Montreal archaeologists unearth books from site of Canada’s old parliament

MONTREAL – Archaeologists digging at the site of what used to be Canada’s parliament, in Old Montreal, have unearthed what may have been the largest library in North America.

For the past three years, archaeologist Loise Pothier and her team have been brushing away dirt, millimetre by millimetre, where the building once stood.

The building was St. Anne’s Market in the early 1800s. But when Upper and Lower Canada were merged, forming the province of Canada, Montreal was chosen as the capital and St. Anne’s Market was renovated to become the Parliament.

Pothier, the director of exhibitions at the Pointe-à-Callière archaeology and history museum, said it’s “extremely rare” to find a site of such importance so intact in downtown Montreal.

The Parliament building was burned down in 1849 when group of English Tories set fire to it.

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The fire department didn’t do much to save it — the fire marshal actually helped start it.

The site sat dormant for more than 100 years, underneath a parking lot, until the excavation began in 2011.

The dig has turned up dozens of items — including eyeglasses, utensils and even marbles.

But, what they found last week caused a great deal of excitement — about a dozen charred remains of books.

The old parliament held what’s believed to have been the biggest library in North America and housed books dating back as far as the 1600s.

The books are refrigerated once they’re unearthed. Conservationists will dry and clean them, hoping to eventually be able to read them.

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