Flint Knapping with the Archaeological Society of Alberta

The Archaeological Society of Alberta (ASA) is an amateur organization of over 400 members who are dedicated to promoting, protecting, and preserving Alberta’s heritage. The society regularly holds events that allow the public to actively experience archaeology in the province.

In March the Strathcona chapter of the ASA held a flint-knapping and tool-making workshop in Edmonton. The ASA workshop allowed members to get first-hand experience making the stone, or lithic, tools that are among the most common artifacts found in archaeological sites in Alberta. Prior to the arrival of metals with Europeans in North America, First Nations people created tools such as blades, knives, axes, and projectile points, by knapping stones. Knapping technology is not unique to Alberta, but was used by humans and our ancestors in all parts of the world beginning as early as 3.3 million years ago in Africa. Today many archaeologists practice knapping to better understand the material culture recovered from archaeological sites. Knapping is also a common hobby among archaeologists and non-archaeologists alike.

Creating Stone Tools

First, cores of lithic raw material are precisely broken using hammerstones (stones and antler) to produce large, flat flakes. At the workshop, participants knapped obsidian and dacite, two types of stone that are easy to use for beginners. When knapping, safety is always top priority. Striking stones such as obsidian produces tiny shards of the material, which tend to scatter and can easily cause injury. To prevent accidents, knappers use hand and eye protection, and always have plenty of bandages at the ready. The scattered waste flakes produced when knapping are called ‘debitage’ by archaeologists.

Photo 1

ASA participants using hammerstones to produce lithic (stone) flakes and debitage.

Next, smaller flakes of stone can be worked into tools. Instead of striking the stone, smaller flakes can be removed by applying consistent force in a process called pressure flaking. In the picture below, a knapper is using a copper pressure flaker to work the edge of a projectile point.

Photo 2

A knapper using a copper pressure flaker to work the edge of a projectile point.

Finally, the knappers were able to haft their new tools onto wood or antler shafts and handles. The stone tools were affixed into the wooden handles using pine pitch, and then fastened using animal sinew and hide glue. In archaeological sites the organic shafts, handles, and fastening materials have usually decayed, leaving only the stone tools behind.

Photo 3

Some of the tools created at the ASA Flint Knapping workshop

Becoming a good knapper takes a lot of patience and practice, and it helps to have a good teacher. If you are interested in learning how to knap stone tools, there will be two knapping events in Alberta this year in July and September.

Photo 4

Written by: Colleen Haukaas, Archaeological Permits & Digital Information Coordinator.

National Aboriginal Day 2015

Photo Credit: Travel Alberta/Sean Thonson

Photo Credit: Travel Alberta/Sean Thonson

Sunday, June 21 marks National Aboriginal Day—an opportunity to take time to learn, acknowledge and celebrate the rich contributions Canada’s First Nations, Metis and Inuit have made to our country. Officially proclaimed in 1996, National Aboriginal Day is now recognized nation-wide as part of a series of Celebrate Canada days.

If you live in Edmonton, APTN’s  Aboriginal Day Live & Celebration will be hosted in Louise McKinney Park on Saturday, June 20 and additional community events will be held throughout the week.

Aboriginal Awareness Week Calgary’s theme this year is ‘Keeping the Circle Strong,’ with events taking place June 14 – 21. Additional events in Alberta are listed here.

Is your community hosting a National Aboriginal Day event? Share it with us in the comments below!

Written By: Laura Golebiowski, Aboriginal Consultation Advisor

Floods, Bricks, and POWs: Rebuilding Medalta’s Historic Chimney

A massive brick chimney at Medalta Potteries towers six metres above the roof of “Building 10” and extends roughly the same distance from the roof to the dusty factory floor below. Two meters wide at its base, the chimney and accompanying boiler were vital in the production of clay products from the early decades of the twentieth century until the plant’s closure in the 1960s. Now a Provincial Historic Resource, Medalta Potteries in Medicine Hat has evolved into a vibrant community hub that includes the Medalta archives and interpretive centre, galleries and displays, a working pottery that reproduces classic Medalta ware, a contemporary ceramics centre for professional artists, and a venue for markets, weddings, concerts and other community events. The tall brick chimney and distinctive monitor roofs of the former factory buildings provide the iconic backdrop for these varied activities.


Medalta Potteries in 2014, looking west to Building 10 before rebuilding of the chimney.

Already leaning slightly to the south, the chimney developed a worrisome new tilt after the June 2013 southern Alberta floods, an event which inundated much of Medalta and the nearby residential neighborhoods. As soil conditions on site gradually normalized in early 2014, the chimney’s foundation shifted and subsided further into the clay-rich soil, raising concerns about its stability. The only practical long-term conservation option was to disassemble the chimney and rebuild it with the original, locally manufactured brick using traditional masonry materials and construction methods.

Medalta map draft

Conserving the chimney started with extensive photographs and measurements followed by disassembly by a contractor specializing in historic masonry conservation. Medalta’s staff archaeologist monitored and documented the process. As the chimney came down brick by brick, unexpected finds within the masonry included an old whisky bottle; fire bricks from Hebron, North Dakota; and a bizarre series of wasps’ nests occurring at roughly one metre intervals within the stack. This corresponds roughly with the work a team of masons would likely have completed in a typical day – a coincidence that begs further explanation. The chimney-dwelling wasps turned out to be quite blind and fortunately did not harass the masonry crew as dismantling proceeded.

The most intriguing relic, however, was a cluster of bricks inscribed with names and the inscription “IX 44”, presumed to represent a date. The names went unobserved until mortar dust from the disassembly process settled lightly onto the brick and highlighted the writing. Prisoners of war interned in Medicine Hat during the Second World War were recruited for work in local industries to offset the wartime labour shortage. Research now underway may reveal that some of these POWs, possibly even masons in their pre-war lives, helped repair the chimney at Building 10 in September of 1944.

Chimney rebuilding is nearing completion and will replicate its historic appearance — without the lean to the south. Glazed bricks set into the chimney mark the locations of the autographed bricks and, soon, visitors to Medalta will be treated to a new exhibit in Building 10 featuring the original bricks and an account of this chapter in the site’s remarkable history.

Written by: Fraser Shaw, Heritage Conservation Adviser

Alberta & the Great War

To recognize the centennial of the First World War, the Provincial Archives of Alberta launched the Alberta & the Great War exhibit in August of last year. Using letters, photographs and formal war documents, this exhibit captures the experiences that Albertans endured during the Great War. There are five topics within the exhibit: the Western Front, Women and the War, Opposition and Oppression, the Home Front and the Aftermath, to show that there were several struggles going on at once during and after wartime. The effects of these events produced repercussions that remain evident in Alberta to this day.

The exhibit was assembled largely from the material found at the Archives, with a few artifacts on loan from the Royal Alberta Museum. Braden Cannon, a Private Records Archivist with the Provincial Archives of Alberta, will give an introduction to the exhibit that he curated.

The Great War had a tremendous effect on individuals and the province of Alberta as a whole. This display gives the public the opportunity to see into the lives of the Albertans who were at the forefront of the war and shows the impact of the conflict that reached the people back home. The archival materials used in the exhibit are a valuable record of this period in history. Exhibits, such as these, ensure that the individuals who served in the First World War and the substantial events of the past are not forgotten. Alberta & the Great War will run until August 29, 2015.

Video and summary by: Erin Hoar, Historic Resources Management Branch Officer. A special thank you to Braden Cannon at the Provincial Archives for appearing on video!

Image courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

Image courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

The 1909 Rutherford Cup – The Start of an Alberta Sporting Tradition

With the onset of spring, the attention of many Canadians turn to the perennial quest for the Stanley Cup, the storied challenge trophy, emblematic of hockey supremacy. Few realize that in Alberta one of Canada’s oldest sporting challenge trophies was established in 1909 by then Premier, Alexander C. Rutherford and is competed for until the present day. The history of the Rutherford Cup is as old as that of football’s Grey Cup and senior hockey’s Allen Cup all of which were established 106 years ago.

Alexander Cameron Rutherford, Alberta’s first Premier [1905-1910], distinguished himself not only as a legislator but also as an active participant in many aspects of Alberta’s developing society. Sporting activities featured prominently among Premier Rutherford’s many interests. He held executive positions with baseball, curling and football (what we now call soccer) clubs in Strathcona and established competitive trophies for the Strathcona Curling Club and the Strathcona Football Club. In 1909 Rutherford also established a challenge trophy to be vied for by senior high school soccer teams in central Alberta. The first competition for the cup culminated on the afternoon of Saturday October 16, 1909 at Edmonton’s Diamond Park in a match between Edmonton High School and Red Deer High School.

Rutherford Cup

Premier Alexander Cameron Rutherford with Edmonton High School team, winners of the inaugural Rutherford Cup, 1909. Source: City of Edmonton Archives EA-10-18

As reported by the Edmonton Bulletin, the first half of the inaugural championship match was fast and close with neither side scoring, but was marred by an unfortunate accident at the 15 minute mark. Red Deer full-back and team captain Carswell “came into violent collision” with an Edmonton forward while trying to prevent a shot on goal and broke his leg. The injured player was attended to by Dr. McGibbon and dispatched by ambulance to the Misericordia Hospital. Edmonton played an aggressive first half, giving the Red Deer goal keeper Hewson “plenty to do.” Half-back McLean played a strong game for Red Deer while on the forward line Krause and Slade “showed up well.” Hicks and Keffer starred for Edmonton, while Dean’s running and Hepburn’s shooting on goal were features of the game. Hepburn scored the game’s only goal for Edmonton after ten minutes of play in the second half with a very difficult shot. Red Deer was reluctant to concede defeat and pressed strongly in the last minutes of play with the final result “in doubt until the whistle blew for full time.” A reception was held that evening at Queen’s Avenue School with a short program of games, songs and recitations along with “dainty refreshments served by the girls of the school.” Brief addresses were given by Edmonton High School Principal William Rea, and Superintendent James McCaig, the trustee of the Rutherford Cup. Red Deer spokesman McLean stated that although defeated, his team was prepared to challenge for the trophy again and “contest its possession with the present holders.”

Determined to avenge its loss, Red Deer honed its skills during the spring of 1910 in preparation for a rematch with Edmonton. The Edmonton Journal announced that the Red Deer squad was coming to Edmonton to try to “lift the Rutherford Cup,” this time “much strengthened” and “confident of success”. The grudge match was played on Saturday April 23, 1910. The Red Deer squad was indeed much improved, the Journal noting that in the loose game they worked well together and back checked quickly. They appeared “to have had much more practice than the local boys,” were heavier and “knew how to use the weight.” Krause at centre was his team’s star, scoring the game’s solitary goal after only four minutes of play. Edmonton’s left winger Dean made spectacular individual rushes, bringing the ball down the field repeatedly, only to have the centre field man fail to score. Full-back Gillespie also played a “brilliant” game, working his position well and punting strongly, his quick checking preventing Red Deer from running up a much larger final score. Although attendance at the match was small. “fair co-eds were out in large numbers and cheered lustily for the Edmonton boys.”

The Edmonton press lamented the result of the match with partisan headlines: “Red Deer Grabs Rutherford Cup E.H.S. Pigskin Chasers Are Defeated by Students From the Half Way City.” The City of Red Deer celebrated that their boys had successfully journeyed to Edmonton and “annexed the handsome Rutherford cup” on the strength of Krause’s “doing the needful.” The Red Deer Advocate noted that the boys were “deserving of high praise for their clever play” and paid tribute to Edmonton’s hospitality. Following the match the competitors were royally received at a banquet hosted by Col. Robert Belcher, whose son captained the losing side.

Archbishop O’Leary High School, Winners of the Rutherford Cup, 1994. Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism.

Figure 2 Archbishop O’Leary High School, Winners of the Rutherford Cup, 1994. Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism.

Since its inception in 1909 the Rutherford Cup has been competed for almost annually, making it perhaps Alberta’s oldest athletic competition. Until 1988 senior soccer teams from the Edmonton Public and Separate (Catholic) Schools Boards challenged each other for the cup. When these two boards discontinued their joint athletics board, the competition lapsed and since then only senior schools of the Separate system have competed for the cup within the Metro Edmonton High School Athletic Association which currently includes 51 member high schools from the Edmonton and Metro Edmonton area.

The current holder of the Rutherford Cup is Austin O’Brien High School, six time champions since 1983. The culminating match for the 2015 challenge for the Rutherford Cup is scheduled to be played at 4:00 pm on Monday June 8th at Henry Singer Park located at 14940 – 142 Street in Edmonton. To follow the progress of play for the Rutherford Cup check the Metro Edmonton High School Athletic Association website at: http://www.telusplanet.net/public/metroedm/Soccer/soccersch-srboys.pdf.

The original version of this article appeared as “1909 Rutherford Cup – The Start of an Alberta Sporting Tradition” in Alberta Past, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring, 1995.

Peter Melnycky, Historian, Historic Places Stewardship Section, Alberta Culture and Tourism.

Pranks and Fun: Social Life at Old St. Stephen’s College

The history of Old St. Stephen’s College spans over a century and while the building itself is unique, it is the people have who have lived and worked here that bring out its uniqueness.[1] In its time as an educational facility, the college produced a large number of graduates who went on to become ministers, employed renowned educators and housed thousands of students. Residents participated in the traditions and customs of campus life and the building became eminent for the pranks that were carried out there. This post will look at the people of Old St. Stephen’s when it functioned as a theological college and some of the stories that illustrate the student’s social lives.

Students using the fire escape slide at St. Stephen's College, October 1940  (Courtesy of the University of Alberta Archives, UAA 72-58-0294).

Students using the fire escape slide at St. Stephen’s College, October 1940
(Courtesy of the University of Alberta Archives, UAA 72-58-0294).

Students were the majority of the building’s inhabitants: up to 150 youths were housed in the college at once and they didn’t spend all their free time studying. After the First World War, the college installed steel spiraled slides, to be used as fire escapes, at the end of each wing. During this time, the college had become a convalescent home for injured soldiers and the fires escapes were meant to evacuate patients as quickly as possible in an emergency. The fire escapes were never used for their intended purpose, but the students made use of them for their own enjoyment. Freshmen were initiated by their fellow classmates, who would dump the unlucky first years down the slides and then chase them with buckets of ice water. This custom continued into the 1970s, up until the fire escapes were removed during the renovations and replaced with ladders. In addition to the pranks and hazing that took place, there were water fights with neighboring residences that highlight the enjoyment of student life on campus. The students had a great deal of playful fun here.

Another tale is from when the Rutherford Library was being constructed in 1948. On the evening of the cornerstone-laying ceremony, the cornerstone mysteriously disappeared, only to turn up behind the college’s west wing fire escape. The stone weighed 700 pounds, and everyone presumed that engineering students were the culprits. However, in 2008, the secret was revealed in New Trail, the University of Alberta’s Alumni magazine. The escapade was actually the work of a group of agriculture students living at St. Stephen’s College. Turns out, the students borrowed a milk cart from the St. Stephen’s kitchen and attempted to haul the stone as far as 109 Street. Being heavier than anticipated, they only made it as far as St. Stephen’s College. To the student’s dismay, the stone was discovered just hours before the cornerstone-laying and the ceremony proceeded as planned.

Old St. Stephen’s College, 1971 (Historic Resources Management Branch, 71-R0001-29).  The tubed fire escapes on the wings of the building were installed in 1920.

Old St. Stephen’s College, 1971 (Historic Resources Management Branch, 71-R0001-29).
The tubed fire escapes on the wings of the building were installed in 1920.

Faculty members would also fall victim to the student’s pranks. The day after Halloween one year, John Henry Riddell, the College’s first principal, saw that his buggy was balanced unsteadily on one the building’s towers. Once again, the engineering students from the University of Alberta were thought to have assisted with this feat. Although no details could be found on who was responsible, it likely would have been worthwhile for the students to see the look on their administrator’s face. Pranks such as these were seemingly all in good fun, and as one former student states, they “built character and helped form fast friendships.”

In addition to pranks, there were Glee clubs, Students’ Council and various intramural activities for students to participate in. Physical recreation played a large role in student life at the college. Friendly sports rivalries were encouraged and the students had access to the tennis courts, a gym for basketball games and even skating parties were organized. Once the college’s ban on dances was lifted in the 1940s, students were able to attend university dances, including the well-known Sadie Hawkins Dance. Dormitory life helped to foster a communal atmosphere spirit among students and many residents have fond memories of their time spent at the college. Even the brochure for the St. Stephen’s Ladies’ College noted that “the social life [was] just delightful.”

Formal group portrait of the members of the Alberta College South Glee Club, 1912-1913 (Provincial Archives of Alberta, A16351).

Formal group portrait of the members of the Alberta College South Glee Club, 1912-1913 (Provincial Archives of Alberta, A16351).

When the building was home for the students of St. Stephen’s College, it was a place where friendships were formed, bonds between students and instructors were strengthened and fun was had. The building has seen thousands of staff and students pass through its hallways and numerous tales have been accumulated. These stories help to illustrate the liveliness of the former college and show us that it is the people who make history come alive.

What can you tell us about your time spent at Old St. Stephen’s College? Let us know your stories!

Written by: Erin Hoar, Historic Resources Management Branch Officer.


Alberta Register of Historic Places. “Old St. Stephen’s College.” (Accessed September 10, 2014).

Designation File # 132, in the custody of the Historic Resources Management Branch.

Elson, D. J. C. “History Trails: Faith, Labour, and Dreams.” University of Alberta Alumni Association. (Accessed September 23, 2014).access

Schoeck, Ellen. I Was There: A Century of Alumni Stories about the University of Alberta, 1906-2006. Edmonton, Canada: The University of Alberta Press, 2006.

Simonson, Gayle. Ever-Widening Circles: A History of St. Stephen’s College. Edmonton, Canada: St. Stephen’s College, 2008.

The Caper.” New Trail: The University of Alberta Alumni Association, 2008, 26-28 (Accessed September 13, 2015).

University of Alberta. “University of Alberta: St. Stephen’s College.” (Accessed September 10, 2014).

[1] A note on naming: the institution was initially known as Alberta College South. ACS and Robertson College were amalgamated in 1925 and renamed the United Theological College. The name St. Stephen’s College was chosen in 1927. It became known as Old St. Stephen’s College in 1952 when a new St. Stephen’s was built directly south of the existing college.

AHRF Board goes to Drumheller

Board members of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation (AHRF) recently held their first meeting for 2015 in Drumheller. The two-day meeting kicked off late Thursday afternoon with a walking tour of downtown. Though held under frigid temperatures, the tour was led with a warm welcome from the Town’s staff.

Friday morning was dedicated to a strategic planning session at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Thanks to Fred Tyrrell, a Community Development Officer from Alberta Culture and Tourism, who served as our facilitator. Topics explored included: promoting greater appreciation for Alberta’s heritage among new Albertans; ensuring that the not-for-profit and voluntary sectors so essential to our province’s heritage facilities and sites are sustainable and strong; and developing innovative and compelling ways to share Alberta’s story.

As part of the foundation’s efforts to reach out to the local heritage stakeholders, Julia Fielding, Executive Director of the Atlas Coal Mine Historical Society came and chatted with the board about the challenges and opportunities faced by the Atlas Coal Mine, a Provincial and National Historic Site in East Coulee.

The afternoon continued with a conference call with our colleagues from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts who provided us a glimpse of how they operate. Then it was time to get up for a special treat – a behind the scenes tour led by Don Brinkman, Director of Preservation and Research of the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Don showed us the intricate and exciting process of preparing fossils after being collected from the field.

Sitting from left: Matthew Wangler, Kurt Paterson, Josh Traptow, Joe Friedel, Leah Millar. Standing from left: Carina Naranjilla, Michael Dougherty, Fred Bradley, Larry Pearson, Lorne Simpson, Aimee Benoit, Laurel Halladay, Bob Gaetz, Geraldine Bidulock.

Sitting from left: Matthew Wangler, Kurt Paterson, Josh Traptow, Joe Friedel, Leah Millar.
Standing from left: Carina Naranjilla, Michael Dougherty, Fred Bradley, Larry Pearson, Lorne Simpson, Aimee Benoit, Laurel Halladay, Bob Gaetz, Geraldine Bidulock.

Saturday was another busy day, starting with presentations from the five Provincial Heritage Organizations (Alberta Genealogical Society, Alberta Museums Association, Archives Society of Alberta, Archaeological Society of Alberta and Historical Society of Alberta) that AHRF supports. This gathering provided an excellent opportunity for networking and future collaboration. The rest of the afternoon was the main board meeting where a number of general business items and applications from the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program and Alberta Main Street Program were discussed.

Those two productive days emphasized the need for strategic thinking, collaboration, engagement, and sustainability in order to preserve Alberta’s heritage.

Written by: Carina Naranjilla, Grant Program Coordinator, Alberta Historical Resources Foundation.