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Archaeologists dig up new artifacts at historic Fort Macleod town site

Click to play video 'Archaeologists dig up new artifacts at historic Fort Macleod townsite' Archaeologists dig up new artifacts at historic Fort Macleod townsite
WATCH: An archaeological dig at the original Fort Macleod townsite and Fort is digging up new information on one of the earliest historic communities in Alberta. Katelyn Wilson reports.

An archaeological dig at the historic Fort Macleod, Alta. town site, is digging up new information thanks to a future waterline planned by the town.

“We’re getting fabrics, fabric-covered beads, felted wool from coats and things like that,” said Rachel Lindemann, owner of Atlatl Archaeology out of Lethbridge. “We’re getting really unique items that we don’t often get to see in southern Alberta.”

It’s a project that began last year after the town found out its new waterline would run through the original town site and fort.

“When you’re doing development, part of that clearance that you need to get is to make sure you’re not going to go through archaeology without properly taking all the information out,” Lindemann said.

Built in 1874, the town site was abandoned only 10 years later because of repeat flooding. It was then moved to its current location.

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The fort served as the first North-West Mounted Police post established in southern Alberta and was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1923.

An historic image of the original Fort Macleod townsite and Fort courtesy of The Fort Museum.
An historic image of the original Fort Macleod townsite and Fort courtesy of The Fort Museum. The Fort Museum

“It looks like right now, we are digging the backyards of the town sites and that’s where they would have thrown all their garbage,” Lindemann said. “We’re getting really good ideas and representations of how they were living and what kinds of things they were importing into the area.”

Among the items found so far are children’s shoes, toys, glass bottles, ceramic plates and harmonicas.

As each item is discovered, a story starts to unfold.

“We have a First Nations and Metis component that we can verify in the town site,” Lindemann said.

“So you’re seeing the three cultures living together peacefully and cooperating and working together as well, which I think gets overlooked sometimes in the history of Canada.”

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Among the team of archaeologists and volunteers is University of Lethbridge student Mariah Miller.

“I love being able to be a part of history hands-on instead of just sitting down and reading a textbook,” she said. “You’re actually here experiencing and seeing the things that people would have used.”

As Lindemann’s team continues to paint a picture of early life in Fort Macleod, she can’t say exactly when the excavation will be finished.

Right now, she says they’ve found what is believed to be the north end of town, but will continue working south until the artifacts run out.