Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Search for the Lost Settlement

Archaeological Expedition of the New Acadia Project Begins

The New Acadia Project (NAP) has launched the first archaeological expedition to find and investigate the 1765 homesteads and unmarked burials of Acadian émigrés in south Louisiana. The search for the lost settlement, referred to as Nouvelle Acadie or New Acadia, is long overdue. In 2015 it will have been 250 years since the arrival of the Acadian families led by Joseph Beausoleil Broussard. Despite the present-day popularity of Cajun culture and prominence of the Acadiana region, there has surprisingly been no previous attempt by archaeologists to locate the initial homesteads of the Acadians or the unmarked graves of more than 34 people who died soon after their arrival in Nouvelle Acadie.

The Summer 2014 NAP Archaeological Expedition made a gradual start, with fieldwork delayed for several days by thunderstorms, torrential rains, and flooding in surrounding communities. Time spent in the Archaeology Lab at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette was used to prepare for fieldwork, including a project orientation, organization of equipment and supplies, and completion of required paperwork. On Friday, May 30, the field crew traveled to the Village of Loreauville and began fieldwork.

The small but intrepid survey crew of the NAP Summer 2014 Archaeological Expedition
makes its way into the field: Maegan and Christian in Loreauville.
The search for New Acadia encompasses many miles along the natural levee of the Bayou Teche, known as the Teche Ridge. The project area is located along the Teche Ridge between St. Martinville and New Iberia, in the vicinity of Loreauville and a section of the bayou once called Fausse Pointe.

A view of the Bayou Teche, looking towards Loreauville.
As the project area is immense, areas of particular interest for archaeological investigation must be identified through additional research. This research includes previous historical and archival studies, interviews with local residents in order to construct oral histories, and analyses of cartographic and geographic information on the landscape. One of the locations of interest was identified based on interviews as a possible place of unmarked burials, known by local residents for the large and beautiful Live Oaks on the property.

Live Oaks on the Teche Ridge.
The crew from UL Lafayette spent much of the first day in the field establishing a survey grid and preparing to conduct remote sensing with a Cesium Magnetometer. A rectangular area was laid out with stakes and geophysical data collected along 20-meter long transects.

Maegan collects remote sensing data with a portable Cesium Magnetometer.
Once the data are collected, the files are uploaded to a PC and a map is produced showing magnetic anomalies or potential subsurface disturbances. Preliminary analysis of the data collected on May 30 suggests one or more anomalies in the area surveyed. It is too early to identify or determine the cause of such anomalies. The crew will be returning to the field to collect additional data from this area, adjacent areas, and other places of interest.

Two abandoned historic cemeteries have also been identified through ethnographic interviews as high priority areas for archaeological and historical investigation.

 Two overgrown and abandoned family cemeteries along the Bayou Teche (above and right). Both cemeteries are known or reported to contain interments dating from the nineteenth century, only three generations after the first Acadians arrived in the region and established their Nouvelle Acadie.

Are there earlier, yet unmarked graves at these little known places?

The search for New Acadia will continue in the coming weeks. Updates will be made here when available and as time allows. 

All of the places of interest and sites mentioned here are located on privately-owned property for which trespassing is illegal. It is also a violation of State law to excavate or disturb human burials, whether in marked cemeteries or unmarked graves. The research described here is made possible only with the permission and generosity of the land owners.

The New Acadia Project is being funded through private and public donations, made possible by the fundraising efforts of the NAP Steering Committee, the Famille Beausoleil Association, and Acadian Heritage and Culture Foundation, Inc.  Additional support is needed for equipment and staff. You can support the New Acadia Project by contacting the Acadian Heritage and Culture Foundation, Inc. at the Acadian Museum or the New Acadia Project Fund at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Foundation.