The Face of Acadie

Bringing Pre-Deportation Piziquid to Life

In 1996, an unmarked Acadian cemetery was uncovered in Falmouth. Using forensic facial reconstruction, people can now see the face of a child that lived in the Sainte-Famille parish.

Many are familiar with the tragic history of the Acadians and their expulsion in 1755, but some may not know the amazing history before that. The French Acadian settlement of Piziquid was large, including the areas known today as Windsor, Ste. Croix, Newport, Martock, Windsor Forks, Upper Falmouth, Falmouth, Mount Denson, and Hantsport. There were two parishes in Piziquid, one on each side of the Avon River. The parish on the west side in what became Falmouth was called Sainte-Famille. It included many different families, churches, and a cemetery. The cemetery was most likely used from 1698 until the Acadians were expelled from their homes in 1755. After the British took over the lands, the cemetery was forgotten.

In 1996, ground was torn away to construct a residential subdivision in Falmouth. Much to everyone’s surprise, the crew unearthed the unmarked cemetery, which contained over 200 human bones. Anthropology students from Saint Mary’s University were called in to carefully excavate them for study. After four years of analysis, the remains were reburied in Falmouth, but during the transfer, one drawer of bones was forgotten.

Jonathan Fowler, an expert in Acadian history, examined the drawer of bones in 2005. He determined they were from the skull of a child from Acadie. He saw this mistake as an opportunity to give back to the descendants of the Acadians who were expelled in 1755. Fowler together with forensic specialist, Tanya Peckmann, and archaeologist, Talva Jacobson, used three-dimensional facial reconstruction to bring the skull to life and give the Acadian child a face.

From research to reconstruction, the project took 15 years to complete. Forensic facial reconstruction is a very precise and complicated process that includes a great deal trial, error, and time. Nonetheless, from the team’s hard work, the face of a child of Acadie emerged. Traces of brown hair were found alongside one of the bones, but since the child’s sex could not be determined, the child was given a gender-neutral hairstyle. Age estimations confirmed that the child was somewhere between six and eight when they died. 

Few if any representations remain of Acadians prior to deportation, as so many Acadian cultural artifacts were lost when the British invaded their lands. Acadians are now able to see the face of a child that lived in the Sainte-Famille parish, today known as Falmouth.