Images show evidence of what could be one of Canada’s oldest graveyards

Archeologist Sara Beanlands says there is compelling evidence to at the unmarked site in western Nova Scotia

Researchers using ground-penetrating radar have found what they believe is one of the oldest European graveyards in Canada.

Archeologist Sara Beanlands says there is compelling evidence to suggest the unmarked site in western Nova Scotia is the final resting place for Acadian settlers buried near a fort as early as the 1680s.

The radar images, gathered one day last month at the Fort Anne National Historic Site in Annapolis Royal, show neat rows of 19 ghostly green and red shapes.

“With respect to Acadian history, this was — and (nearby) Port Royal is — the cradle of Acadian civilization,” says Beanlands, senior archeologist at Halifax-based Boreas Heritage Consulting.

“Many of the Acadians today who can trace their ancestry back to Port Royal, their ancestors will be buried somewhere in that Acadian cemetery.”

Originally built by the Scots as early as 1629, Fort Anne was later taken over by the French, before it fell to British troops in 1710.

“It’s one of the most contested landscapes in this part of the world,” Beanlands says. “People have been drawn to this area for thousands of years … This was home for the Mik’maq long before any European explorers.”

She says the underground anomalies picked by the ground-penetrating radar — a device that looks like an electric lawn mower — could be an extension of a nearby British cemetery.

The well-known Garrison Graveyard has 230 headstones that date back to 1720.

READ MORE: Indigenous woman’s grave site brings pilgrims to former B.C. residential school

At the turn of the 17th century, the Acadians used wooden grave markers, which have long since rotted away.

However, church records and maps from the early 1700s indicate an Acadian cemetery was also located outside the walls of the star-shaped fort, a reconstructed fortification that became Canada’s first administered national historic site in 1917.

Beanlands’ research included the use of aerial drones and Lidar — short for Light Detection and Ranging — to produce an extremely accurate picture of the site’s contours.

The radar was used to produce a three-dimensional cross-section of the plot, which is about 10 metres by 18 metres and extends three metres underground.

“For the first time, we have been able to take this technology … into Fort Anne and see through a new set of eyes in a way that is completely non-destructive,” Beanlands says. “It gives us the ability to see things we have never been able to see before.”

Though the glowing anomalies don’t show much, their arrangement is unmistakable. At a depth of one metre, the irregular shapes appear at regular intervals — and they are aligned along a north-south axis that is in line with the British graves.

“We’re familiar with what burials look like in the data,” says Beanlands. “The most compelling evidence is … the patterning of the anomalies.”

However, the only way to confirm the presence of graves would be to conduct an expensive and time-consuming archeological dig. But that’s not going to happen, Beanlands says.

“So we could never know — we could never say with absolute certainty,” she says. “What we need is more data.”

An expanded search could start as early as next month, with help from Parks Canada, the Nova Scotia Community College’s Applied Geomatics Research Group and Mapannapolis, a volunteer organization that creates web-based maps of heritage sites.

By Michael MacDonald in Halifax

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Robert Barron column: A Canadian hero I wish I had talked to

Almost nobody was there on that cold Newfoundland day when Terry Fox started his run

Caps improve to 3-0

Lynn and Arquiett score two each as Caps double up Chiefs

Carving in Cowichan provided road to recovery for stroke victim

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to get out of bed or walk, let alone carve”

Sarah Simpson Column: Use your smarts to slow down early holidays

It’s Friday the 13th. There’s a full moon. A rabid bat is… Continue reading

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

Some say the high cost of logs is the major cause of the industry’s decline in B.C.

Federal food safety watchdog says batch of baby formula recalled

The agency says it’s conducting a food safety investigation

UVic president offers condolences after two students killed in bus crash

‘We also grieve with those closest to these members of our campus community,’ Cassels says

Coming Home: B.C. fire chief and disaster dog return from hurricane-ravaged Bahamas

The pair spent roughly one week on Great Abaco Island assisting in relief efforts

Newcomer Ferland lines up with sniper Pettersson as Vancouver Canucks camp opens

Ferland provides more depth and a scoring threat up front, Pettersson says

Intelligence official charged seemed to be ‘exemplar of discretion’: UBC professor

Professor Paul Evans says he served on Cameron Ortis’s doctoral dissertation committee

B.C. police watchdog to investigate man’s head injury during RCMP arrest

Suspect fled on a bicycle and fell off when an officer attempted to stop him

Nanaimo company gets licence to test psychedelic drugs for therapy treatment

Salvation Botanicals interested in manufacturing, testing and research and development

Most Read