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Studying the past: Excavations at Grand Pré orchard excite history lovers

GRAND PRE - It was an in-service day for students in Nova Scotia, but on Oct. 27, some social studies teachers kept busy in an outdoor classroom in Grand Pré.

The excavations took place in Beth and Jim Keech's old orchard by a group of teachers from the Social Studies Teachers' Association of Nova Scotia.

Jonathan Fowler, who has had a longtime interest in what might be buried in the soil of Grand Pré, had them exploring what appears to be a pre-Deportation Acadian house site.

“We discovered the site a couple of years ago with aid of geophysics. Among the finds unearthed were pieces of clay pipes, wine bottle glass and a wrought iron nail,” he said.

Fowler, who teaches archeology at St. Mary’s University, termed the long-tapered nail a rare find because it was made on a forge.

Grade 5 teacher Jessica Forrest of Weymouth said she loved the opportunity to work in the orchard.

“I’ll be able to share my stories and photos with my class,” she said.

Fowler had the teachers scrapping dirt in what he views as fill from a cellar. He explained that the “changes in the soil colour was what led us here. Cellar holes - that’s where the magic is.”

Jef Achenbach, a traditional builder who lives in Bear River, was also on hand to talk about French vernacular architecture. He explained the house likely had a clay shell and did not burn even if the thatched roof was torched.

He added that it would have had a knee-high stone foundation and wooden floor over the cellar.

According to Achenbach, the Acadians used approximately five designs for their homes. He said the historic gardens in Annapolis Royal have a frame house of a similar plan, but with smaller sticks.

He said the clay on the exterior would have acted as effective insulation.

The site was covered up and Fowler says he will be back in the spring with some of his students.




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