The early history of Nova Scotia's Black communities, such as Birchtown, is almost without exception incomplete and is usually based on written records of the time. In the case of Birchtown, where the majority of the population could neither read nor write, these firsthand records are virtually nonexistent. The few which do exist were either created by whites or offer little in the way of detail. The most complete and unbiased record of Black Loyalist Birchtown is to be found in the ground --- archaeology can help to shed new light on this long-neglected history.
To this end, the Shelburne County Cultural Awareness Society sponsored an archaeological survey of the Birchtown area in the fall of 1993. The survey, directed by Laird Niven, was mainly concerned with the proposed Fox Ridges' landfill site. The survey identified 20 previously unrecorded features ranging in date from the early 20th to the late 18th century.
During the summer of 1994 an archaeological fieldschool was conducted by Dr. S.A. Davis of Saint Mary's University on the late 18th-century site at AkDi-12, found during the 1993 survey. The site is within what is believed to be the original land grant of Birchtown and is thought to be that of an original Black Loyalist settler. The fieldschool was funded by a grant from the now defunct federal Access to Archaeology program and the monies were administered by Saint Mary's University and the Shelburne County Cultural Awareness Society.
The 1994 Birchtown project was designed to complete the excavation of the main section of the site and to investigate other areas of the site, all with an emphasis on public awareness and education.
The excavation of AkDi-12 was a success. The site was more complex than expected, apparently destroyed and intentionally buried at some time in the 1790s. The project also succeeded in gaining good media coverage, informing the public both on the African American origins of Birchtown and archaeology in general.
For any questions or comments please contact Laird Niven
Next: The Black Loyalists
Back to the Nova Scotia Museum Archaeology Page
Remembering Black Loyalists, Black Communities
Privacy | Terms