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Mounted Police barracks part of new Galt exhibit

Police Barracks watercolour

Watercolour interpretation of the Fort Macleod North West Mounted Police Barracks by Bethany Gustafson.

The Galt Museum and Archives digs into the southern Alberta landscape this fall in the new special exhibit “Uncovering Secrets: Archaeology in southern Alberta.”
The exhibit features 15 local and area sites holding the secrets to stories of the past including the North West Mounted Police post at Fort Macleod, Paleo-Indian hunting sites more than 11,000 years old, more recent aboriginal habitation and hunting locations, coal mining towns from the early 1900s, ranches in the Porcupine Hills and the original site of Fort Whoop-Up.
“People have lived in southern Alberta for thousands of years,” curator Wendy Aitkens said. “Blackfoot oral tradition preserves ancient stories of their people; written records tell us stories of native and non-native inhabitants from the last 200 years. But to discover unknown or forgotten stories, or to add to known stories, archaeologists dig under layers of soil sometimes to a depth of several metres, study artifacts stored in museums, analyze artwork created on stone, and compile previous research. Their findings enrich our knowledge of people who lived in southern Alberta.”
Archaeologists, volunteers, and students methodically uncover artifacts using small trowels and fine brushes, record the location and relationship to one another, gather information about the soil in which the objects are found, analyze all of the data, and propose theories regarding their findings.
Archaeologists also study paintings and carvings left on stone, prehistoric rock configurations placed on the prairie, and movement patterns along ancient trails.
“Archaeological sites are often found by land owners, hikers, and children who report their findings to the Archaeological Survey in Edmonton,” Aitkens said. “Others are discovered when archaeologists are hired to conduct a survey of a road or pipeline route or proposed building location. In ‘Uncovering Secrets’ we also examine who really owns what is found and highlight provincial laws and regulations to help people understand what they need to do when they locate an artifact.”
“Uncovering Secrets: Archaeology in southern Alberta” examines 15 sites, some well known to local and area residents and visitors, and others more obscure, including Cluny Fortified Village, Fincastle Bison Kill and Processing Site, Fletcher Bison Kill Site, Fort Macleod North West Mounted Police Barracks, Fort Whoop-Up, Indian Battle Park, Kajewski Métis Cabins, Lille Coal Mine Town, Massacre Butte, New Oxley Ranche, Old North Trail, Stone Features including the Majorville Medicine Wheel and Noble Point effigy, Wally’s Beach, and Writing-on-Stone Áísínai’pi National Historic Site.
“Uncovering Secrets: Archaeology in southern Alberta” runs Oct. 6 – Jan. 13 and officially opens Sunday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. with a presentation featuring fascinating stories about local archaeology, followed by a ribbon cutting.