A missing piece of Canadian history has been unearthed beneath Parliament Hill.
Archeologists working on the pre-construction assessment of Parliament Hill have uncovered a former military guardhouse and several artifacts that pre-date Confederation, shedding light on what life on the Hill looked like before Parliament was established.
More than 100 years ago, it was the site of the British Royal Engineers’ military headquarters, used to oversee the construction of the Rideau Canal, which opened in 1832.
“This was serving as sort of the headquarters for that construction. [It] housed 150 soldiers and their families when they came here, so it was put to use heavily during the construction,” Stephen Jarrett, lead archeologist on the project, told CTV News.
Sifting through the debris, Jarrett and his team have found many artifacts that provide clues into the history of the site, including buttons for military jackets, cuffs, and chin straps belonging to hats.
“It’s a wonderful experience being able to find these kind of structures in such an intact shape on the Hill. All of the military paraphernalia we are finding is incredible,” he said.
The discovery is just one part of a larger community that would have existed on what is now Parliament Hill. A jail and a hospital within the structure were demolished in the mid 1860s, but archeologists are now searching for evidence of a cook house.
“I would have never imagined that we would have had all of this beautiful site,” Asha Boucher-Sharma, senior project manager, told CTV News.
“We’re taking a lot of photogrammetry to be able to digitally recreate [the site]… it’s important to note what was there before hand.”
According to Boucher-Sharma, the team has been in touch with the Library of Parliament and several museums to determine how to display the artifacts.
“It’s part of Canadian history… It’s rare in Canada that we come across one of these types of archeological digs that has such significance and is so old,” she added.