Archeologist group uncovers old buildings in Assumption Park — without digging

It was WEDig History's second geophysical survey — after one in September 2017 — and this time, they found evidence of the park's oldest buildings.

'We're not really digging. We're just surveying from the surface'

Members of WEDigHistory recently conducted a second geophysical survey to search for evidence of buildings which once stood in Assumption Park. (Tony Doucette/CBC)

A group of archeologists has uncovered some rich history of a city park in Windsor.

Members of WEDig History — geoscientists, historians, archeologists, and librarians — even let the public join in last week to help search for evidence of buildings which once stood in Assumption Park.

It was the second geophysical survey — after one in September 2017 — and this time, they found evidence of the park's oldest buildings.

Beyond her wildest dreams

WEDig member Maria Cioppa is a professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Windsor. She said the findings of the survey, which took place June 16 and 17, have been beyond her wildest dreams.

"We actually found a couple of buildings, directly across from the church. We found a fairly large one and then a smaller one next to it. We found evidence of something," Cioppa said.

WEDig member Maria Cioppa, a professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Windsor, said the findings of the survey have been beyond her wildest dreams. (Tony Doucette/CBC)

"We know that the one of the largest buildings is thought to be, at minimum, [from] 1787 and could be as old as 1749. So we're looking at some quite old buildings if that's what this was."

The group ran three different types of geophysical surveys: one to find remnants of old buildings and foundations, another to look for the presence of graveyards that were here and another to find First Nations settlements. 

Not allowed to dig

Assumption Park is protected by a conservation easement — an agreement which limits use of the land — from the Ontario Heritage Trust. As a result, WEDig members were prohibited from digging in the park.

"We can't actually dig without a professional archeologist on site," Cioppa said.

Assumption Park was built in 1787 but survey findings suggest buildings may have been stood tall there from as early as 1749. (Tony Doucette/CBC)

"There are First Nations land claims ... We actually asked Walpole Island First Nations when we applied to do this survey for their permission — being aware of all the history in the area."

Tools used in the survey were able to detect "disturbances caused by humans."

"When you build something and you put foundations into the ground, you disturb it," she said. "We have a ground penetrating radar that can actually see that disturbance. So we're looking for changes in the Earth that we can detect that indicate human activity."

Hear more from Maria Cioppa on the CBC's Windsor Morning:

There are some interesting things buried under a city park on Windsor's west side. A local archaeological group is trying to find out what they are. But they can't dig. Maria Cioppa is a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Windsor, she fills us in. 8:06

In May, work started on an archeological dig where the second span of the Ambassador Bridge is planned. Cioppa said there is a big difference between digging up Assumption Park and excavating the bridge site.

"That area is already being developed. It's going to be developed for the roundabout and then, of course, with the possible new span of the bridge coming in, it's going to be developed," Cioppa said.

"They are doing as much as they can to protect whatever is still there ... Here, there's not that danger we hope, so there's no need to actually dig — except [for] pure scientific interest. Every archeologist that I've talked goes, 'We want to dig there.'"

with files from the CBC's Windsor Morning

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