Stephen Crowley opens up about his archeological collection

Crowley is a groundskeeper at SFU, and a self-taught archaeologist

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This is a photo of an atlatl stone point, baby mammoth molar, and dinosaur vertebrae.
Bottom right, atlatl stone point; bottom left, baby mammoth molar; top, dinosaur vertebrae. PHOTO: C Icart / The Peak

By: C Icart, Staff Writer

Stephen Crowley is a groundskeeper at SFU. In his free time, he’s been doing archeological research for 30 years. He’s built up a collection so large, he wants to open a museum of natural history in Alberta. Before he’s able to open a small museum, he’s considering launching a virtual museum.  

While Crowley does this as a hobby, he reached out to professors in the archaeology department to make sense of some of his findings. He also considered donating some of his artifacts to SFU. The SFU Museum of Archeaology and Ethnologycollects, researches, and exhibits artifacts from around the world with a focus on British Columbia.” It features artifacts and research from faculty and students of the archaeology department as well as donations.

The Peak sat down with the self-taught archeologist, who showed us some of his artifacts. Namely, one he’s “pretty sure” is a dinosaur vertebrate “from a big plant eating dinosaur.” He estimates it is “at least 65 million years old” and found it by the South Saskatchewan River. He also has an artifact he found in an antique shop. It’s a “molar out of a baby mammoth [ . . . ] from the tundra out of Churchill Manitoba.” Finally, an “atlatl stone point, an arrowhead from a shorter launching spear.” This is just a small sample of what he owns.

Crowley’s main goal is “to hype the idea of conservation,” as he is passionate about learning and sharing “the history of where [the artifacts] were found and who found them.” He doesn’t want the history and importance of these artifacts to be lost when the people who found them pass away if they haven’t passed their stories down to young people. 

For Crowley, his passion started 30 years ago because he “wanted to see the prehistoric monuments of Canada.” He said, “I wanted to see all the petroglyphs, the rock carvings. I wanted to see the pictographs, the paintings on the rocks. I wanted to see the boulder effigies, where they put piles of boulders to make pictures on the ground.” 

His passion for archaeology is something he wants to share with the future generation. He tells the stories of his findings with kids in his community and he’s “hoping that somewhere, one of those kids is gonna get fired [up] enough to want to go to school.” He also wants to “pay-it-forward” and share the tips he has learned over the years to help others find things like arrowheads. Most of what he knows, he has learned from farmers and professors. In his experience, building trust and relationships has been foundational to seeing some artifacts and culturally significant landmarks.

Crowley doesn’t participate in archaeological digs. All his findings are from the surface — he specializes in rock art. “Wherever there’s cool rocks, there’s stories, and legends.” Crowley also stresses the importance of respecting the land, and the people who have cared for it. In his words, “You gotta go humble, you gotta go with respect.” 

For more information on his collection, contact Facilities Services and ask for Stephen Crowley.