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Former guardhouse, 'fascinating' artifacts being revealed by Parliament Hill dig


Before the Parliament Buildings can undergo a massive modernization, archaeologists have to preserve the past of what was once called Barrack Hill.

In rough and ready Bytown, it was site of the British Royal Engineers’ military quarters from 1827 to 1858, spanning construction of the Rideau Canal, which opened in 1832.

On Sunday, the stone foundation of a former guardhouse continued to take shape under the trowels and brooms of archaeologists in a dig between the Centre Block and the East Block, where work is slated to wrap up this fall.

The dig site will be open again next weekend for guided tours.

As many as 22 archaeologists are at work each day this summer, measuring, mapping and excavating the site as part of a pre-construction assessment of Centre Block.

The guardhouse served as living quarters, a hospital for victims of malaria, typhoid and cholera and cells where accused lawbreakers, both civilian and military, were held.

Public Services and Procurement Canada says it’s conducting the digs to ensure the upcoming construction won’t damage any potential artifacts.

Using tools including sifting screens, archaeologists have found “fascinating” objects, PSPC said, and some are on display, ranging from children’s marbles found just last Monday to regimental buttons, shards of pottery and a clay pipe.

They have also found shako plates — decorative badges from cylindrical military headgear — dating from the era of King George IV, who reigned from 1820 to 1830.

The next round of public visits to the dig site is scheduled for between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on July 20-21. Tours start at the white tent on the right side of the Great Lawn between Centre Block and East Block.


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