A Day at Glenbow Ranch by Karen Tubb

Dig a hole 50 cm wide by 1 m long by 10 cm deep.

Sounds pretty easy, right?

Well, it took Marilyn and me five hours to do it!

Now, before you shake your head in disbelief and wonder what on earth is wrong with us, you should know that the tools we were given were a flat, sharpened mason’s pointing trowel, and dust pan and brush.  AND as we removed each mm of soil, the location of any foreign objects  we discovered (more about those later) had to be measured, mapped, and bagged.

Who would assign such a Herculean task to us?  None other than archaeologist, teacher, and storyteller extraordinaire, Bergen’s own Shari Peyerl!

I should probably make it clear at this point that this task was self-inflicted.  Marilyn and I volunteered for a day of digging at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, “helping” Shari and her assistant Justine in their current project – locating the foundation of the single men’s bunkhouse, just at the base of a sandstone quarry which operated there in the early 1900s.  In our unit (the area we dug out) we found artifacts (aka foreign objects) like nails (mostly bent and used looking), pieces of broken glass, and a small piece of mica (which may have come from a lampshade), but sadly no foundation.

Despite the lack of any major discoveries, our day at Glenbow was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.  Shari and Justine were gracious hosts who downplayed the obvious fact that they would have accomplished much more if they hadn’t had to supervise us newbies.  We were delighted with each discovery we made – who knew that old nails could be so exciting – and learned so much about what is involved in an archaeological dig.

It was fascinating to learn something of the history of the quarry, and with her stories about the interesting people who lived there, Shari brought the place and time to life… the entrepreneur who envisioned a whole community and plotted out a townsite complete with store, post office, school and homes… the methods of mining, processing and transporting the sandstone… how children were named…derailments and difficulties…and one unforgettable fact – the single men’s bunkhouse had 90 beds and 180 occupants who worked in 12 hour shifts, so the beds were always warm (yuck).

Would we do it again?  In a heartbeat!  In fact, we’ve already asked Shari if we can come for another day of ‘digging’ this fall!

– Karen Tubb

Glenbow Week 7

Our last week of spring excavations at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park delivered another surprise and several new experiences for our crew. Shari got an early start on Monday morning with a phone interview on the CBC Eyeopener “Notes from the Field” segment, which you can listen to here. Cassandra Mihalicz returned to brave our hottest day yet, with temperatures topping 30 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, Justine made a startling discovery when she unearthed a newspaper fragment from the cellar area of the bunkhouse. With careful handling, perhaps we’ll be able to read a date or headline! Three volunteers (Carol McCreary, Gilles Fournier, and Cassandra) came back on Tuesday to dive into the western units, while Shari continued the cellar unit and spoke to the many cyclists who visited the site. Wednesday brought changes, as construction fences were erected to protect the excavation from being trampled by cattle that were moved into the area for the summer. Gilles was a great help maneuvering the fence off the western units, where he then dug for the day. He and Shari found themselves almost upside-down as they struggled to reach a depth of 50 cm in their respective units. Justine and Shari spent Thursday, the last day of the spring excavation, digging, mapping, and drawing soil profiles, in order to complete our work in the bunkhouse area.

It’s been a great spring and we thank our many volunteers for their enthusiastic participation in our program! We couldn’t have done it without you. We hope to see you in September when we will return to tidy the bunkhouse area and do a small excavation in the village. Check our blog for more stories about the people of Glenbow throughout the summer and watch for updates on our September excavation program.

-Shari Peyerl

Justine carefully excavates the newspaper fragment (26/06/17)
Gilles, Cassandra and Carol concentrating on digging in the west trench (27/06/17)
New visitors arrive at the dig site (28/06/17)
Justine earns time off for good behaviour as the dig season concludes (30/06/17)

Glenbow Week 6

It was another week full of activity out at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. On Monday, with the help of our two dedicated volunteers, Carol McCreary and Cassandra Mihalicz, we continued to uncover lots of nails, brick, and glass in our southern units. On Tuesday we made quick work of the mapping thanks to the help of returning volunteers: Tracy Teh and Carol McCreary. We were happy to have Carol make the drive from Turner Valley for a third consecutive day of excavations on Wednesday. She helped us lay out some units in our western trench. We had a lot of interest in our project on Thursday: Shari spoke about the history of the Glenbow quarry and its associated settlement to a tour group learning about the park. Volunteer Cristina Fernandez Conte got her first taste of archaeological field work when she joined returning volunteers Lorraine Stratkotter and Cassandra Mihalicz. Shari and I opened two more southern units, while they worked hard searching for the foundations of the bunkhouse in the western trench. On Saturday, Shari and I spent the day in Bearspaw for the Community Heritage Celebration. We had a great turnout. There was a lot of interest in the project, and there were some descendants of the Glenbow Village in attendance. It was a pleasure to meet them and hear about their family members. There are only a few more days of excavating left before we break for the summer, so if you would like to come out and volunteer with us, please contact info@arkycalgary.com. We plan to return in September to finish up our field season. Remember to tune in to CBC on Monday at 6:48 am to hear Shari give an interview about our project or listen to the podcast after work!

– Justine Buchler

Cassandra and Carol cleaning up at the end of the day 19/06/17
Tracy and Carol looking at some interesting finds on Tuesday 20/06/17
Carol holding a button 21/06/17
Cristina and Cassandra screening the loose dirt for artifacts” 22/06/17

Glenbow Week 5

We had another great week of excavations at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, searching for the bunkhouse foundation. Our southern and northern trenches were a beehive of activity with Monday’s volunteers: Drew Smith, Donna Fallon, and Tracy Teh.  On Tuesday, we continued work in our southern trench uncovering a possible fireplace feature with the assistance of Scott Graham. Despite the rain, Shari and I spent Wednesday morning laying out more units and preparing the site for our upcoming week. Thursday we opened up two more units with the help of Scott, Lorraine Stratkotter and Gilles Fournier. Every day is a new adventure at Glenbow, as we unlock the door to the past and piece together the story of the quarry workers’ lives. What will we discover next week? Shari and I will be at Bearspaw Heritage Day on Saturday June 24th if you would like to find out more about the Archaeological Society of Alberta Calgary Centre and our Glenbow Town and Quarry Project. You can also stop by and visit us in Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, or if you would like to volunteer to excavate please contact info@arkycalgary.com

– Justine Buchler

Drew Smith,Donna Fallon and Tracy Teh 12/06/17
Scott is pondering life’s greatest questions as he gets set to dig 13/06/17
Justine and Shari having fun in the rain Wednesday morning 14/06/17
Loraine Stratkotter, Shari Peyerl, Scott Graham and Gilles Fournier on Thursday afternoon. 15/06/17

Glenbow Week 4

It’s been another week full of surprises at Glenbow. Monica Webster found the quest for the Glenbow bunkhouse irresistible and came back for more fun in the sun on Monday. Tuesday, we had lots going on when three volunteers from previous years returned to us again: Shirley Leew, Gilles Fournier, and Donna Fallon. Gilles made the find of the day when a fragment of a porcelain doll’s face winked up at him. Could this be from the same doll we glimpsed in our 2015 excavations next door? An unusual visitor trotted in twice on Wednesday; a young deer peeked into our northern trench while Tracy Teh and Shari Peyerl were busy excavating in the southern one! We rounded out the week with volunteers Gilles Fournier and Tom Strachan. Gilles focused on exposing more of the bricks appearing in our southern trench – evidence of how the bunkhouse was heated (not that we needed any more heat this week)! Tom was excited to begin his first excavation and uncovered many artifacts in his unit. He also helped out with screening, where he was happy to find a tiny shell button. We had many cycling groups stop by this week to check out what we were doing. You, too, can visit us at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park or contact info@arkycalgary.com to sign up to join our excavation program.

– Shari Peyerl

The fragment of a doll’s face (06/06/17)
Gilles Fournier, Shirley Leew and Donna Fallon at the end of a successful day at Glenbow (06/06/17)
Our unusual visitor passes by (07/06/17)
Tom Strachan holds up the shell button he found (08/06/17)


Glenbow Week 3

What a successful week out at Glenbow Ranch! Our continued search for the bunkhouse got off to a great start with the help of Karen Tubbs and Marilyn Walker, who came all the way from Sundre to join us. With their help, we continued work on our southernmost trench. In the afternoon, we were visited by a large group of bikers from Canmore. They were full of questions about archaeology and our current work, which Shari was delighted to answer. On Tuesday Shari and I learned a lot about laser scanning while working with Peter Dobson from Rapid3D. This company uses lasers to create 3D computer images of landscapes, buildings and objects, and we are so grateful they have returned to the project again this year. On Wednesday, we had another productive day thanks to the help of our two returning volunteers Megan Trefry and Katherine Peterson. We had another large bike group visit us; as it turns out, they were the husbands of the bike group we met on Monday. Just like their wives, they were eager to learn about the history of the park and the Glenbow Town and Quarry Project. Thursday was another great day filled with finds including a tobacco tag, nails, brick fragments and lots and lots of charcoal. Congratulations to Shirley Leew, our returning volunteer who found her first artifact- and quite a few afterwards! We are looking forward to another terrific week next week and we encourage you to come out and visit us at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park or contact us at info@arkycalgary.com to sign up to dig for the day.

– Justine Buchler

Karen Tubbs, Shari Peyerl and Marilyn Walker having fun before mapping in their artifacts. 20/05/17
Karen Tubs, Shari Peyerl and Marilyn Walker. 29/05/17
Peter Dobson showing Justine Buchler how the software for the portable laser scanner is used
They couldn’t stay away! Megan Trefey and Katherine Peterson on their second day of volunteering with us. 31/05/17
Justine Buchler holding a tobacco tag. 01/06/17

Glenbow Week 2


Despite the chaotic weatherwe had a successful second week of excavations.  We opened a third unit full of artifacts with the help of Christine Hayes and Katherine PetersonThroughout the week we had the opportunity to share the history of Glenbow Quarry with many visitors to Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. We are looking forward to the upcoming week of excavations and our continued search for the bunkhouse.  

Katherine Peterson and Christine Hayes excavating the third unit full of artifacts

Glenbow Week 1

The 2017 excavations started on the Glenbow Town and Quarry project. This week we began our search for the bunkhouse at the Workers’ Quarters – a two story building which  housed the single men working at the quarry.  With the help of two amazing volunteers Monica Webster and Megan Trefry we strung our grid, grabbed our trowels and got to work! Some terrific artifacts were found this week including a bottle neck, tobacco tag, lots of nails and a even fork! We encourage you to come out and visit us sometime over the upcoming weeks at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park or contact us at info@arkycalgary.com to sign up to dig for the day while we continue our search next week for the bunkhouse.

– Justine Buchler