When a Canadian construction team came across a giant cannonball as they excavated a building site in Quebec, they did what anyone else would do in this age of Snapchat and Instagram.
They moved the 200lb projectile into better view and posed with it for photographs.
It was only later, when an archaeologist was studying the missile, the workers learned of their lucky escape: The cannonball was still live, packed with a charge and gunpowder just as it would have been when fired by British gunners during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759.
A team of army bomb disposal experts was hurriedly called in to make the artefact safe.
“With time, humidity got into its interior and reduced its potential for exploding, but there’s still a danger,” Master Warrant Officer Sylvain Trudel, a senior munitions technician, told the Canadian broadcaster CBC.
They are now working out whether they can make the cannonball safe – for display in a museum – or whether it must be destroyed.
“Old munitions like this are hard to predict,” said Mr Trudel. “You never know to what point the chemicals inside have degraded.”
It had lain buried for more than 250 years in what is now known as Old Quebec, the historic quarter of Quebec City.
Historians believe it was fired during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, a pivotal moment in the war between Britain and France for control of the land that would become Canada – and a small part of the wider Seven Years War as Europe’s two most powerful nations fought each other around the world.
Cannon Shot at Refrigerator
In 1759, British forces defeated the French and seized Quebec City forming what would become known as Britain’s “annus mirablis”.
The battle lasted no more than an hour – and cost the lives of the commanding officers on either side – but came at the end of a three-month siege.
The cannonball was most likely fired at Quebec City from the far side of the St Lawrence River where British gun batteries were based.
Although cannon generally fired solid iron balls, armourers also designed projectiles equipped with timed charges or fashioned into crude incendiary devices.
Mr Trudel said such the newly discovered ball was designed to set fire to the buildings it penetrated.
“The ball would break and the powder would ignite, setting fire to the building,” he said.