Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 3: Tour of the Reserve Continues

The adventure continued this morning, for the field school, as the energetic students hiked around the reserve to visit three excavation sites. The dig sites were areas that had been excavated by the field school in previous years, and will be the major base of operations for this year as well.

Bob Muckle revealed and explained the hypotheses behind major landscape depressions, seemingly hidden (to the untrained eye) logging roads, and man made structures.

At the first location visited, the students were shown the best preserved wooden logging road in the park, which is thought to have been used by horses to transport logs. The log road was kept relatively level, because a road too steep would cause problems for the horses. For example, if horses were transporting a load down the wooden road that was slanted downhill, the load could come out of control, and if it was slanted uphill, the steep incline would prove to be too difficult for the horses. In order to keep the road level, the foundation would be supported by trunks (pictured below), which were often embedded with objects like nails and glass bottles.

Several saws were found at the various sites, but this particular one (pictured below) was warped and surrounded by a maple tree. After taking in the context of the surroundings, it was revealed to the students that a fire had caused the saw to become warped. This hypothesis was supported by the fact that maple trees are often the first type of trees to grow in an area after it has been burned, and throughout the area charcoal and other warped metals were found.

Broken glass bottles were a common acquisition at the sites in previous years, and many of these have been documented already.

At each logging camp a familiar discovery was a wood burning stove or oven. The one pictured below had stumped some former students of Muckle's in the past because the student who helped recover the stove had read an engraving on the side saying "To Jake". After pondering upon this curious inscription, it was realized that the "J" had incorrectly been read, and the whole etching had actually said "To Bake", commonly found on ovens.

Another strange unearthing was the picture of the battery core seen below. The core was found near the old horse stables at one of the sites.

During the lunch break, the students marveled at how beautiful the view is at the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. How fortunate for them to be able to participate in this educational (and healthy) program!

Imagine being in the middle of a massive park, and stumbling upon a chair looking out over a ravine, with a foot rest and a stove to its side. Pictured below is a chair that the troop were shown today, and it was only discovered about eight years ago. Who made the chair, and when it was made is uncertain, but the creator obviously must have enjoyed the view.

Near midday Muckle showed the students a very strange hole in the ground. The hole was filled with water had no entrance, or exit, and as of yet no pipes. There were vertical boards lining the hole, and it was situated next to a small creek. Muckle postulates that the hole might have been a Japanese water supply where the water was siphoned out. The plywood seen in the photo was used for shoring (to hold up the dirt and debris), and five years ago the ladder was supplied to provide the excavating group access into and out of the the reservoir.

Several cans were also found on site, and students were left to wonder what was contained in these cans. The air holes were very small, so it is suggested that a thin liquid was contained in them. No labels or markings could be seen because of the state the cans were in. Although they look very dated, these are actually very nicely preserved.

The highlight of the day was having Bob explain to the students his golden discovery. Below Muckle is pictured with what is probably the only excavated Japanese bath house in North America. There is evidence that a shelter had been built around the bathhouse and that it was stoked by a fire from underneath. Along with the bathhouse, a ladle was found, a large metal sheet typical of bath houses, around a thousand nails, and several pieces of camera equipment. How exciting! More discoveries and fun await the Archaeology Field School tomorrow!


  1. Saw this on QXMs "NWC Archaeology' and posted there that there might be some interesting connections to the Japanese sector of the historic McLeans Mill National Historic Site that Millennia researched back in the early 90s. And reading this blog entry, that is clearly so; one of the interesting things we excavated there was a Japanese bath house (so sorry, silver not gold unless someone else beat us both). We came upon a cache of beautiful unbroken kitchen/dining things (glass etched with dancing cranes, etc) that had been evidently hidden in the bush; we speculated that it dated to the time of the Japanese Canadian internment during WWII.

    I'll be interested to follow this blog!
    Morley Eldridge

  2. That is very interesting. I am thinking that after its initial use as a logging camp (c 1920), this site continued to be occupied by a small groups of Japanese until WW II internment. My hypothesis is based in part by finding things I think were 'hidden'. I think the camp was initially set up by E. Kagetsu who I can place in the Seymour Valley c. 1920. By the mid 1920s he moved his operations to Vancouver Island.

    Bob Muckle