Saturday, August 1, 2015

Glass beads, ring, pipe, offer clues to Fort Edmonton history

Glass beads, a ring and a clay pipe unearthed during construction of the new Walterdale Bridge tell a new story about Edmonton's earliest days.

The items dating from 1810 were discovered last year on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River, across from where Fort Edmonton used to be.

Archeologists say the discovery marks the first time artifacts of that vintage have been found outside the original fort. They also provide clues about how the fort grew into what is now the city of Edmonton. 

"Once you start to have things associated with the fort outside its walls, then you start to see a community establishing itself in an area," said Ryan Eldridge, an archeologist with Turtle Island Cultural Resource Management.

"In this case, we end up with the city of Edmonton growing out of the fort and the associated people."

The items were originally from Europe. Eldridge's colleague, Gareth Spicer, speculates they could have belonged to Métis people who worked at Fort Edmonton but lived across the river.

"People would have been employed as hunters to supply the fort, carpenters, cooks, tailors,"  he said. "All of that support structure that you needed to keep the facility operating."

The items also suggest some people were living a higher quality of life, Spicer said, 

"They're decorative items so people wanted to look good and decorate themselves to make an impression on other people, so it's not that different from us."

The artifacts have been turned over to the Royal Alberta Museum.

CBC News. 2015. “Glass beads, ring, pipe, offer clues to Fort Edmonton history”. CBC News. Posted: May 15, 2015. Available online:

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