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Discovering pieces of the past

CANADA, January 16 - The thrill of discovering a relic from the past may be exciting, but before you attempt to handle the item, you should think about preserving it by calling in an expert.

Christian Thériault, provincial archaeologist with the department of Fisheries, Tourism, Sport and Culture, said fossil and artifact finds are becoming more common in PEI. 

If you come across one of these items, Thériault suggests you follow these steps: 

  • take a photo of the object and place it next to an item such a coin, to provide a sense of size
  • document the exact location of the object
  • contact the provincial archaeologist by email at archaeology@gov.pe.ca

Thériault said while people who discover these items are free to keep them, but he added it’s important to contact the provincial archaeological department so they can determine the historical significance of the item. 

“Some people want to keep the artifacts because they see them as treasures,” he said  “We would still like them to contact us so we can record what they have. That way we know where the sites are.”

With fossil finds happening more frequently, it may be important to have experts come in and extract the items carefully. 

“Some people collect a lot of artifacts on the Island,” he said. “Surface collecting is fine, but it would be nice to know where the artifacts are found so we can monitor the area.”

Typically, if an artifact is found on a particular site there is a chance there are other items around as well. 

“PEI is becoming a hot spot for fossils,” he said. “A paleontologist I know told me that for some type of fossils, PEI is going to be one of the hottest spots in the world.”

Thériault added they do get many inquiries from Islanders who have found something they think may be a fossil or important artifact. In some cases, it may not be an artifact, but he finds it encouraging that people are reporting it.

“The most common type of artifact that people keep is an arrowhead,“ he said.  “If it’s complete, we can look at which period it’s from. That way we can have a sense of which part of the Island was populated in the past.”

“It’s important to preserve history for ourselves and future generations.”