A B.C. archaeologist is mining a garbage dump beside an old Chinese restaurant, working to unearth clues about the lives of Chinese gold miners more than a century ago. Dawn Ainsley’s dig site is in the Chinatown section of Barkerville Historic Town and Park, about 700 kilometres north of Vancouver.
2,000 Chinese miners
At the height of the gold rush, about 2,000 Chinese miners lived in the area, making up about half of the local population.
Now, working beside historical wooden buildings, Ainsley picks through layers of trash thrown off the side porch of the Doy Ying Low restaurant as far back as 1870. The garbage has been buried in layers of mud from the flooding that’s occurred in the last 150 years.
The treasure trove of trash was discovered during modern-day excavations for water and sewer lines. Now, several days a week, Ainsley digs into the refuse pile with a shovel, filling a simple, silver bucket labelled “archeology.” Then she sifts the material and dries the artifacts at her lab.
Some days are very mundane, “with nothing but broken glass and rusted metal,” she says. “But then other days, amazing things come out of there.”