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First English colony in Canada unearthed

The remnants of a stone wall built to defend Canada’s earliest English settlement has been uncovered in Newfoundland.

Buried under soil and rubble dumped by 19th-century residents of Cupids — the Conception Bay village set to celebrate its 400th anniversary next year — the wall was hidden until this summer within a thicket of aspen trees north of the enclosed townsite where experts have already unearthed building foundations and artifacts from the original 17th-century colony.

The newly discovered remains suggest the wall might have housed seaward-facing cannons to ward off attackers in the early 1600s, an era when rival fishermen from France, Spain and Portugal — as well as the notorious English pirate Peter Easton — sometimes menaced the fledgling coastal community.

“We found this feature in September and had it uncovered during the royal visit,” Bill Gilbert, the site’s chief archeologist, said. “I did mention it briefly to the prince but the tour was so short — only 20 minutes — that we didn’t get to go into anything in too much detail.”

If the 46-centimetre-thick wall proves to be what it looks like at first glance — a bulwark protecting Britain’s first foothold in the future Canada — the discovery will add another layer of significance to a site already rich with symbolism.

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