archaeology

Sable Island survey unearthed old objects

Parks Canada archeologist says there's a lack of published work about the island

Charles Burke speaks at the presentation on Tuesday.
Charles Burke speaks at the presentation on Tuesday.   Jonah Cole

Charles Burke, an archaeologist with Parks Canada, says that there are “no plans” to excavate on Sable Island.

Burke surveyed the island last year in search of artifacts that could help explain more about a period of about 100 years that do not have adequate recordings.

While surveying Sable Island, which is 300 kilometres off the coast of Halifax, Burke found items such as china dishes, bath tubs and alcohol bottles.

He talked about his findings at a presentation Tuesday hosted by the Nova Scotia Archaeology Society at Saint Mary’s University.

Burke said his exploration of the island has taught him a lot about its history, though there are still secrets.

“We have what’s published,” he said, noting that’s limited to “shipwrecks, horses, seals, families.”

Burke said his research relies on what other people who have explored the island have found and published.

“We use what we can research quickly.”

The lack of published information and research is what Burke says is holding the historical insight into the island back. The research is something he says Parks Canada simply does not have the resources to do at this time.

Burke said that part of his mission with this project is to push for someone else to do the full history of the island.

“It’s a great thing for a masters or PhD.”

On top of that, Burke joked, “it would make my job easier.”

Burke explained that excavation on the island is possible, but at this time there is no need to excavate.

“We operate under the principle that if something is known, we will record it and we’ve done that so no we’re only dealing with the unknowns.”

Jonathan Fowler, president of the Nova Scotia Archaeology Society, said Burke is a “passionate advocate of public archaeology” and there is no better person for the job when it comes to unearthing the secrets of Sable Island

Fowler, who works alongside Burke on the board of directors  of the archaeology society, said Burke is the “hardest working and longest serving” archaeologist he knows.