Digital Archaeology in Nova Scotia

Methods and Applications from Nova Scotia

Project maintained by Wesley Weatherbee Hosted on GitHub Pages — Theme by mattgraham

Open-Acess Data, LiDAR and Archaeology.

This is a copy of an article post I wrote on LinkedIn in March 2018.

Open-Acess Data, LiDAR and Archaeology: ‘Mining’ Geospatial Data from Historical Maps to Contextualize Landscapes of the Past.

Heres a short reflection on ‘mining’ spatial data from historic maps in combination with open-access geospatial data for archaeological purposes. The provided map uses a two layered approach to elevation base-mapping to help delineate the tidal marshes in the Northern shore of the Cobequid Bay.

Using New England Planter period maps of the Cobequid Bay region in Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia’s open-access LiDAR data, and some early 20th century maps, a reconstruction of a Planter-modified Acadian road can be laid out on the Earth’s surface. By mapping early road systems on the Earth’s surface archaeologists can gain more information about how landscapes impacted aspects of social organization throughout history. In the case of the road between Vil Nijeganiche and La Paroisse, this road can be used with other data sources to refine and hone in on areas of interest for Acadian domestic sites, while presenting information about Acadian land-based travel infrastructure and contextualizing the imposition of the landscape on people who called this place their home.


Vil Nijeganiche was an Acadian settlement located in the upper marshes of the Chiganois River in Cobequid. In the 18th century, it was the last stop for travelers on foot before undertaking a journey over the Cobequid Highlands which provided travelers access to the Northumberland Straight. Though there were stops at a not yet located village sometimes referred to as Bacouel, and then again at the landing place of Tatamagouche, this village is the last before a total ascent of almost 400m over a horizontal distance of about 25 kilometers to reach the ‘summit’ of the Cobequid Highlands.

In 1755, Abijah Willard, Thomas Lewis and a party of 250 New England and British Rangers met in this village on August 13th. Though not explicitly stated in Willard’s journal of the events, Willard mentions travelling a distance of about 3 miles from the church at La Paroisse before meeting with Captain Lewis. A distance of just above 3 miles can be obtained when measuring the road outlined on the attached map. It was in this village that Willard first opened his orders to “burn all the houses along the road to the Bay of Verts against the island of Saint John.” Willard says of the orders “[they] was surprising to me.”

According to Captain Thomas Lewis’ survey of “A Part of Nova Scotia or Acadie” (1755) there were 7 houses in total, with 4 being on the Northwest side of the road and 3 being on the Southeast side of the road through the marsh. On the August 17th 1755 after laying waste to the Acadian village at Tatamagouche, Willard returns to Vil Nijeganiche describing the village as having “about 10 buildings and fine farms”. Though Lewis’ cartographic symbology can be left to interpretation, there was likely no less than 7 households present in 1755.

By ‘mining’ for geospatial data, archaeologists create valuable materials for future researchers to use in analyses while non-intrusively delineating areas of cultural significance for future protection.

Wesley Weatherbee

Written on March 18, 2019

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DigitalArchNS by Wesley Weatherbee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.