18th century village discovered underneath Montreal interchange
Michael Shulman, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, July 22, 2015 10:05PM EDT
Archaeologists have discovered the remains of an 18th-century village buried beneath Montreal's busiest highway interchange.
Over the past few months, construction crews working on the Turcot Interchange have excavated dozens of artifacts.
Construction has since been put on hold. Archaeologists say that the crews revealed Saint-Henri-des-Tanneries, a village that was originally formed in the late 1700s and whose economy revolved around the leather trade.
Until now, most of what was known about the village came from historical records. But the new dig has given archaeologists a rare opportunity to see first-hand how Montrealers lived more than 200 years ago.
In particular, the site has given researchers insight into how the leather and tanning industry operated in the 18th century.
At the time, more than half of the village's residents made their living in the trade.
"Montreal was almost like the shoe and leather capital of the world," Dinu Bumbaru, policy director for Heritage Montreal, told CTV News.
Archaeologist Frank Rochefort says a trove of artifacts has been found at the dig, including wood tanks to wash and treat skins, and a double-hilted knife used to make wood chips used in the tanning process.
The tanneries, which were crucial to the village's leather trade, were mainly owned and run by families. The same family usually set up shops with their wares next to their homes.
Crews hope to discover more precious relics in the coming weeks as they excavate a site roughly the size of a football field.
"This is our biggest arch dig that we have for the Ministry of Transport in 30 years," said Rochefort.
While the artifacts will be saved, it is unknown whether the village's foundation will see the same fate.
Transport Quebec says at the very least a 3D scan will be taken to catalog this little known chapter of Canadian history.
With a report from CTV News' Vanessa Lee