PART ONE – ARCHAEOLOGICAL DISCOVERY IN ORGANIC TERRAIN
Archaeological Potential of Organic Terrain
The short answer to the question ‘Is there any association at all, in Canada, between people and peat bogs, similar to what is portrayed in The Mysterious Bog People exhibit?’ is no: there is not a Canadian parallel to the cult of human burial and sacrifice that persisted in northwestern Europe for ten millennia. However, artifacts (and even human remains) have been found in peat deposits in Canada and there is potential for future discoveries in peat and even more for finds under peat, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador, and ‘North of 60’. Archaeologists in Canada have rarely tested organic terrain, particularly if they are water-saturated and below the water table. Apart from the logistical problems of sampling organic terrain, such areas have often been overlooked because according to predictive models they have been classed as ‘low potential’ zones. Another reason is that, because wetlands are now widely recognized as essential to the hydrological cycle, they are protected from many development impacts and so are commonly exempt from archaeological compliance assessments because they will remain undisturbed. Artifacts have occasionally been discovered accidentally as a result of commercial peat extraction activities in Canada but, unlike northwestern Europe, the reported incidence is very low, perhaps because traditional Canadian commercial operations have been low scale, and modern ones are mechanized so that accidental discoveries are less likely to be noticed.
As Inglis (1976) points out, the overall cost of major ‘wet site’ excavation is expensive, because of excavation difficulties and time-consuming conservation process. Where possible we should prepare pre-excavation and discovery techniques by means of core samples or non-invasive assessment with ground penetrating radar (GPR), sonar, and even magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods.