Navigate / search

Museum Secrets

tl_on-the-go

EXPLORE OUR SECRETS!

These are just some of the things you can explore at MOA.  Check out our secrets and visit www.londonsecrets.ca to learn more about other London museum secrets.

 1.  Up to 2000 people lived in the Lawson Village during the 16th century.

Lawson Village, Ontario Canada

The Lawson Village, a 16th century ancestral village, is one of only a few sites in Southern Ontario where earthworks are preserved. Outside the palisade walls that protected the site, fields containing the Three Sisters extended out over four kilometers to the Masonville area in London. The site was believed to be occupied for approximately 25 years.

Excavations have recovered over 300,000 artifacts and the remains of at least 19 longhouses, 30 middens, and a palisade along the northern half of the site. Evidence suggests that at the height of occupation, the village was potentially home to over 2000 people. It was occupied year round, but many of its inhabitants left the village from April to December to engage in hunting, fishing, gathering, and the cultivation of the fields.

2. Despite being “discovered” in the 1850s, the first scientific excavations at the Lawson Village didn’t begin until the 1920s.

Wilf at Fairfield c.1940s
Wilf at Fairfield c.1940s

The Lawson Site was first extensively excavated by archaeologist William Wintemberg in the early 1920s, although the site had been known to locals since the 1850s. Some of the earliest recorded discoveries included 10 pipes, 60 bone needles, 100 bone beads, 12 abraders, and 150 projectile points.

The importance of the Lawson Site was first realized in the late nineteenth century by Dr. Solon Woolverton, a geology professor at the University of Western Ontario and a prominent London citizen. In 1894, Solon introduced the site to the Provincial Museum archaeologist, Dr. David Boyle, who undertook excavations from 1895-1920 and produced the first formal description of the site. His successor, Dr. Rowland B. Orr, visited the site in 1917 and subsequently published an article including a sketched map. Dr. William J. Wintemberg of the Victoria Museum in Ottawa (now the Canadian Museum of History) selected the Lawson Site for major fieldwork projects from 1921 to 1923.

MOA’s founder, Wilfrid Jury, met William Wintemburg at the Lawson Site in 1921. Wilfrid continued to excavate the site on his own in the 1930s and 40s. In total, less than 20% of the site has been excavated.

3. “Cold Tea” is a tradition started by Wilfrid Jury.

Wilifrid Jury Office

During the prohibition era alcohol was not allowed, so Wilfrid Jury discreetly enjoyed his scotch in dainty tea cups over pleasant conversation and company of his friends, collegues, and students in his office at the University.

In days of old, demon rum, and in fact alcohol of any kind (except in the chemistry lab), was regarded as a commodity too dangerous to be consumed on campus. The only exceptions were the Old Hunt Club (now Westminster College) and at meetings of the Board of Governors. Members of the teaching faculty should not have been able to afford it and even if they could, they would be totally irresponsible about it. Students were expected to confine their activities to the local bar, The Ceeps.

At the end of the fall term the irrepressible and iconoclastic Wilfrid Jury would invite some of the people he found compatible to his office for tea since there was no proscription against it. It must be remembered that Wilfrid, following the footsteps of his father, who was a personal friend of Sir John A. Macdonald, was by no means an abstainer

No time was ever mentioned because everyone knew that four o’clock is tea time. If you arrived late, you were scolded. Tea was served from an old brown betty tea pot, into a collection of mixed pattern tea cups. Some were cracked, some had handles, all were supplied with saucers. The brown liquid which came from the pot was cold, because it was, in fact, Seagram’s 83. The hot water jug and the cream pitcher contained water. No one was so impolite as to complain about the brand of “tea.” In addition, biscuits (often chocolate chip) were served with the “tea”. Somehow the tea got stronger as the time progressed, but it never ran out.

4.  The significance of finding mica at the Lawson Site

Mica

The Haudenosaunee and Anishinabe communities of this area engaged in trade or other forms of interaction with other cultural groups along the Atlantic Seaboard, Lake Superior, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Mica demonstrates the interaction and trade of the Hopewell culture of Ohio with other cultures to the east. Mica was used for personal adornment, temper in pottery, as a type of mirror, and for spiritual purposes.

5.  Why the reconstructed longhouse on the Lawson Site looks different from examples found in the museum’s gallery.

elm bark longhouse
Longhouse

The reconstructed longhouse on the Lawson site is more typical of those found in Northern Ontario because of its birch bark covering. In Southwestern Ontario it was more common for longhouses to be covered with elm bark.

Larry McLeod, a Sagamok First Nation member and Ojibway elder from North Bay, completed the most recent repairs in 2013 with a team of eight others. They brought in materials — tamarack poles, birch bark and spruce roots — from Northern Ontario.

6.  Games you can play with these bones.

Deerphlanges

These are deer phalanges, found on the Lawson Site, believed to possibly have been used for a cup and pin game.

There are two main types of modified deer phalanges:

a) a hole through the distal end with the proximal end broken off for a cup and pin game

b) distal end bead: a bead made from only the distal end of the phalanges (quite exclusive to pre-contact sites in Southwestern Ontario)

7.  Why archaeologists use water to find tiny artifacts.

The Flotation technique in archaeology uses water to process soil samples and recover small artifacts that would not ordinarily be recovered when screening soil during an archaeological investigation. The reason these artifacts aren’t normally recovered is that they are so tiny that they fall through the ¼” screen typically used by archaeologists to sift the soil.

Flotation 5
Jury_Day_2009 (4)
Flotation 1b


To recover tiny artifacts, a soil sample is placed on a screen, and with the addition of water, artifacts are separate from the dirt particles. Light materials (called light fraction) float on top of the water while heaver materials such as bone, pottery, and stone rest on the screen. Light materials include plant remains, seeds, and insects which can reveal information about diet, environment, and climate.

Heavy and light materials are collected separately and placed on a tray to dry. Once the sample has thoroughly dried, the material is placed in archival bags for storage and further research.

8.  People have been living in the London area for over 11,000 years.

People first started living in the London area in 11,000 BCE (before common era) during a time known as the Paleo-lithic Period. People lived in small family groups (3-5) who travelled and hunted together. This is because of the climate at the time. The Palaeo-lithic period began during the end of the last Ice Age, so the climate was much colder than today and it would have been winter all year long. Paleo communities ate Caribou almost exclusively, and as a result adopted a very nomadic lifestyle following the caribou herds. In addition to Caribou, early Paleo communities may have also hunted the Mastodon, which is similar to a woolly mammoth, but slightly smaller in size.

9.  You can experience Virtual Reality at MOA.

Developed by Western University PhD candidate Michael Carter as an aspect of his dissertation research, the exhibit combines the interpretation of archaeological evidence and ethno-historic records with modern methods of CGI and virtual reality production. Take a virtual walk through a 16th century Iroquoian longhouse wearing HTC Vive virtual reality goggles and explore life in a longhouse with a blazing cooking fire, sleeping bunks strewn with furs, and stored foods hanging from the rafters.

 

 

The Making of a Model Dig

Anna Johnstone

This week, we are featuring a story from a local Grade 11 student Anna Johnstone who is taking her passion in archaeology and sharing it with the community.

Hello, my name is Anna and I am a grade 11 student. For my Ancient Civilizations class I had to make what my teacher calls a ‘Passion Project’, which means that each student got to make any kind of project that they wanted as long as the subject related to the curriculum and we could, to quote my teacher, “get it out to the world”. I love to make models and dioramas so as soon as we started brainstorming our projects my mind jumped to a model of a dig site and artifacts that could be found at it. Since it was an Ancient Civilizations class, I decided that a site in Rome would be cool but the model looks as if it could be anywhere, even here in Ontario.

For the research part of the project I learned what kind of tools and equipment are used during an archaeological excavation and for the set-up of a site. I looked at photos of sites from all over the world, trying to decide which one I should base my model off of, but I decided that instead of trying to re-create a dig that already exists, it would be more fun to make a completely new site.

My project, inspired by archaeology in Rome.

Then began the planning and creation of the diorama, I made a few rough sketches (although I didn’t follow them too closely!) and got out a bunch of old shoe boxes and a hot glue gun. I started by making the trenches and the shallows around the artifacts.  Once I had the five trenches, I made the ground and box by cutting and gluing shoe boxes, the amount of hot glue that I used for this project was nuts! I then stuffed the box with crumpled paper so that it would be sturdier, glued the ground (with the trenches attached) to it and painted it to be more aesthetically pleasing. I covered the ground with white glue and poured sand over it to give it a nice texture (although I got so much sand on the floor I was sent outside by an irate mother to finish my task!).

The tools, trowels, brushes and pick axes, all started out as toothpicks, tinfoil, wooden skewers and bristles from a toothbrush. I made the tables and tents next, as well as a sifting tray and jewelry for one of the tables. When I had finished it seemed like something was missing, so I added small pegs and string around each trench to mark them off. When I had finally completed this part of the project, it seemed like it had taken forever! In reality it took me about a week to make, I have to admit that I largely ignored my other schoolwork and stayed up way too late every night! It was worth it! I then made the artifacts, a ring, a bracelet, a die, a clay doll, a dagger and a couple bones, and a display case to put them it.

Some of the ‘artifacts’ I made from scratch inspired by my studies in ancient civilizations.

I “got my project out to the world” by putting it on display in my school’s library and the libraries of the school where my mom teaches and my elementary school. I should also add that anyone visiting the MOA should keep an eye out for the diorama! By the time that I had completed the project, most people in my class hadn’t decided what they were going to do for their projects yet; I guess I had gotten a bit inspired!

I’m thrilled that my history teacher gave me the opportunity to do this project and many more as the class went on, she’s a great person with unique assignments that make her classes so much more fun! I loved making this project so much, it gave me the opportunity to learn more about archaeology, which I find fascinating, and make something that I am very proud of.

-Anna Johnstone-