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Test digs at Fort Langley historic site seek artifacts

The historic site is being dug up while the parking lot is repaved.

The parking lot of the Fort Langley National Historic Site was the scene of an archaeological investigation this month.

In the days leading up to March 16, a contractor dug 16 holes and crews sifted hundreds of kilograms of dirt, looking for artifacts.

A full report hasn’t been released yet, but if anything interesting was discovered, it could lead to further digs.

The test digs are part of the standard procedure whenever any work is done around the Fort site, to see if there are interesting artifacts under the soil.

In this case, the historic site is about to replace its aging parking lot along with some underground pipes and wiring.

The test digs involved slicing open a section of the blacktop, hauling out the dirt to a depth of about six feet, and then sifting it to see if there were any interesting items buried there.

It wouldn’t be the first time archaeology has been done on site.

“We’ve done a lot of archaeology inside the fort,” said Nancy Hildebrand, a spokesperson for the historic site.

In 2010, Parks Canada tested the grounds when the palisade walls around the replica fort were replaced.

The original palisade was built in 1840 after a fire, with 12-inch diameter red cedar posts.

The walls were dismantled in 1864. In 1956, with Fort Langley now a National Historic Site, they were reconstructed based on the original footprint of the fort. The new walls weren’t finished until 1991, with digs happening at every stage.

There were also excavations when the visitor’s centre was rebuilt and in the late 1980s inside the walls of the fort itself.

Some of the excavations have helped identify where various buildings were inside the fort – a 1950s study found bits of scrap iron that helped suggest the location of the smithy, for example.