“Feature” Employee: Beverly Garner

Meet Bev, Senior Archaeologist and Manager of our Planning Division!

Beverly Garner at the Moatfield Excavation Ontario Archaeology Ossuary
Bev excavating the Moatfield Site

She has been functioning as ASI’s lynchpin for over thirty years, having started her fieldwork career working on Marty Cooper’s PhD thesis. When she’s not keeping track of every early stage archaeological assessment we do, she indulges her artistic side through art, and working on her home and garden.

How did you become an archaeologist?

My Aunt Rose always tells a story about how I, at five years old, showed up at my Grandmother’s back door with a handful of bones that I had found in the field behind our house, and demanded to know what they were. So it would seem that the archaeology came pretty naturally to me!

Where did you go to school?

I received a degree in Anthropology from McMaster University. After my first year at Mac I ran into a fellow student who told me about a dig they were working on, and directed me to the job posting. I went down to the employment office and lo and behold, I ended up working on survey for Marty Cooper’s PhD thesis! I started out volunteering, heading out to site on the days I wasn’t working my summer waitressing job. By the next summer I was working at the MacIntosh site, which was a lovely Neutral site right by Sherkston beach. I ended up doing the faunal analysis for that site and I have been working with some iteration of ASI ever since.

If you weren’t an archaeologist, what would you be?

A planner, a landscape architect or a florist.

Who is your favourite historical figure and why?

Doris McCarthy is a very fine Canadian artist and a fascinating lady. She built a modest but gorgeous house called Fool’s Paradise on the Scarborough Bluffs overlooking Lake Ontario. She left her house to the Ontario Heritage Trust, who have since turned it into an artist in residency centre. Her house was quite isolated and when it was first constructed there were no paved roads in the area, so she drove a big jeep out to her property. Doris lived into her nineties and was active right up to the end; she taught art at Bathurst Central Technical School, travelled throughout the Canadian north, wrote three books, and skated often in the winter. The University of Toronto Scarborough campus is the home of the Doris McCarthy Gallery.

If you were an artifact what would you be?

The bone comb found at Baby Point, the seventeenth century Seneca site found in Toronto’s West End. I would love to be able to see the landscape and village and learn the story of the woman who wore that gorgeous artifact.

What is your favourite site memory?

The last night of excavation of the Moatfield Ossuary in North York. Moatfield was a very sensitive project, as it was an indigenous burial site that had been disturbed by construction. We were called in to assist, and came to an agreement with Six Nations to quickly excavate the remains so they could be reinterred in a location that would be safe from further incursions. And that is how I found myself with Andrew Clish and Kathy Mills working literally all night, in a tent, in December. Right at the very bottom of the ossuary we found a beautiful turtle effigy pipe. It was an exhausting project, both emotionally and physically, but what an experience!

My least favourite thing about archaeology is…

The summer heat.

To pass the time on site, I…

Would like to see a site on occasion, I’m always in the office!

When I’m not working, I like to…

Paint old furniture, and work on my house.

My motto is…


If I could go back in time and excavate any site in the world, I would choose…

The Canterbury Treasure which was discovered in Kent, England in 1962. It is a beautiful silver cache from the Roman period, which was probably buried by a silversmith who never came back to retrieve his riches. It features coins, jewellery and some stunning silver spoons including some with swan shaped handles.