Stories of discovery: Devil’s Coulee nesting site

Editor’s note: We continue our series highlighting significant fossil discoveries found by members of the public. Remember, if you find a fossil, follow these instructions.

1987: Devil’s Coulee Nesting Site (TMP 1987.003.0003)

Technician Dawna Macleod poses with a prepared hadrosaur nest from Devil’s Coulee. Source: Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.

Wendy Sloboda spent much of her youth exploring the Warner area of southern Alberta. As a high school student in 1986, she worked as an assistant under the direction of Dr. Len Hills at the University of Calgary on a palaeontological impact assessment for a proposed dam near Milk River. She came across abundant dinosaur eggshell fragments on the Milk River Ridge near her home, and reported them to Dr. Hills. A team from the Royal Tyrrell Museum, including Dr. Philip Currie, visited the site with Wendy and her parents to inspect the find.

The Devil’s Coulee Provincial Historic Site. Source: Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.
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After two seasons of closures, Alberta’s historic sites set to reopen

Written by: Suzanna Wagner, Edward van Vliet, Stephanie McLachlan

May 18 might be an ordinary Wednesday for some, but for Alberta’s Provincial Historic Sites, it’s a much anticipated day. After two seasons of COVID closures, seven historic sites will be re-opening to visitors next week.

In the eastern part of the province, Fort George & Buckingham House is kicking off summer 2022 in grand style. Not only has the site’s official book Opponents and Neighbours: Fort George and Buckingham House and the early fur trade on the North Saskatchewan River, 1792 to 1800, been published, but 2022 is the visitor centre’s 30th anniversary.

The modern visitor centre at Fort George & Buckingham House was opened exactly 200 years after the original fur trade forts were built. Inside you’ll find an interactive museum gallery, travelling exhibits, activities, guided tours and modern visitor facilities. Source: Historic Sites and Museums.

This season also marks the debut of a new exhibit. “Fur Trade Highways of Alberta: Water Transportation, 1780 to 1930,” covers fur trade companies’ gradual transition from canoes, to York boats, to paddle wheelers over 150 dramatic years of change in the fur trade. The exhibit features boating artifacts, a music station, a video about York boat building and life-size boat outlines in the ground to give visitors a real-life sense of how big these boats were.

Be sure to check out Fort George & Buckingham House’s Facebook and website for details of all the upcoming events! We hope to see you there.

To celebrate these many milestones, each weekend in July and August will have a different theme. There will be a book launch party, weekends celebrating the river, boats, and the new exhibit, weekends to explore the storied archaeological history of the site, events featuring stories of the many people who lived at Fort George & Buckingham House and a return of the ever-popular Bears and Berries festival!

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Heritage Awards nominations close soon

Reminder that there are just over three weeks left to submit your nominations for the 2022 Heritage Awards!

The Heritage Awards, presented by the Alberta government, help to honour the work of Alberta citizens, groups and communities helping to share protect, preserve and promote our province’s history. The awards recognize individuals, non-profit organizations, corporations, municipalities, First Nations and Metis settlements. To get a sense of the outstanding effort from community members, take a look at the recipients from the last Heritage Awards.

Recipients will be recognized at an awards ceremony in September during Alberta Culture Days.

To nominate an individual or group, fill out a nomination form and drop off, mail, courier or email your nomination package to:

Heritage Awards Program
Old St. Stephen’s College Building
8820 112 Street
Edmonton, Alberta  T6G 2P8
Email: csw.heritageawards@gov.ab.ca

Stories of discovery: Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai bonebed

Editor’s note: We continue our series highlighting significant fossil discoveries found by members of the public. Remember, if you find a fossil, follow these instructions.

1986: Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai bonebed (TMP 1986.055.0258)

A skeleton of Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai in Dinosaur Hall from the Pipestone Creek bonebed.

Al Lakusta was a junior high science teacher in Grande Prairie in the 1970s. As part of his lessons, he took students prospecting for fossils at Pipestone Creek. The fossils they found were usually molluscs, like clams and oysters. One day in 1974, Al came across dinosaur fossils when he ventured farther upstream than usual. He looked along the banks for the source of the fallen fossil material, and luckily spotted a ledge about 10 metres above the creek. He clambered up the bank and located the fossil-rich layer. He sent samples of the fossils to the Provincial Museum of Alberta, and consulted with scientists from the Grande Prairie Regional College to learn more about his find. Palaeontologists, including Dr. Philip Currie, were then involved to help identify the bones.

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Archaeology and modern forestry in Alberta

Editor’s note: This blog post is derived from a recent paper published in the Archaeological Survey of Alberta’s Occasional Paper Series titled: Forestry and archaeology in Alberta: A history and synthesis written by Bereziuk et al. The second paper in this issue was also recently released and is titled: Dated ground stone artifacts from Tse’K’wa (HbRf-39), Peace River region, British Columbia.  

Written by: Todd Kristensen, Regional Archaeologist

Most archaeology in Alberta happens in advance of industry development when consultants are hired to ensure that archaeological sites are avoided or excavated prior to ground disturbance. For the last decade, about half of the new sites recorded in Alberta are found during forestry programs when consultants look for archaeological material in advance of tree harvesting and logging road construction. The contribution that forestry-based archaeology makes in Alberta is large.

Why do forestry operators have to hire archaeological consultants? 

Industry developers are generally required by law, through the Historical Resources Act, to submit development plans to the Archaeological Survey of Alberta, who then reviews the footprints for overlaps with known archaeological sites or areas with potential for archaeological material. Forestry is one of Alberta’s largest industries in terms of spatial area: about 87,000 hectares are harvested each year and over 2 million hectares have been commercially logged in Alberta since 1990. Archaeological sites in harvest areas can be disturbed during road construction, during logging (by heavy machinery that cuts trees or transports them), and by site preparation practices that relate to reforestation.

In many areas in Alberta, the ground is intentionally disturbed after harvest to encourage regrowth of desired seedlings: about 18,000 hectares of land in Alberta are annually subjected to mechanical site preparation by forestry operators. Archaeological sites in Alberta’s Boreal Forest are often quite shallow (within 30 cm from the surface) meaning that forestry can have large impacts on the province’s preserved heritage. In the big picture, the vast majority of Alberta’s forests and all archaeological material in the province are public resources. For these reasons, forestry operators are responsible for detecting and avoiding archaeological sites during development.   

Alberta’s forested ecoregions (data from Alberta Parks 2005). The Parkland is not a commercially harvestable forest type. South of the Parkland is Alberta’s Prairie ecoregion. Source: Todd Kristensen.
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Listing of Historic Resources- Spring 2022 Update

Written by: Colleen Haukaas, Archaeological Survey

From the Alberta government’s Historic Resources Management Branch, the Spring 2022 edition of the Listing of Historic Resources is now available. The Listing is a geospatial product showing lands that are known to contain or likely to contain historic resources (i.e. archaeological sites, historic sites, palaeontological sites, Indigenous heritage sites) in Alberta. The Listing is designed to be used by developers, land agents and other professionals in the cultural resources professional sphere. Publishing the Listing allows us to more quickly communicate concerns about historic resources on the landscape, while also protecting some of the confidentiality of historic resource sites. Even though the Listing is targeted for professionals, anyone can access it. A new edition of the Listing each year in the spring and fall.

CategoryDescription
aarchaeological
ccultural
glgeological
hhistoric
nnatural
ppalaeontological
Categories used in notations in the Listing of Historic Resources.
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So you’ve found a fossil. Now what?

Whether you were on an active search or just stumbled upon one by accident, it’s important to know what to do when you think you’ve discovered a fossil. In Alberta, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology will be your first point of contact. The basics are fairly straightforward: photograph, locate, leave and report. Follow these steps and who knows, you may be making an important contribution to science and palaeontology!

Here are all the details you need to know when you find a fossil.

The research completed by palaeontologists at the Royal Tyrrell Museum over the past few decades has largely been made possible by the public support the Museum receives each year. Dozens of significant discoveries have been made across the province by members of the public, and over the coming weeks, we’ll highlight some of those amazing discoveries.

First up, one of the most famous dinosaurs skull discoveries in North America. The year is 1980, and two high school students are fishing in the Crowsnest Pass…

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Ammolite to become an official provincial emblem

Editor’s note: The banner image above was reproduced with permission from Heritage Auctions, Bearpaw Ammonites, Ammonite Rainbow, UrbaKnight, liveauctioneers.com and I.M. Chait Gallery.

Today, the Minister of Culture tabled Bill 6, paving the way to create a provincial gemstone and make ammolite Alberta’s official gemstone. Ammolite is an iridescent gemstone formed from the fossilized shells of molluscs, known as ammonites. Ammolite is found and mined almost exclusively in the Alberta Rockies. Ammonite shells have been collected by Plains First Nations for a thousand years, and are still collected by Blackfoot communities for sacred purposes.

You’ve probably already seen some of the other “official emblems” of Alberta. The Wild Rose, our floral emblem, was designated way back in 1930. If you’ve ever walked though rough fescue, seen a Great Horned Owl or Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep, well, you’ve seen other official emblems of Alberta.

Back in 2018, archaeologist Dr. Todd Kristensen wrote an article about ammolite for RETROactive, covering hundreds of millions of years of history. Read Rainbow Fossils and Bison Calling to learn more about what could soon become Alberta’s official gemstone.

Nominations open for 2022 Heritage Awards

When you think about “preserving” history, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s the university academic who has dedicated their lives to understanding one particular subject. Maybe it’s an exhibit at facilities like the Royal Alberta Museum. Or perhaps it’s a developer working to restore a historical building. Whatever the avenue or activity, helping ensure our stories are told, understood and not forgotten are vital to healthy, vibrant communities.

The Heritage Awards, presented by the Alberta government, help to honour the work of Alberta citizens, groups and communities helping to share protect, preserve and promote our province’s history. The awards recognize individuals, non-profit organizations, corporations, municipalities, First Nations and Metis settlements. To get a sense of the outstanding effort from community members, take a look at the recipients from the last Heritage Awards.

Recipients will be recognized at an awards ceremony in September during Alberta Culture Days.

To nominate an individual or group, fill out a nomination form and drop off, mail, courier or email your nomination package to:

Heritage Awards Program
Old St. Stephen’s College Building
8820 112 Street
Edmonton, Alberta  T6G 2P8
Email: csw.heritageawards@gov.ab.ca

And Still We Rise: A Black Presence in Alberta

Launched in 2013, the Edmonton City as Museum Project (ECAMP) is an initiative of the Edmonton Heritage Council that explores the history of our city through story. Through stories, podcasts and live events, ECAMP helps tell the stories that connect us, the stories that divide us, and the stories that nurture an appreciation of our differences as Edmontonians.

In our final instalment for Black History Month, it is our pleasure to share And Still We Rise: A Black Presence in Alberta, a virtual exhibit highlighting the formation of Alberta’s Black communities from the late 1800s to the early 1970s. The banner image at the top of the page is courtesy of the Athabasca Archives.