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2006 From the Dig
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2005 From the Dig


Archaeologists working at the Colony of Avalon archaeological site at Ferryland, Newfoundland, have picked up where they left off last October. The first weeks of excavation have revealed the interiors of several buildings discovered late last fall as well as a previously-unknown structure. Four of the buildings are of stone construction and date to the early years of Lord Baltimore’s 1621 settlement.

Several structures are mentioned in documents written at Ferryland in the early 1620s. Among them are a 44' by 15' dwelling and a kitchen of 12' by 18', the first buildings erected by Captain Edward Wynne and the first dozen settlers. Lord Baltimore’s long sought after “Mansion House” may be among the structures now being excavated. Two other structures now under investigation are not mentioned in the scanty documentary sources.

One of the latter was built in the late 1600s, during the tenure of Sir David Kirke, his wife, Lady Sara Kirke, and their three sons. In it were found sherds of a set of tin-glazed (“Delft”) dishes, probably actually made in Portugal and bearing the initials “SK” in blue on the white plates and bowls. A large “Martabani”storage jar, standing about two feet high and of the same diameter, was made in southeast Asia, traded through the city of Martaban in what was Burma and somehow found its way to Ferryland. It was probably part of a collection of exotic ceramics that belonged to Lady Kirke.

The second of the unidentified buildings, a small 12' by 16' structure dug into a hillside, has massive mortared stone walls that extend more than four feet below grade. In this building, the function of which has yet to be determined, was found a rare object used for personal hygiene, it is in the shape of a sea creature, perhaps a sword fish. The tail of the fish was used to remove wax from the owner’s ears and the curved sword was used as a toothpick and to clean fingernails.

Also found in this structure was the only known casualty of the French attack of September 1696 that destroyed the settlement and resulted in its abandonment during the following winter. The casualty was a mid-size female dog, perhaps resembling a small sheep dog. It had been shot through the back leg with a small shot from a scattergun and apparently crawled into the stone building to lick its wounds. Fragments of lead shot remain embedded in one of the leg bones. Unhappily, while the dog was recovering, French troops blew up the building and the dog was crushed beneath tons of rubble.

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