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Putting a face to the early days of Bytown

October 10, 2019
Feature Stories

Putting a face to the early days of Bytown

Last Sunday, the remains of 23 adults and seven children were laid in their final resting place at Beechwood Cemetery. They joined 79 other souls who were laid to rest before them – all originating from Bytown’s Barrack Hill Cemetery. The cemetery, which was in the area surrounded today by Sparks, Elgin, Albert and Metcalfe streets between 1826 and 1845, was unearthed during the light rail construction.

But what do we know about these early settlers, whose names and faces have faded over time? Well, archeological experts are putting a face to these nameless souls. We’re also getting a glimpse of into the lives of those who helped build our city and the Rideau Canal, and a better understanding of the hardships they endured.

Archeological analysis conducted by the Canadian Museum of History found the remains in various states of preservation. Analysis revealed signs of trauma, disease, childhood and bodily stress, malnutrition and skeletal degeneration – all pointing to a harsh life filled with hard labour, which took its physical toll on these working-class families.

The remains recovered included one particularly well-preserved skull of a male aged between 30 and 45. That provided an exciting opportunity to create a 3D facial reconstruction out of clay.

The reconstruction work was done by Ottawa resident Sarah Jaworski – who recently graduated from Scotland’s University of Dundee with a Master of Science, Forensic Art, and Facial Identification.

The museum digitally scanned the skcull to create a 3D plastic base and Sarah worked from there to make the clay re-creation. As a result, we stepped back in time and can now put a face on our past.

They now rest in peace with the same deserved dignity, respect and appreciation afforded to all the builders and founders of this great capital city. And we have a better understanding of the region’s early settlers.

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