10980 17 Street, Edmonton
The Strathcona Science Park sits across the river from Rundle Park and overlooks the river valley: it makes up the eastern end of Edmonton’s River Valley Trail System.
The park is on land that was at various time a gravel pit, a private landfill and coal mining area (there were 12 mines within the park boundary). The land was reclaimed as part of Premiere Lougheed’s Capital City Recreation Plan in the 1970s.
The pod-shaped buildings showed Edmonton’s natural resource history including coal mining and how oil was removed from the tar sands. Hydro and wind power alternatives were also shown. The site examined how energy and resource development affects the environment.
However, perhaps the most significant displays were the artefacts that came out of the archaeological dig on the site. There are over 1000 dig sites in Edmonton of varying importance. Some are very small and indicate temporary campsites. Others, like the site at the Science Park are much larger.
The Science Park is Edmonton’s largest archaeological site. The University of Calgary and the Archaeological Society of Alberta supervised the project. They found approximately 25,000 pieces including decorated pottery, bones, and quartzite that was used to make spears and arrowheads. The depth of the dig indicates that Indigenous people had been camping in the area for approximately 4500 years.
The site has many assets such as easy to access to the river system. In addition, it would have been easy to see buffalo from the bluff that raises above the prairie landscape. However, the heavy presence of stone shards and petrified wood indicate that it was also a place to make tools out of the stone that can be pulled out of the riverbank by hand.
While the park was open, a boardwalk allowed visitors to watch archaeologists work. However, the park was closed in 1988 and the dig site soon fell into disrepair. Today, there is little to indicate that this was once an important seasonal campsite. The thousands of pieces that show Edmonton’s pre-settlement past are hidden away in the Royal Alberta Museum’s vaults.
Barbara Huck, In Search of Ancient Alberta (1998)
"Archaeological Society of Alberta: Connecting Albertans with Archaeology." Alberta Historic Places' RETROactive Blog.