Dig ancient Calgary

By Dean Hetherington

According to the new Fish Creek Interpretive Centre, big things were already happening in Calgary 8,000 years ago.

Representatives from the Alberta government and the University of Calgary’s Archaeology program welcomed a new interpretive centre on Jan. 19. which will focus on recent historical discoveries.

"Our studies and the displays range from 8,000 years ago to the late 1800s," said U of C archeologist Dr. Dale Walde. "I don’t think people appreciate how much depth there is to Calgary’s history. We have a long and detailed story that goes much farther back than just to 150 years ago."

Arrowheads, buffalo remains, a ceremonial teepee and a spear from 2,000 BC are showcased in the main displays. The centre also exhibits finds made at the homes of Calgary’s first settlers.

"The first excavations took place here in 1965 by students of our university," said Walde. "Just recently, though, we have found intact nails from the Glenn house and have also reconstructed a torpedo bottle dated from the middle of the 19th century."

The centre was made possible through collaborations with the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society, the Alberta Heritage Research Fund, the Alberta Archeological Society, the Calgary Community Lottery Board and private donors.

"This new interpretive centre is right in line with our set of mandates," said Representative John Gearing of the Friends of Fish Creek. "We share the idea that the natural heritage of the park should be as enhanced as possible."

The interpretive centre began as part of the archeology department’s field studies program. Dr. Walde admits the idea for both a centre and an established field school began before working at the park.

"When I first came out to Fish Creek three years ago, I was already looking for a permanent home for a field school," he said. "This new interpretive centre lets the university students discover that archeological work does not happen in the ivory tower; it happens right here."

The centre also offers programs to school children and the general public. The Public Archeological Program allows citizens to become part of the excavation, research and display process.

"We are already developing programs using the interpretive centre’s displays," said Fish Creek Provincial Park Teacher in Residence Jeff Reading. "We want people involved where they can get their hands dirty."
Park staff feel community reaction has been positive, though some visitors have created problems for the dig sites.

"We had vandalism to the Glenn house before it was demolished," said Walde. "On occasion, after we have left the site, some people have come in and stomped the bones and thrown them around. We hope that we can educate our visitors to get them to understand and respect the sites so they are less apt to trash them."


Leave a comment