The Archaeological Society of Alberta, incorporated in 1975, is an amateur organization committed to promoting, protecting and preserving Alberta’s heritage. The Society is one of five provincial heritage organizations that receive annual funding from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation. The Society is currently made up of over 400 members, organised into six centres: Strathcona (Edmonton and area), Bodo, Red Deer, Calgary, Lethbridge and Southeastern (Medicine Hat). Membership in the Society is open to anyone with an interest in archaeology and it provides great opportunities for people of all ages to get involved in actively experiencing, promoting and protecting Alberta’s archaeological resources!
The Society facilitates public outreach programs and supports archaeological research across Alberta. Its programs include Speaker Series, workshops, fieldtrips, “Stones and Bones” events and an annual conference and general meeting that consists of a full day of speakers, a poster session and a day long fieldtrip. Professionals from the Archaeological Survey of the Historic Resources Management Branch often assist with, and participate in, Society events.
Speaker Series takes place from fall to spring and highlight Alberta archaeology through a monthly talk given by a professional archaeologist. The Strathcona centre is currently collaborating with the Edmonton Telus World of Science by offering the Speaker Series in conjunction with the Indiana Jones exhibit! Recent workshops have included flintknapping, artifact casting, historic artifact identification and artifact illustration. These workshops are day long or weekend events that teach people traditional and archaeological skills. The flintknapping workshop is one of the most popular events. Expert flintknappers from across the province and country teach members how to make their own stone tools using traditional methods of striking two rocks together and using antler tines to refine the shape of the tool and its edges. Nothing is more satisfying than being able to craft your own projectile point! “Stones and Bones” events provide a venue where avocational archaeologists, collectors, and the public can bring their artifacts in to be identified by professionals. This often results in valuable archaeological resources being revealed that enhance the archaeological record of the province. Fieldtrips to all types of sites including medicine wheels, effigies, bison jumps and pounds, and ceremonial sites allow an opportunity for Society members to visit archaeological sites and sometimes witness an active excavation.
In addition to these programs, the Society provides funding and volunteer assistance to research projects undertaken by centres, educational institutions or individual members that enhance the knowledge and protection of Alberta’s historic resources. This includes archival research, excavation, or the survey of archaeological sites. Recent research this grant program has supported includes mapping of the Glenbow Town and Quarry site by the Calgary Centre, ongoing excavation at a bison kill site in Bodo and a survey of the Forks region in southeastern Alberta by Society members. All of this research has incorporated public participation by welcoming members to lend a helping hand.
In addition to hands-on activities, the Archaeological Society of Alberta produces several archaeological publications. The Alberta Archaeological Review, published bi-annually since 1977, provides news of the Society’s activities and a forum for the presentation of archaeological research in Alberta. The Society also publishes archaeological reports and papers and has produced several versions of the popular book “Record in Stone: Familiar Projectile Points from Alberta” which outlines projectile point typology of the province.
Support from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation makes it possible for organizations like this to carry out their mandates and create new initiatives to engage the public and make our province’s culture and heritage accessible to everyone! The foundation receives money from the Alberta Lottery Fund that is used to provide financial and technical assistance to community based heritage projects including several Provincial Heritage Organizations, like the Archaeological Society of Alberta, that deliver programs and services that document, preserve and present the province’s heritage.
Written by: Courtney Lakevold, Archaeological Information Coordinator