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Monashee Mountain Internment Camp - Day 5: Amateur Archaeologists and Doughnuts

Updated: Jul 27, 2021

Written by: Nikki Simon

July 24th 2021

Today was the day of visitors on our little site, though I suppose I shouldn't call it little anymore as it's been going through some rapid expansion!

I started by photographing the 10 test pits south of the floor unit created within the past couple of days. After that, the corners were flagged so that I could map them later (we were out of graph paper!). Keagan and Dan lined each of them with landscaping cloth, and Rory, Colton and Keagan then filled them in again with the dirt from the sifting pile.

Sarah believed that the area we had been working in thus far had been the officer's portion of the camp rather than the POW side. This being the case, she and Dan spent the first portion of the day doing some scouting and close examination of extant photographs compared to the site. Based on this examination, Rory, Keegan, Colton and I were sent to work a new area up the hill to the southwest of the flagpole site, just below what was previously used as a mining road. This, Sarah and Dan had determined, was likely the POW portion of camp based on its relative position to where we had already been working and surface evidence.

Luckily, just before we were able to set up in the new area, our visitors arrived bearing with them doughnuts of the Tim Hortons variety! To Monashee, we welcomed Andrea Malysh, the Program Manager of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund (those funding our dig), and Lawrna Myers, whose grandfather worked at Monashee. After Sarah gave Andrea the tour, Andrea and Lawrna jumped immediately into the fray. They quickly helped clear away the foliage at the presumed POW site, allowing us to set up the sifter and units on some semblance of flat ground.

All in all, this was probably the most challenging area that we had worked in so far. In short, the area was a pain to get to. It was severely overgrown, and the majority was on an incline; even our sifter was living on a hillside! Anyways, two units were opened initially, one worked by Rory and Colton, in an area that seemed a likely privy, and the other with Keagan and I, where there was a heavy deposit of ash. Unfortunately, aside from a couple of the white marker rocks, these units were found to be sterile – as was the case with a second unit opened by Keagan in the ash deposit about a meter from her first. Still, we persevered, and three additional units were opened.

POW Test Unit #3 (Rory) – Technically, POW Unit #3 had been opened by Sarah; it was taken over by Rory halfway through as Sarah got distracted by the shenanigans of Andrea and Lawrna. Before she left, Sarah had found a Revelstoke bottle cap; shortly after Rory took over, they found another, so that was pretty exciting! Sadly, aside from that, all that there was in the unit was a potential plank at the very bottom extending into the wall, so far down that Rory couldn't see it well enough to excavate further.

POW Test Unit #4 (Colton and Nikki) – Colton, proving himself to have a penchant for uncovering wooden structures, strikes once again. Right on the surface, there was a single wooden plank with a couple of end bits sticking out just underneath. As Colton began to uncover the plank, he once again found another and another, until we were left with a bit of a puzzle. Unlike the floor unit down the hill, this looked haphazard. The initial uncovered section consisted of the single plank on top with two planks running perpendicular underneath that about 58 cm apart. Then, underneath those were a series of planks, one after the other rerunning the opposite way. To the right of that arrangement and between two trees was a section of 4 or 5 planks. Each of these planks was approximately 19 centimetres in width and running at an odd angle to the setup on the left. Additionally, these planks still had a beautiful layer of tar paper held down by roofing nails. Based on what Colton and I had uncovered here, it appeared as though whatever this structure had once been, it had collapsed in on itself or, perhaps, been condemned in that way.

POW Test Unit #6 (Keagan) – Just down the hill from Colton by approximately 2 meters, there was more degraded plank scatter on the surface. With prompting to abandon her second sterile ash pit, Keagan began to excavate here and, toward the very end of the day, the beginnings of yet another wooden structure began to appear. Aside from the few pieces on top, the initial boards did not start to present themselves until about 8cm below the surface.

Meanwhile, as usual, Katy, Holly and Chantelle had settled at their trusty flagpole unit for the third day while Andrea and Lawrna worked just to the side of them. Today their persistence paid off as the unit had a few surprises in store. Katy applied herself to excavating a couple of sondage units off the side of their central unit. From these, she pulled animal bone and a significant portion of fragments from the corn ceramic that were initially found a couple of days before. That pieces of this ceramic had been scattered within almost a 2-meter area was interesting to us; what could it mean? Was it, in fact, more than one ceramic of the same set? Were all of the pieces close together when they broke, and the spread resulted from turbation of some sort? These are the questions we have to ask ourselves.

While Katy was doing that, Chantelle worked diligently to uncover the base of the flagpole. We had become suspicious of this pipe, thinking that it was, perhaps, just a little too thin for a flagpole and that the area was simply not surrendering enough items to confirm its identity. As Chantelle uncovered more and more of the pipe, so too did she uncover its original lovely blue paint job. And, sure enough, at a depth of approximately 70cm, the pipe went off at a 90-degree angle, continuing happily who knows where into the sunset. This seemed like a pretty good indicator that the pipe had been a tap of some kind, providing access to water from an underground source nearby (what a twist!). But hold on, folks, that wasn't ALL that Chantelle found! Incapable of doing anything by half measure, she also found two excellent, thick pieces of what had once been a single milk glass container while uncovering the pipe. We knew that it was a jar from the threading on the neck meant for a screw-on lid of some type; other similar jars, which typically had metal lids, held such things as cold cream or other ointments.

Meanwhile, just off to the right on the other side of a tree, Lawrna and Andrea had uncovered another little series of haphazardly placed wood planks. At least one of the planks appeared to connect with a single plank just in front of Katy and Chantelle's unit, but a tree had popped up in the middle and broken it some time ago. This discovery left the pair quite pleased with themselves and in competition with Colton and Keagan for recognition.

By the end of the day, our guests, through some ruthless bushwhacking and not without a small blood sacrifice, had uncovered for us a trail running from the (previous) flagpole site up to our POW site. For this act of bravery, all of us at the POW site would like to express our profound gratitude; it was truly an honour to have worked with you, comrades. *salutes*

And thus ended Day 5; we packed up our gear after what had been an excitingly dusty day with the promise that on Day 6, Colton could dismantle his unit to uncover what lies beneath. Happy with what we had discovered and the prospect of two half days to rest our weary bones, we all trooped home. Finally, we got to experience the delectable Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding that Dan had spent the last few days hyping up for us.


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