City of Calgary

Five-hundred Years of History at McKinnon Flats: New Discoveries Made in the Aftermath of the 2013 Flood

You may have recently seen a news story about archaeological finds at McKinnon Flats, approximately 22 km southeast of Calgary (see below for news links).  Today, McKinnon Flats is a popular recreational area, used for fishing, hiking and bird watching.  But did you know that five centuries ago it may also have been used for bison hunting and camping?

Archaeologists of Lifeways of Canada Limited have been contracted by Alberta Culture and Tourism to find out about early settlement at McKinnon Flats.  They’re part of Culture and Tourism’s three-year Post-Flood Investigation Program, which was initiated to record the effects of the June 2013 southern Alberta flood on archaeological and palaeontological sites along rivers such as the Bow, Highwood, Sheep and Kananaskis.  As a result of the program, 100 new archaeological sites were identified and additional information was gathered at 87 sites that had been recorded prior to the flood.  Many of these sites were found eroding from the riverbanks, with some in need of investigation before they disappeared entirely. (more…)

Senator Lougheed Residence, Calgary

Sand Paint

Sand painting is a faux finish technique that was not uncommon for exteriors of masonry buildings in the early part of the twentieth century.  By dusting sand onto paint while still tacky, painted wood or metal details were made to resemble stone.  If you guessed you were looking at magnified grains of sand in the teaser photograph above, you were right.  The photograph, taken through a binocular microscope, is actually of a sand paint sample taken from the Senator Lougheed Residence in Calgary.

Senator Lougheed Residence, Calgary

Senator Lougheed Residence, Calgary.

Sand painted wood details at the Senator Lougheed Residence, Calgary

Sand painted wood details at the Senator Lougheed Residence, Calgary.

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Archaeology and the June 2013 Floods in Southern Alberta

In June 2013, heavy rainfall triggered catastrophic flooding in southern Alberta that has been characterized as some of the worst in the province’s history. Areas along the Bow, Elbow, Highwood, Red Deer, Sheep, Little Bow and South Saskatchewan Rivers, and their tributaries, were affected. Estimates of property damage from the flood make it one of the most costly in Canadian history. Personal property, however, was not the only casualty. The torrents of water accelerated natural erosional and depositional processes, resulting in significant alteration to many of southern Alberta’s river systems.

Debris-flow fan on the Highwood River, caused by the June 2013 flood.

Debris-flow fan on the Highwood River.

Erosional exposure on the Sheep River, caused by the June 2013 flood.

Erosional exposure on the Sheep River, caused by the June 2013 flood.

The potential for finding archaeological sites along southern Alberta’s river systems has always been high. The distribution of known archaeological sites in Alberta indicate the importance of the major river systems to precontact and historic people as sources of fresh water, food resources and travel corridors.  As a result of these associations, a number of archaeological sites were also identified as casualties of the June 2013 flood. (more…)

Heritage Energized: HRMB at the National Trust Conference

Last month, the Historic Resources Management Branch had the opportunity to attend the National Trust for Canada’s annual conference, right here in our home province. Held October 22-24 in Calgary, the conference’s theme of “Heritage Energized” explored how heritage energy can turn places around, empower people and create opportunities.

Preceding the conference was Moh-Kins-Tsis: Calgary Indigenous Heritage Roundtable, a day-long session bringing together Elders and knowledge keepers with practitioners in the fields of heritage, archaeology, architecture and planning, to discuss how to protect Indigenous heritage sites in the urban environment.  Moderators Lorna Crowshoe (Aboriginal Issues Strategist, City of Calgary) and Makiinima—Roy Fox (Former Chief of the Kainai Nation) set the tone for the day by establishing the room as an “ethical space”—where groups with contrasting world views can come together in respectful, cooperative and collaborative ways. The audience then had the special opportunity to learn about Blackfoot ways of knowing from Elders Wilton Goodstriker, Herman Yellow Old Woman, Bruce Wolf Child, Andy Blackwater and Dr. Reg Crowshoe. These discussions were expanded upon by a number of professional and academic presenters.

The Crowfoot Young Warriors kick off Moh-Kins-Tsis: Calgary Indigenous Heritage Roundtable with drumming and song. Photo credit: Pinpoint Photography, courtesy of the National Trust for Canada.

The Crowfoot Young Warriors kick off Moh-Kins-Tsis: Calgary Indigenous Heritage Roundtable with drumming and song. Photo credit: Pinpoint Photography, courtesy of the National Trust for Canada.

The latter half of the day focused on the Paskapoo Slopes—an area in the city’s northwest rich in archaeological and cultural heritage and of high significance to the Blackfoot Nations. A panel composed (more…)

Metis Week in Alberta

Photo Credit: Travel Alberta

Photo Credit: Travel Alberta

Events are taking place across the province this week in honour of Metis Week, from November 15-21, 2015. This week provides an opportunity to celebrate Metis people, their culture and their contributions.

Louis Riel Day was celebrated on November 16th, the date that marks the anniversary of Riel’s death in 1885. Riel was a Metis leader who fought for the recognition of Metis people and their rights. He is also credited as the founder of the province of Manitoba. Commemorations and events took place in both the Edmonton and Calgary areas.

Many other events are taking place across the province to celebrate Metis week and it’s not too late to take part! For a full listing of events, click here.

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Haunted Heritage

In Alberta, autumn is the perfect mix of sun-soaked days and brisk star-filled nights. Our trees are coloured all sorts of stunning shades of sunburst, heralding the changing seasons. As the winds snatch away the golden foliage, only bare lonely branches are left swaying eerily in their place, it’s the perfect time for telling tales of ghosts and spooky places. From haunted hotels to spooky schoolhouses, Alberta has a rich history rife with ghostly tales. It’s no wonder we love to share local tales of the paranormal.

Here’s our top 5 list of the spookiest heritage sites:

1. The McKay Avenue School: Built between 1904 and 1905, the McKay Avenue School is an early twentieth-century, three-story building situated in the heart of Edmonton’s Downtown district. The building has a red-brick façade with sandstone trim, round arches over the windows, and imposing columns flanking the main entrance. The building hosted the inaugural session of the Alberta Legislative Assembly. It’s also connected to early educational institutions in Edmonton and is an example of stately Richardson Romanesque architectural style.

McKay Avenue School circa 1913, Edmonton (photo courtesy of Provincial Archives of Alberta)

McKay Avenue School circa 1913, Edmonton, said to be haunted by spirits of children and a worker who fell from the roof to his death (photo courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta).

The school is now home to the Edmonton Public Schools Archive and Museum run by the Edmonton Public School Board. Tales abound of possible paranormal activity in the building including objects mysteriously moving around, water taps found running, and lights being turned off and on by (more…)

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Alberta’s Ancient Darts and Atlatl Hunting

How did people kill animals before guns and the bow and arrow? One of the oldest weapons in Alberta is called an atlatl or dart thrower. The atlatl increased in popularity around 8000 years ago and was the trusted technology for roughly 300 consecutive generations of hunters. It was replaced by the bow and arrow around 2000 years ago.

What’s an Atlatl? 

The atlatl is a carved wooden board, up to 1 m long, with a hook on one end that inserts into a divot at the end of a ‘dart’ shaft (about 1 m in length).

Figure 1. Atlatl and weight Amanda Dow

An atlatl throwing board (by Amanda Dow)

The hunter throws the dart in a motion similar to a baseball pitch. A flick of the wrist at the end of the throw increases the speed and power. Is the use of an atlatl better than just throwing a spear? The world record for a hand-thrown javelin is 104 m while the record for an atlatl thrown-dart is 258 m! (more…)