Introducing Dig It: Learning about the ancient history beneath our feet

By Joanne Hammond

Published 5 May, 2017 in Kamloops This Week

If you stood on the beach at Riverside Park, on a spring day 2000 years ago, you’d probably see a lot that’s familiar: houses and boats, gardens and public spaces. You might look upstream and see, on the sandy shore on both sides, neat rows of beached canoes draped with reed mats to protect from sun damage. Behind them on the banks you'd see racks holding fishing gear, in various states of drying and repair, waiting for the next trip. And among it all, you'd see dogs and kids and moms and dads, families stretching in the sun after a long, cold winter.

Today, not a hint of that past is visible, but it's there still, underfoot. And under road, and park, and parking lot, and field. It’s our buried heritage. It’s the incredible archaeology of our region, and it is as much a part of Kamloops as the soil itself. In some places, it is the soil. 10,000 years of continuous occupation will do that to a place. How do we know? That’s what archaeology does! And we’re doing that right here in Kamloops.

Local archaeologists have worked for decades to understand the Kamloops that was built long before Canada began to form. Through the material culture, the stuff of peoples’ lives, archaeologist can piece together ancient stories written on the land. We look at Tk’emlups, and see Secwepemc families, and the neighbouring First Nations that came to visit and trade, that were the heart of this region for millennia. We see where Kamloops came from, and want to share that with you.

Now imagine that spring day again, but just 200 years ago: little would be different, but change was already here: over your shoulder were the first rough log buildings of Thompson's River Fort. You'd see a beach crowded with canoes piled with fur and fish and meat for sale. The fur trade here was just a few years old, already thriving on the centuries-old commercial trade routes that met at this hub of rivers and overland trails.

Let us take you back there, in this regular archaeology column where we’ll bring you stories of this region’s past. Every month in this space, we’ll exploring ideas of the past through the artifacts and sites that dot our region, and the people that today work to protect them. Stay tuned!