was frustrated hearing he couldn't take any artifacts he found home. Anything of significance ends up in the collection of the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation.

People who drop by the site get to see a small collection of some of the best objects found at the Orwell Corner site during the last two years of the dig. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

Kristmanson hopes there will eventually be an exhibit at the historic village of some of the wonderful things that have been found. 

Anyone is welcome to drop out to the site weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. until Friday, August 5 to try their hand at archeology.