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Can You Dig It?© 2009 Naval Cottages

2009 Naval Cottages excavationsThe 1822 Naval Cottages of the Royal Navy Dockyard, at the Royal Military College of Canada, was the site of this years “Can You Dig It?”© Summer Archaeology Program. The site of the former Naval Cottages is located on the western shore of Point Frederick now part of the Royal Military College of Canada. The entire range of cottages was in existence from 1822 until 1868 when a devastating fire destroyed the southerly six and one additional was demolished to create a fire-break. These were completely removed in 1875 when the College was created and the surviving range of nine northerly cottages remained in use until 1910.

The 2009 season marked the 5th excavation at this site, giving us the opportunity to continue on from the 1998, 1999, 2007 and 2008 seasons. So what more can there possibly be to discover after already spending 4 seasons at this site? Well for one, the 2009 “Can You Dig It?©” program allowed us to investigate a section of the Naval Cottages that had previously not been investigated. Our priorities for this year’s investigation were to further investigate the possible evidence of the War of 1812 period shanties that pre-dated the construction of the Naval Cottages, and the interior and exterior of several cottages (No. 12, 13, 14) that burned down in the 1868 fire.

2009 Naval Cottages excavationsOf the six units excavated, structural elements were identified in five. No evidence was encountered of the War of 1812 period shanty remains, however cultural material similar to that found in other areas of Point Frederick with War of 1812 components was identified on the exterior of cottages 13 and 14. Artifacts discovered consistently dated to the period of occupation of the cottages between 1822 and 1868 when this section was destroyed by fire. With the exception of a few items, no later material was encountered. Specific items, such as the naval buttons 1812 to 1850s and 70th Regiment button 1815 to 1827, fit nicely within the occupation period. Large quantities of buttons, straight pins and clothing fasteners confirm that women were living in the cottages and were likely involved in washing and mending clothing. The nails and window glass are representative of the amounts of structure within the limestone walls, each cottage had four rooms and a central hallway along with nine windows on each side.

All six units measured 1 x 3 meters and were excavated by our 60  participants from July 7th and August 29th, 2009 as part of the “Can You Dig It?”© program. Supervised by archaeologists, participants excavated the archaeological units by hand using trowels. Then all back dirt was screened through 6 mm mesh, where artifacts were collected and bagged by provenience. At the end of the season, all of the units were backfilled.