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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 10

Glassware Excavated at Fort Gaspereau, New Brunswick

by Jane E. Harris


Fort Gaspereau is situated at the mouth of the Gaspereau River where it empties into Baie Verte and the Northumberland Strait, approximately one mile from Port Elgin, New Brunswick (Fig. 1). It was built by the French in 1751 as part of a string of fortifications across the Isthmus of Chignecto. Following the capture of Fort Beausejour in 1755, Fort Gaspereau was peacefully surrendered to the English, who occupied it for approximately one year. Before abandoning the fort in 1756, the English burned it to prevent its reoccupation by the French. During the French occupation the number of soldiers stationed at the fort does not seem to have exceeded 20 at any one time, but the English garrison numbered approximately 200 (Ingram 1963).

1 Site location map:
   1 Fort Gaspereau
   2 Fort Beausejour
   3 the Roma Site
   4 Fortress of Louisbourg
(click on image for a PDF version)

In the 1930s considerable alteration to the fort, such as ploughing the interior and redefining the ditches, resulted in considerable disturbance of stratigraphy making it less than reliable as an archaeological indicator. Prior to this time, the site seems to have been popular as a picnic spot.

The excavation of the fort was conducted during the summer of 1966 by Iain Walker and Elizabeth Wylie of the National Historic Sites Service (Rick 1970: 23). This work resulted in the recovery of fragments representing 150 to 200 glass bottles and tumblers as well as 10 pounds of burned glass. These artifacts represent two distinct periods at the fort: the first covers the years of occupation (1751-56), and the second begins in the latter half of the 19th century and continues to the present.

2 Site and excavation plan of Fort Gaspereau:
   1 southwest bastion
   2 west palisade and ditch trench
   3 commandant's quarters
   4 proposed barracks
   5 northwest bastion
   6 north palisade and ditch trenches
   7 powder magazine
   8 northeast bastion
   9 east palisade trench
   10 southeast bastion
   11 proposed British officers' quarters
   12 south palisade and ditch trench
   13 magasin des vivres
(click on image for a PDF version)

Since the site has such a closely dated period of occupation it was hoped the study of its glass artifacts would assist in the interpretation of similar artifacts from other sites by providing type examples or differentiating between artifacts of French and English origin. The study has done this but on a much smaller scale than was anticipated.

The analysis of the artifacts has been divided into three sections commensurate with the occupation periods of the fort and beginning with artifacts representative of the French occupation, between 1751 and 1755. The late 19th-century material has been described and identified as an aid in determining which excavation units have been contaminated. Where the structures are referred to by name, excavations in these areas are indicated.

Colour was determined using the Nickerson Color Fan (Munsell Color Company) under fluorescent lighting. A shortwave ultra-violet light source (Fisher Scientific, UVS-11) was used to determine the presence of lead in the glass. (When lead is present the glass fluoresces a cold, light blue.)

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