Could the world’s oldest dress be the coolest Archaeological discovery of 2016? Recent work by Alice Stevenson and Michael Dee shows that a dirty linen cloth excavated in 1913 by Sir Flinders Petrie is actually a dress. But not just any dress, the worlds oldest woven garment! The Tarkhan dress dates to around 3200 BC and was once worn by a female Egyptian teenager of royal descent. It was found in a First Dynasty Tomb south of Cario and is made out of flax plants that were spun, then woven into linen. Linen was the fabric of choice in ancient Egypt; many people were wrapped in it during the mummification process and it was often given as a symbolic offering after death. The dress was tailored, meaning that it was not draped or tied to the body, but cut and fitted. It had a V-neck and pleated sleeves and bodice. Signs of wear at the elbow and armpits show that it was a beloved item worn in life, then brought into the after world. It was placed in the tomb folded and inside out to allow the detail around the cuffs and neckline to stay intact through the years.
Dating the Dress
The dress was overlooked by archaeologists in the early 1900’s and sat in museum storage, dirty and entwined with other textiles for years. It was discovered in 1977 when the textiles were sent for cleaning and conservation. In 2016, a small sample of the dress was sent for radiocarbon dating. This process established that the dress was older than previous estimates, and was made shortly before the First Dynasty.
Doesn’t it make you wonder what exciting finds are waiting to be discovered in the collections right here at the Sustainable Archaeology facility?
Thank you to Dr. Lisa Hodgett’s Adventures in Pop Culture Archaeology class, Western University
Environmental Archaeology is the study of the ecology of past human populations. No matter where we live, we create an impact on the landscapes and the landscape impacts us. Archaeologists understand the physical environment such as landforms and climate and the biological environment such as plants and animals through analytical techniques used by the various sub disciplines of environmental archaeology. This includes;
Geoarchaeology reconstructs interactions between humans and the past physical environment using geomorphology and sedimentology. Geomorphology studies the shape and origin of landscape features while sedimentology reconstructs the history of sediment/ soil deposits. Together we can identify inorganic resources such as stone, clay and mineral deposits while reconstructing past landscape topographies to explain human settlement patterns and impact.
Archaeobotany is the study of how humans interacted with the plants around them. Using preserved remains such as charcoal, seed, wood, and phytoliths we can identify plant based foods, other uses for plant materials, and subsistence strategy. We can also use plants to reconstruct the chronology and climate of archaeological sites through additional sub-disciplines such as dendrochronology.
Palynology is the study of microscopic plant remains such as pollen and spores recovered from sedimentary cores to reconstruct regional plant communities. Simply, the abundance of pollen and spores tell archaeologists which species dominated the area.
Zooarchaeology is the study of sub fossil, animal remains such as bone, teeth, antler, shell, and parasites to identify the animals of past environments and identify subsistence of past human populations. This allows us to also learn about the health and sanitation of past populations.
Bioarchaeology is the study of past human remains. Each bone tells a story and Bioarchaeologists can reconstruct diet, health, infectious disease, and behaviours of past populations through their remains.
The goal of environmental archaeology is the reconstruction of past culture. Understanding that humans are part of a complex interacting system of technology, behaviour, and the physical environment takes time and a wide variety of knowledge.
The evolution of early Canadian currency offers a unique perspective into the growth of Canada as it was evolving into a nation. From it’s pre-colonial origins, to the tokens ushered in by Confederation in 1867, currency saw many forms and many uses.
Early 16th Century- First Nations and Wampum
As Canada was being settled, coins from Europe were scarce and far between. Interactions with the First Nations led to strong trade systems through the bartering of goods such as furs, wampum, copper objects, tools, and beads.
Wampum was highly valued among the Aboriginals not only for the time and difficulty of creating wampum shell beads, but the ceremonial functions of both the beads and the wampum belt. Wampum most importantly conveys messages, mark peace treaties, and record historical events using marks of friendship and respect. To early European traders, beads were essential to the fur trade since they were small and high value. Europeans used the beads to trade for pelts to cover the high demand for fashionable furs in Europe.
17th Century- French Coins and Playing Cards?
By 1608, Samuel de Champlain founded the first colonial settlement in Quebec. Bartering was still the main method of currency until settlements expanded and coins from France took over. These coins were higher value to the colonists in North America due to the risks of transporting gold and silver by ship across the Atlantic. By 1670 as result of illegal trading with settlers to the south, Spanish dollars (piastres) also worked their way into the colonies.
Because of the illegal trading and increased military expeditions waged against the Iroquois, fur trade started to dwindle and money fell short. Payment of soldiers could no longer be postponed and the first issue of card money using playing cards was issued June 8th, 1685 with the currency value written on the back of the card. It was not long until counterfeiting and sharp rises in inflation as result of social and political unrest resulted in eventual ban of card money in 1720.
18th Century and Beyond
With the failure to find a replacement after the ban of card money and onset of an immediate recession, the country transitioned through various types of coin and paper currency with it’s value being directly impacted by social and political reforms or war (such as the Great War between Great Britain and France).
Under a British colonial rule in North America, the government was unable to solve the coin shortage and colonists still depended on the fur trade and coins from England. With rising trade between British Colonists and the future colonists settling in the U.S, coins from across all of Europe and the Spanish Colonies of Latin America became the norm. Colonists independently regulated the currency by creating ‘ratings’ or value on the coins. Once they were rated, they became legal tender. It wasn’t until the War of 1812 that paper bills made a comeback in order to finance the war effort. When the war ended in 1815, the British government redeemed the military bills at full value. The renewed interest in paper currency lead to the first bank, Montreal Bank (later changed to the Bank of Montreal) to be opened in 1817, issuing money in dollars. The rise of banks solved the problems associated with foreign currency in circulation with different ‘ratings’.
By the 1840’s Political Union in Upper and Lower Canada created the Province of Canada which led to a currency reform. By 1857 the currency changed to 1, 5, 20, and 50 cent denominations with the first Canadian coinage authorized in 1858.
The sweeping changes of Confederation in 1867 ushered in a responsibility for the government to legalize it’s own currency. Ottawa issued a new series of coin denominations; 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cent coins which were legal in the four provinces that signed the confederation act.
Powell, James. A History of the Canadian Dollar. Ottawa: Public Works, 2005.
“The Royal Canadian Mint Currency Timeline.” Royal Canadian Mint. https://www.mint.ca/store/dyn/PDFs/RollTimeline_e.pdf.
As Canada commemorates its 150th anniversary with hundreds of events scheduled throughout the country this year, here at MOA we are taking advantage of the opportunity to highlight the life-ways and practices of the First People who were living here for millennia before “Canada” even existed. Many First Nations traditions and practices, such as maple harvesting, are still very much alive today and part of the traditions we consider to be quintessentially Canadian.
As part of growing up or living in southern Ontario, most of us enjoy, or have enjoyed at some point in our lives, the opportunity to walk or even ride on a horse drawn-sleigh through a snowy woodlot in late winter, observing the spiles and buckets (or today, the acres of tubes!) hanging from trees, collecting maple sap. An isolated cabin, wood smoke billowing from the chimney and smelling of sweet, caramelised syrup is the highlight of our tour (short for the pancakes!), where sap is boiled in metal kettles or large, flat pans, reducing the liquid after many, many hours to the sweet, sticky, sugary treat that we all know and love.
These traditions that we associate with the Sugar Bush can be traced to First Nations origins, in which families would leave their homes and villages in late winter to set up small camps in the deciduous forest to collect maple (and/or birch, box-elder and white walnut) sap. Trees were scored, sap was collected and reduced. Before metals were introduced to the region from European settlers and traders, sap collection and processing used perishable containers such as wood and bark. Raw sap, rich in nutrients after the lean winter months, was also enjoyed as a tonic and a flavour enhancing base for soups, stews, and porridge. Processed syrup and sugar would preserve the taste of spring long into the year, used to sweeten culinary dishes and drinks and serving as a source of trade and commerce if collected in large enough quantities.
At our Maple Harvest Festival on March 11-12th, we will be honoured to have local First Nations Elders Dan and Mary-Lou Smoke on site to awaken the forest and conduct a sweet water blessing, thanking the trees for their nourishing gift. Anishinaabe Elder Larry McLeod will also be joining us from North Bay to teach us about the importance of birch bark, including its use as a basket to collect and even boil sap. We will also have sagamite, a traditional corn soup/stew made from fresh sap for tasting in the longhouse and an exhibition of archaeological objects relating to First Nations maple harvesting in our museum gallery.
We welcome our visitors to join us in this celebration of spring that has been honoured since time immemorial, the awakening of the forest (in the Forest City!) and the first harvest of the year. This is a festive time, marking an end to hunger and darkness as we welcome the return of light, life, and nourishment from the land around us. We hope to inspire in our visitors a wonder for the unique environment of this region in which maple trees flourish, an awareness of the wisdom and ingenuity of First Nations cultural practices and an appreciation for the rich heritage of Ontario which lies beneath our feet.
Technology is an integral part of our society. We spend countless hours checking our emails, browsing social media, and looking up ratings of places before we even visit them. We have the opportunity to connect with places across the world we may otherwise never have the opportunity to visit. The widespread accessibility of the internet allows museums the opportunity to present their collections online, making them more accessible and present within a wider community. With the quick advances in technology, it can be hard to stay up to date in the museum world. Online collections are one way of staying relevant with today’s technologically savvy generation.
The very first question about an online collection that most museums consider is weather we should create one at all, and if so, how much information should we include? One of the benefits of making the collection available online is that we can share parts of the collection that otherwise cannot be put on display, such as fragile or light sensitive objects. This allows the viewer to experience an object they cannot otherwise experience in person, while preserving the objects at the same time.
So how are online collections made? Online collections begin with the museum’s digital record of an object. New digital records are created everyday, and for some museums this may take years to change all object records into a digital form. For example MOA holds over 2 million objects and only a small fraction have a complete digital record. We also monitor what goes online especially when it comes to culturally sensitive or ceremonial materials since they are protected and not displayed unless special permissions are given. All objects are approached with care and consideration before being placed into public view. Information such as appraisals, donor information, and archaeological site information are also not shared online.
The accessibility of online collections is limited only to the people who have a computer and internet making it easy for people all across the world to access the collections with a simple click. This invites research potential and allows viewers who are interested in a museum to experience the collections if they can not experience it physically. Like museum exhibitions, online collections are not static. They change and evolve with new research and objects.
Not all museums have online collections and the ones that do are hosted on the museum website. With the interest in cultural objects growing, sites that search objects from multiple museums such as the Google Art Project and Artefact Canada give you the opportunity to curate your own collection of favourite items and to learn about objects from all over the globe.
If you’ve ever been really excited to go to a museum exhibition only to discover later that part or all of the display was made up of replicas – you’ll know that, for some reason, people tend to feel differently about the “real thing” than they do about the “copy” or the “fake.” People have fascinating relationships with things and their copies. Sometimes we don’t know or understand where our own impressions of authenticity come from, or why we feel better about certain modes of representation and replication than we do about others. While some might really enjoy looking at a 3D model of an artifact on a screen – zooming in to take a closer look, flipping it around to see its different sides – others might prefer seeing the original artifact in a glass case in a museum. Still others might prefer to hold a 3D printed replica, able to run their fingers over the surface of the object and heft it in their hand. A lot of this is pretty subjective.
There is no doubt that new 3D technologies are impressive in their ability to mimic the originals – but are these replicas and representations really useful beyond the “wow” factor? How do experiences with originals and copies compare with one another? Does making a copy (either digital or physical) change our view of the original artifact in any way? Ultimately, can we generate more meaningful experiences with digital and physical facsimiles?
In partnership with the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project, Sustainable Archaeology, and the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, I explore the nature of archaeological objects and their digital copies in two localised contexts – one in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the Canadian Arctic (Banks Island, NWT) and the other in Southwestern Ontario. With the help of the wonderful folks at Sustainable Archaeology, I have been able to take two collections of artifacts (provided by the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project and Museum of Ontario Archaeology) and expand those collections to include digital photographs, 3D models, and 3D prints.
These collections have provided inspiration for dialogues with a diverse array of archaeological constituents including local Inuvialu it and First Nations community members (elders, adults, and youth), museologists, curators, and archaeologists. Overall, I hope to shed some light on how experiences, perceptions, and values differ amongst individuals.
While the majority of participants thus far have certainly demonstrated a strong interest in emerging 3D technologies, there is also a high diversity of opinion, both between and within communities, about the specific roles archaeological replicas should play. It will be interesting to see down the line how these views will shape what we choose to replicate and how.
Collection of artifacts, replicas, photographs and 3D models prepped for an interview at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, NWT. Photograph by Beth Compton.
Interview with Anne from the +Positive Voice Program at Nokee Kwe
My name is Anne and I am a woman who was lucky and proud to have been a part of the +Positive Voice program. Over the seven weeks I spent with the program’s director Summer and the women, I can truly say was a positive experience.
I have seen many programs for aboriginal woman, but this is a program where I have seen aboriginal woman stand in front of me and praise one another. This is why I wanted to be apart of the second session of +Positive Voice.
On the first day of the program we were asked why we wanted to be in +Positive Voice and my answer was “I heard from the women of the first group it was good, and I want to find my independence and not just be a mom anymore. I want to find me”.
Summer explained everything to us such as how the next seven weeks were to run and who our hopeful guests were to be. She was very coordinated, organized and excited about the second session and us. I can’t complain, I was pretty excited too.
We did a small exercise on the first day with a ball of rope, and we tossed it to whomever saying who we are and something about ourselves. When we were finished, Summer pointed out that we were all connected and that we share a bond. Mentally I laughed it off.
I never really stopped to think about having a true bond with other women until +Positive Voice. The first two weeks I found to be the most challenging for me personally. As it being the beginning of a relationship, especially between five women, my emotions got the best of me. And I am not an emotional person, but the bonding that was happening was intense and I didn’t realise it was taking place until the program was over.
We were introduced to different aspects of art, and artists and it opened my mind so much. I believe I live outside of the bubble, but the way that the artists express themselves is amazing. The colors, contemporary pieces, and stills are mind blowing. Everyone had a different opinion and were not held back from speaking their voice. I am that type of person and I felt like I finally found a piece of me.
We then dove into computers and Memes. I just sat there and looked at Summer with the oddest look ever and then turned to the computer with the same look. I raised my hand and asked the question that my face was giving the look too. and thankfully Summer and my classmates had a week to help me figure out what a Meme was and what I was suppose to do before the next assignment. If it wasn’t for the women I’d still be looking at the binder trying to figure out what a Meme is and how to use Canva. Once I was comfortable with creating Memes, Summer gave us cameras. Christmas came early.
Summer explained how they worked, and we had instructions in both our binders and the cases. For a starter, Summer sent us on a scavenger hunt to get use to the camera to see the different settings . I am also thankful for the other women, because we helped each other learn these technologies.
Now the fun part, taking photos of our own. I can honestly say my face lit up, and I know my soul did. But, with the photos we took, we needed to do a small piece about why we took that photo. Not a novel or anything, just a few words. I got stage fright. I couldn’t take a photo until our first snow fall. And on that beautiful Sunday morning I was up, out my door at 11, grabbed my Tim Hortons and hit the trails with my camera to start taking pictures. I was so happy and full of life, it’s hard to put into words. Walking around looking at nature and just seeing her as she is without noise. I found my peace. I found my stories. Actually they’re not stories, they are my feelings and perception.
+Positive Voice is just that. It doesn’t matter how you look at it, I have learned a lot about myself. I have been taught more then I thought I could learn. I formed a bond with more women in one place then I have in my 42 yrs. And I trust them. How many people can say that and mean it?
Summer has made a difference. Not only in myself. But my family. They see something different, they see the camera in my bag, they hear “I need another picture frame”, and they hear my voice more. Actually a lot of people do.
My dining room has turned into my own little art gallery. My twitter account is starting to grow and I’m more independent. With camera in tow I have my girls. I have me.
At the beginning I had said “I wanted to find me”. Want to know what happened?
I did find me…
I found the old me before I became a wife and mom. Misunderstood, judged, abused, mistreated and tossed aside
I found that I am a mom and I am proud of that and that will never change. My son is my every ounce and fiber. He is my everything and he knows it.
I found that the present me is loving of writing again and passionate about it. And photography is a new passion.
All together, Nokee Kwe has created an outstanding program. I am proud to have this chance to learn more as an adult and as a woman. Strength comes in numbers… And that’s proof from my sisters. Much Love
Welcome to a brand-new year at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology! I am honoured to start my first full year as the new Executive Director at MOA, and I am excited about what 2017 has in store for us. I follow in the footsteps of some incredible people who have had the honour of directing this unique facility, the last of whom – Joan Kanigan – left a strong foundation of policy development and infrastructure renewal that will allow us to begin the first stages of our merger with Sustainable Archaeology, the research and curation facility next door. The integration of SA will allow us to incorporate new and interactive technologies into our galleries and classroom, highlighting some of the innovative archaeological research being done at this state-of-the-art facility.
Interactive technologies related to Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and 3-D imaging will be moving into the gallery over the coming year, beginning with our MOA VRchaeology exhibit opening on January 12th. MOA VRchaeology will transport visitors back 500 years with HTC Vive virtual reality goggles to experience a reconstructed Iroquoian-style longhouse developed by Western Anthropology PhD candidate, Michael Carter. To read more about Mike’s project, which he’s fully documented, check out his blog here, then come out to MOA for this unique experience in person!
Our first temporary exhibit of the year opens on January 26th in partnership with Nokee Kwe Native Learning Centre. The +Positive Voice Program entitled Warrior Womyn: Reclaiming our Identity is an inspiring exhibit promoting positive narratives and memes by urban Aboriginal women who are experiencing a transition to employment/education. This will be followed in April by a temporary exhibit developed in collaboration with Western First Nations Studies. And in August, watch for our take on the year’s sesquicentennial celebrations with an exhibit featuring the negotiated identities of Chief Joseph Brant and Pauline Johnson in the era of Canada’s new confederation.
Do you love maple as much as we do? That sweet – even nutritious! – treat that maple trees reward us with after a cold winter? Then make sure to mark your calendars for the weekend of March 11-12th when we’ll be re-establishing an old event here at the museum to celebrate the Maple Harvest! We’ll be focusing on traditional First Nations’ methods of harvesting and processing this natural resource, and we’ll be offering all sorts of engaging and interactive activities throughout the weekend. And of course, plans are already underway to host our 9th annual Harvest Festival and Pow Wow on September 16-17th in conjunction with London Doors Open. That event will be followed by International Archaeology Day on the 21st of October. Also, watch for us this year out in the community, as we broaden our outreach to provide a contact and gift-shop booth at local and regional events and festivities – stop by to say hi and ask us what is new!
We are also committing to updating our education and outreach programs in 2017. With a newly installed and generously donated Smart Board from Western Ivey Business School, students will have more opportunities for interactive engagement in the classroom. And retired school-teacher Linda Imrie has donated her time and skills to revamping our Edu-kits, catered to augmenting curriculum studies from grades 1-6 – so if you are not able to get your classroom to the Museum to experience our in-house educational programs, please inquire about the availability of these instructive and archaeologically-themed kits!
MOA has a dynamic and dedicated team of Board members, staff and volunteers who continue to work diligently to create a more immersive and engaging experience for visitors of all ages – and we are always looking for volunteers willing to share their time and talents, so if you are interested in joining our team please give us a call! Whether it’s a walk through the gallery to see what’s new, your attendance at a craft workshop or school group, or just a walk along our pathways and woodlot to appreciate and reflect upon the undisturbed archaeological village preserved beneath your feet, we look forward to seeing you in 2017!
By: Amy St. John, PhD candidate in Anthropology, Western University
As an archaeologist, I believe we can access some of the day-to-day, face-to-face interactions of past people through the material culture they left behind. Ceramics are one of the most commonly found material culture types around the world and throughout time. There are many steps that go into ceramic making. Some of these include: gathering and refining clay, adding materials to that clay to make it more workable, forming that clay into a pot, then decorating, drying and firing that pot. Some of the steps in ceramic making, like exterior decoration, have been studied extensively by archaeologists trying to understand cultural connections in the past. Other steps, such as how people actually formed clay into pots, are more difficult to access. However, ethnographic evidence tells us that formation methods are often learned, passed on and maintained across generations, even as more visible decorative techniques change over time. So how can we access how people were forming pots out of clay?
My research explores the ceramic analysis potential of innovative micro CT technology available at the Sustainable Archaeology: Western, located next door to MOA. Micro CT uses X-rays to provide non-destructive, high resolution, fully 3D images of the interior and exterior of ceramics based on the density of materials. It can show us interior features in a unique way, augmenting traditional techniques that include destructive methods.
As a case study, I’ve scanned ceramic sherds from an archaeological collection that are part of a larger research project, directed by my supervisor Prof. Neal Ferris (Lawson Chair of Canadian Archaeology), related to a Late Woodland Borderland in southwestern Ontario dating to around 1100-1250 A.D. Micro CT is proving to be an extremely promising method for examining the interior features of ceramics. These include: voids/air pockets, micro folds in clay, and both intentionally added material known as temper and natural inclusions in clay, which you can see we can easily isolate in the 2D slices and 3D renderings that micro CT creates.
Patterns that we can see in these interior features often relate directly to the formation techniques potters used to make ceramics. I’m finding that on these borderland sites, there were several different ways of making pots that are visible in the scans. For example, some pots’ rims are folded over, while others have clay added on to the exterior.
So what I am demonstrating through the micro-analysis of ceramic craft is how micro CT can help us understand an often neglected aspect of this common artifact type: how people were using their hands and other tools to manipulate clay into pots. Using some of the most advanced technology available today, we can explore how the craft of making pots relates to communities, learning, tradition, and innovation over several generations in the past.
Trained as both an archaeologist and computer animator, Michael has spent his professional career immersed in the creative, technical and business roles of animation and visual effects (VFX) film and broadcast production. Returning to his archaeology roots twenty years later, Michael’s research focuses on the use of Virtual Archaeology (VA) to better inform archaeological and heritage research, dissemination, and mobilization. His interest is in VA epistemology, paradata and the experiential application of technology for archaeological knowledge construction.
Michael’s most recent completed research project explores the application of virtual reality in the (re)imagination of a 16th century Iroquoian Longhouse.
“What’s cool about Iroquoian longhouses in Ontario archaeology is that nothing survives of these once massive wooden structures except for the post hole stains in the ground, remains of fire hearths, storage pits or even burials within the disintegrated walls of these houses.” Using the archaeological evidence found in the ground, archaeologists make an educated guess as to how the longhouse once appeared as it stood. By coupling European historical accounts and Indigenous oral histories with archaeological data, Michael can stitch together a virtual 3D account of a typical longhouse.
This longhouse combines the interpretation of the cultural material available, modern methods of CGI and virtual reality production, and 3D scanned artifacts from the Lawson collections to provide visitors of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology a chance to explore the sights and sounds of what a potential longhouse might have looked and felt like within the 16th century in Southwestern Ontario.
In 2017, the museum plans to make this technology available for use to visitors to experience at the museum. Stay tuned for updates, stories, and new information relating to the use of virtual reality in the museum here through our notes, or on social media.
For more details on Michaels work check out A Day in Virtual reality here.