Tried-and-True Methods and New Technologies: How Science & technology benefits archaeological research at the Fortress of Louisbourg NHSC
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The work of the archaeologist conjures images of excavations and spectacular finds. In reality, the archaeologist tries to locate a given site and get an idea of what might lie beneath the surface even before the trowel hits the ground.
At the Fortress of Louisbourg NHSC, managing the hundreds of in-situ eighteenth century archaeological sites is a challenge at the best of times. Forests shroud battlefields, rising sea level and receding shores encroach on fortress walls, building foundations and fishing properties, and more than 75% of known archaeological sites at Louisbourg have yet to be studied!
Though extensive past research has taught us a great deal about 18th century Louisbourg, there is still much to be understood and many sites to be protected.
Some long-employed methods of archaeological research stand the test of time. There is still nothing to match the discerning eye of a well-trained archaeologist in the field. However, many new technologies greatly enhance the efficiency, accuracy and range of archaeological research.
By adopting new scientific technologies, resource management professionals are now able to research, locate, protect, and preserve sites better than they ever have before.
A Scientific Challenge
Battery feature visible with LIDAR © Parks Canada
New technologies have proven very helpful to archaeologists.
At the Fortress of Louisbourg NHSC, technologies that have made a big difference to the archaeologists include: spatial analysis, LiDAR, kite/balloon camera, fixed overhead photography, remote sensing and sampling.
Parks Canada Application
Spatial Analysis tools such as Total Stations, GIS, and GPS units have greatly improved the archaeologists' ability to record, analyze, interpret and understand the archaeological record. They have been particularly useful to produce excavation layouts and to plot sites on historical maps and plans.
Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) - an airborne laser scanning technology - provides highly detailed digital models and records 3D landscape beneath the forest cover!
The use of remote-controlled cameras carried by weather balloons or kites have allowed for low-aerial photography. A portable quadripod photo frame was also designed for fixed overhead photography. Both have proven to be very useful for site mapping and recording from a distance and at close range.
When conditions are right, remote sensing technologies such as conductivity surveys and ground-penetrating radar surveys allow the archaeologists to see features underground without digging!
Sample from a 1758 plan © Parks Canada
Microscopic samples provide a wealth of information about the past: soil samples are collected for pollen analysis, to determine environmental conditions, and hair samples are collected for DNA & nutrition analysis.
The use of these new technologies adapted to archaeology and cultural resources management enhances our understanding of our sites and of our past, and provides us with new visual ways to present the past to the Canadian public and create new visitor experiences.
Principal archaeological investigator at Louisbourg NHSC: Rebecca Duggan
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