QUEBEC-L ArchivesArchiver > QUEBEC > 2007-08 > 1187620779
From: "Renee Cummings" <>
Subject: [QUEBEC] Dig uncovers 1642 Montreal site, Fort Ville-Marie
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2007 10:39:39 -0400
In today's Star
Dig uncovers 1642 Montreal site
TheStar.com - News - Dig uncovers 1642 Montreal site
Fort Ville-Marie was original settlement
August 20, 2007
MONTREALA nondescript brown warehouse filled with old barrels and rickety
pallets is an unlikely site for the spiritual heart of a city.
Yet beneath the worn cement floors of one such warehouse lies what
archeologists believe are the first permanent buildings of the settlement
that became Montreal.
"This is where the Montreal adventure began," says archeologist Sophie
Limoges, pointing to a large hole in the warehouse floor.
Limoges, who works for Montreal's Pointe-à-Callière museum, is in fact
pointing to the remains of Fort Ville-Marie, the lost, original French
settlement in Montreal.
The fort was built in 1642 and housed as many as 50 early colonists,
including Montreal's founder, Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, and nurse
Jeanne Mance. It would have been a key meeting place for aboriginal allies
as well as the colony's administrative heart.
But the exact location of the fort, which was eventually abandoned, has
baffled historians since the 19th century. The most recent record of the
fort dates from 1683.
Archeologists got a break in the case when, in 1989, they discovered the
city's first French Catholic cemetery underneath what is now
Pointe-à-Callière Montreal's archeology museum.
"When we discovered the cemetery we knew we were close," Limoges says.
In 2002, the museum began digs in a nearby old maritime warehouse, acquired
with the help of municipal and provincial governments.
The digs, which helped spur the Université de Montréal to create an urban
archeology program, immediately began to reveal signs of human activity from
the 17th century. With the help of students from the university, researchers
found remains of a well, an outbuilding and a masonry structure.
Digs conducted earlier this summer revealed a forge, a large pit and a
number of artifacts that have allowed archeologists to confirm what they had
long suspected: the nondescript warehouse in Old Montreal was sitting on top
of Fort Ville-Marie.
Along with finding the elusive location of the fort, the digs have provided
archeologists with a wealth of artifacts from the early 17th century as well
as subsequent periods.
An 18th-century hat pin, lead hunting bullets and aboriginal pipes are among
the trove being stored in an old foreman's office above the warehouse.
"To many people, these are just fragments," says Pointe-à-Callière's head of
collections, Suzanne Lachance, as she points to rows of carefully catalogued
"But for us they're full of emotion because we always see the human behind
them. They're not just artifacts, there's a person who made it, who traded
it, who broke it."
The discovery of the Fort Ville-Marie site ultimately raises more questions
than it answers. Pointe-à-Callière's archeologists are still unsure of the
fort's exact layout and how it evolved during its 33 years of existence.
Only about one-third of the warehouse site has been excavated and the museum
plans to continue excavating the site over the next several years.
As for Limoges, she is optimistic that future discoveries will be able to
sustain the interest caused by the fort's discovery.
"Fifteen years ago, people didn't know much about Quebec's archeological
sites," she says. "We looked abroad to what they were doing in other
countries, the pyramids in Egypt or Mayan ruins. Yes, those are spectacular
sites, but we in Quebec also have very interesting sites that testify to our
Earlier this year, the City of Montreal announced it was spending $200,000
to determine sites of archeological interest outside Old Montreal, a move
that was greeted warmly by the archeological community.
|[QUEBEC] Dig uncovers 1642 Montreal site, Fort Ville-Marie by "Renee Cummings" <>|