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Ceramic Identification

Ceramics artifacts have a long human history, dating back 27,000 years. Ceramics are a useful artifacts for archaeologist as they are hand made, durable, and can last thousands of years without changing from their original state.

Clay, in its natural form, is white in colour. impurities such as iron make it a different colour. When clay is heated, water evaporates and the minerals fuse to become a ceramic. This process is irreversible once the ceramic has been created, and is similar to making glass.

Identifying qualities of Historic Ontario Ceramics:

Types: There are four major groups of ceramic; coarse earthenware, fine earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. These types have different densities and are heated to different temperatures when made.

Ceramic types
Ceramic firing temperatures


Glazes colour, decorate, waterproof, and strengthen ceramics. Glazes are comprised of a layer of glass fused to the clay through firing. They are particularly important as waterproofing earthenware as it is a very porous material.

Glazes react differently when heated depending on what they are made of. Salt
glazes, which combine silica, sodium and/or potassium with calcium (as a stabilizer), are commonly used on stoneware.
The glaze forms a thin, orange-peel like texture. Lead glazes, which contain lead and other metals tend to melt at lower temperatures making them easier to use and produce brilliant effects. Adding tin to a lead glaze creates an opaque white glaze, known as majolica, delft, or faience. Luster can be added to the glaze, by using silver or copper.

Makers marks: 

In order to determine its date, archaeologists can use both the style of a ceramic vessel, as well as the technique used to make it. One of the best ways to determine a vessel’s age is
to use its ‘Maker’s Mark’, or the mark found typically on the bottom of the object. Maker’s Marks are applied using different methods depending on the manufacturer.

Archaeologists are able to date ceramic artifacts using the maker’s mark by determining when a particular style was used. For instance, we know that printing ‘England’ was used after 1891. It became compulsory for English ceramics to be marked as a result of the McKinley Tariff Act in the United States. The bill, designed to encourage American industries, required articles imported into the USA to be clearly marked with the name of the country where it was manufactured.

registration mark
Registration Identifiers

The origin of moccasins

Although the word “moccasin” is synonymous with the First Nation shoe, the origin of the word refers to footwear which includes the sandals, boots, and leggings that First Nation peoples wore.

Moccasins are protective footwear, often to keep feet from freezing. They were designed for the environment that the person lived in. For example, hard-soled moccasins of the Plains groups were made for rocky terrain while the Apache moccasins were characterized by turned-up toes to prevent sharp objects from piercing into the foot.

Moccasins are made from the hide of moose, deer, elk, or buffalo. Brain-tanned hide is similar to commercial leather today and is softer and easier to sew than buckskin (although not as durable).To create moccasins, patterns are made with the grain of the leather since they stretch when worn and are sewn with sinew. To punch through the leather for sewing, bone awls were traditionally employed whereas leather punches are now used.

The most basic moccasin is made from a single piece of leather with a central seam running up the top of the foot. Amongst different tribes, there were variations and additions made to the moccasin structure such as cuffs, differing heels and vamps as well as distinct beading and quill decorations. Woodland moccasins were decorated with floral or animal design on the instep and cuffs whereas Plains moccasins had unadorned cuffs with geometric patterns on the instep or around the sole.

Make your own pair of custom moccasins in the style shown below at the Moccasin Workshop Nov 16 2014! Register by calling at 519-473-1360.

Moccasin and Longhouse

Site consulted:

Jury’s Life on the Farm

Excerpt of Annual Cycle of Life on the Farm as a Boy

Written by Wilfrid Jury February 24, 1967

I remember potato digging, in fact all the fall work, as father used to go out west on the harvester excursion.

Wilf Child
Wilfrid Jury and his sister Irene as children in Lobo, Ontario.

When I was fourteen he left mother and I to cope with it. Looking back I wonder how we did it. That finished my schooling but it gave me confidence. There was no time to get into mischief. Up at the break of day work until sundown. Mother and I carried on. When dad returned everything was in ship shape and we were proud of the words of praise. I usually had a day off to go squirrel shooting before Dad went up to Port Franks duck shooting for two weeks. Later he went deer hunting. The drive to the Port in the democrat was a long one, leaving home at 5am and getting there before dinner at George Hurdon’s, the proprietor of Waverly Hotel. After the horse had a good feed I’d start home. The horse knew the way; I didn’t. I got home in time to help milk. Then on a Saturday, two weeks later, I went up and got dad and his friend Jim. They had shot a barrel of ducks. We had wild duck off and on all winter.

Each year Dad would come home with one or two Indian relics that he had picked up in the sand hills around Port Franks. On his return from shooting, I’d usually have the fall ploughing started. We always summer-fallowed a large field. Other fields had to be ridged so they would dry out early in the spring, enabling us to have an early seeding. There was a long open ditch that ran through the pasture field to the swamp, this ditch carried off the water from all the drains of the entire farm. Through the spring and summer the cattle drank out of it. They also tramped on the side wall. It was a fall job to open this with rubber boots, a long handled shovel and a lot of hard work. This annual job was completed.

Amos on Binder machine
Amos Jury on a Binder in the “school house field of wheat” 1930

Each fall a general check was made of the farm buildings and house, broken window panes replaced, loose siding renailed, storm windows put up, and the chimneys cleaned. A long ladder reached to the peak of the roof; a rope with a logging chain tied to the end was pulled up and down the chimney flue. This was my job. Father had taken down the stove pipes. He removed the soot that fell down. Then the cook stove was thoroughly cleaned and the box stove put up in the front room. Pulling up the stove pipes often lead to harsh words. The only time I remember my father really cursing was the time they all fell down after he had struggled with them and thought the job was completed.

The woodshed was cleaned out on a crisp, dry day in early November. The wood that had been cut the winter before was hauled from the woods and neatly piled up to the rafters. The large knots were kept separate for the box stove. Mother always complained that the wood was cut to long, especially in the summer when a quick fire for dinner was all that was necessary. The CPR railway ran through the farm and we were always on the lookout for discarded cedar fence posts or broken telephone poles to cut and split for the kindling that was piled in a separate place near the chopping block. A hand axe hung nearby and the morning supply of kindling was placed under the stove to dry or sometimes placed in the oven for half an hour or so.

Jury Homestead
The Jury family Homestead. Pictured are Amos & Julia Jury.

I recall that one late fall the old sow had a litter of twelve pigs, three were small and weak. They were brought into the house, wrapped in old woolen pieces of underwear, and placed in the oven after mother had given each one a drop of whisky in milk. Their little mouths were pried open and the milk squeezed out of a wet rag. Later they sucked a baby bottle with a nipple. In two weeks the little pigs were strong enough to take their place with the rest of the large family. They always remembered us and were pets.

The fall was a busy time in the house. The snow apples were carefully picked over and two bushels were rolled in paper. An apple peeling machine was used to peel apples, then they were quartered and dried on racks made of sieves out of the fanning mill. Dad made a frame and suspended it above the cook stove. This same device was used to dry sweet corn after it was boiled on the cob and cut off. We grew a lot of cabbages and made a large keg of sauerkraut. That operation took place in the root cellar. The cabbages were shredded, put in a keg and pounded. Salt was added. The trick was to put in the right amount. After it was made, the keg was placed back of the cook stove to aid in fermentation. The whole house smelt of it and it was judged to be cured. It was set out in the shed with a plank on top. A heavy stone was placed on the plank that filled the keg to weigh it down and keep the brine on top.

Late in November two pigs that dressed from 225 pounds to 450 pounds were killed, hung for a week, then cut up. If it was cold, some pieces were frozen but the most was put in the brine barrel until it was cured. It was then taken out, sometime in the early spring and smoked. There was always a treat of spare ribs. One year we made sausages. I turned the hand meat grinder all day, and packed the cut meat in the casings. An old German hired man mixed the spices and helped. They were the best we ever made.

Of course, the garden, where lettuce, radishes and cucumbers were raised, had to be dug with a spade in late fall. As it was small and at the back of the house it would not be ploughed. Mothers flower garden also had to be dug. Each year mother supervised this job as I was accused of digging up tulip bulbs and some perennial plants.

Around our place the fallen leaves were raked up and burned on the gravel driveway. Although the same chore had to be repeated in the spring. There so many leaves came from during the fall and winter always amazed me.

By this time we were looking for out fur caps, mits and winter clothes. Mother used to knit our mits. We bought a leather pullover to protect the mits, adding extra warmth. Long Johns were put on, last years socks and rubbers put on. For years I had a red taffacon cap with a tassel that was my pride. At last the cattle were tied on the stable and the sheep locked in their pen. The cat hung around the kitchen, sneaked in and crept under the stove. The squirrels were coming up from the woods and eating the apples. The chick-a-dees returned to the suet box. Flocks of snow birds were seen. The sleighs were put together and the wagon packed away.

All the corn had been husked and put into the corn crib. The stacks stood up around the mow and the rhubarb covered with light, strawy manure. There was talk of who would be the school trustee as the school meeting was soon to be held. The cord wood piles at the school could be seen from the house, donated by the neighbors, mostly by us.

Winter would soon be here. Wood had to be cut, preparations made for Christmas. The years rolled around.

After the coming of the automobile, rural life in Ontario changed. The beginning of the mechanical age has altered the way of life. The horse and buggy days have gone. They are but a memory.

Mammoths & Mastodons


One of the largest mammals known to man is the elephant. What most people don’t know is that the elephant is a descendant from the mammoth and mastodon. After the dinosaurs died off, the mammoth roamed Asia, Europe as well as North America. They were known to be alive up until about 4,000 years ago. Unlike the dinosaurs, the mammoth lived amongst the humans. We know that the mammoth lived because of the drawings that were found in caves of the humans hunting the mammoth or simply drawings of the mammoths themselves.

Mammoths were large; they stood up to about 11 feet and weighed as much as 12,000 pounds. 6 million years ago the first elephants were found in Africa. After a while they split up into 3 groups, one group stayed in Africa and they are now known as the African elephant, the second group moved onto Asia where they are now known as the Asian elephant. The third group were the mammoths and moved onto Europe. At first the mammoths only had a bit of hair and looked a lot like their African relatives. When they first arrived in Europe, the temperatures were gradually getting colder and by the time the ice came the sparse-haired mammoths had turned into thick coated-mammoths. The mammoth had huge tusks, unlike current day elephants; the mammoth’s tusks were long and curved inwards.

The mastodon on the other hand is much like the present day elephant. They weren’t as large as today’s elephants but they had some of the same features, different from the mammoth. The mastodon’s body was about 8 feet in height and weighed about 10,000 pounds. Their tusks were about the same size as present day elephants, they were also straighter unlike the mammoth with its large curved tusks. The mastodon had short stocky legs and was covered in long thick hair just like the mammoth. The remains and fossils of the mastodon have been found all over North America and now can be found in museums all over the continent.

-Heather : Co-op student, March 23, 2011

What is a longhouse

longhouse MOA

Longhouses were built with a frame of saplings supported by large posts in the house interior, typical longhouses were covered with sheets of bark such as elm bark and birch. Openings at either end were used as doors, while openings in the roof acted like chimneys, letting the smoke from the fires out. Fireplaces or hearths were spaced down the length of a central corridor in the house (an average of 1-6 fires), and were flanked with two platforms: the lower for sleeping, and the upper for food and storage.

The historic record shows that each hearth was shared by two families; one family lived on either side of the longhouse. On average, families had six to eight members. A medium sized longhouse like the one reconstructed at the Lawson site, would have been occupied by 38-40 people, all related through the female line. When a couple got married, the husband would move into his wife’s family longhouse.


What is a Longhouse display
What is a Longhouse display, MOA permanent gallery
longhouse interior

A very large portion of the longhouse was used for storage. The upper platforms would have been filled with personal possessions and a variety of food supplies such as strings of corn, dried and/or smoked fish and meat. As well, there were cubicles at the ends of the houses for storage of firewood and large pits were dug under the bunk lines for further storage of foodstuffs.

In the winter months, the longhouse was the focal point of village life. Tools and other personal items were made and repaired; stories and folklore were passed on from one generation to the next and numerous social and ritual events were held. In the summer months a large portion of the inhabitants lived away from the village itself, maintaining nearby fields of corn, beans and squash.

How did archaeologists know where a longhouse used to be? Small dark brown circles or stains in the ground, called post moulds indicated where the large structural poles were erected. Archaeologists look for these signs to determine the size and location of villages (such as the one found on the Lawson Site at MOA).

As part of your visit to the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, you can go into the reconstructed longhouse to experience life in a longhouse 500 years ago. Our educational programming is further hands on with storytelling, legends, bannock over the fire, and even cooking Three Sisters soup in the longhouse.

Dream Catchers


Dream catchers originated in Ojibwa culture. In the mid 1800s, early explorers recorded dream catchers being used to protect infants from illness and evil spirits. A dream catcher is a handmade object that consists of a willow hoop with a woven sinew net or web on the inside of the hoop. Within the webbing, beads, charms, and found objects may be woven in. Anthropologists recorded the use of dream catcher charms amongst the Ojibwa, however it has also been found that Crees and Naskapi also employed charms for protection.

How dream catchers work:
Dream catchers filter dreams, allowing only good dreams to pass through while bad dreams are caught in the net, beads, or charms until the first rays of sun struck them. The feathers send the good dreams to  Dream catchers were mostly given to the children, which would hang above their beds. Since dream catchers are traditionally made of willow and sinew, they aren’t meant to last forever. They are intended to dry out and break down once the child enters the age of “wonderment”.

The legend of the dream catcher:
The legend of the dream catcher began long ago, when the child of a Woodland chief fell ill. Unsettled by fever, the child was plagued with bad dreams and unable to sleep. In an attempt to heal him, the tribe’s Medicine Woman created a device that would “catch” these bad dreams. Forming a circle with a slender willow branch, she filled the center with sinew, using a pattern borrowed from our borther the Spider, who weaves a web. This dream catcher was then hung over the bed of the child. Soon the fever broke, and the child slept peacefully. It is said that at night, when dreams visit, they are caught in the dream catcher’s web, and only the good dreams are able to find their way to the dreamer, filtering down through the feather. When the warmth of the morning sun arrives, it buns away the bad dreams that have been caught. The good dreams, now knowing the path, visit again on other nights.

At the Quillbox Gift Shop, MOA:
The Museum of Ontario Archaeology has numerous dream catchers of varying sizes and colours for sale. Prices range from $3 to $30. The majority of the dream catchers are locally made, unless otherwise stated.

Oberholtzer, Cath. “Dream catchers: legend, lore and artifacts”. Firefly Books Ltd., New York. 2012.

Medicinal Teas

Herbs and hot drinks have been around for a long time. Certain herbs can be used for medicinal purposes and have been made into teas. Medicinal teas can have a lot of different affects and can help with a lot of different sicknesses or problems. The uses of these herbs for medicinal purposes have been linked back to Native Americans.

A few examples of medicinal teas/plants and their uses:

Pitcher plant was used by Native groups as a tea made from the root as a specific cure for small pox. The treatment not only shortened the term of the disease but also prevented the formation of “pox” marks or scars.

"FountainSpringsWintergreen" by Mike Serfas - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -
“FountainSpringsWintergreen” by Mike Serfas – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Wintergreen berries were used by the Mohawks as well as the Ojibwes. They knew the teas, as a medicine as well as a healthful beverage. Wintergreen contains methyl salycliates, the active pain killers of aspirin, useful for colds, headaches, and to bring down fevers. Tea was used to treat kidney problems, colds, fever and asthma. Tea and berries were used to increase the mother’s milk flow and delay menstruation. Also used as an aromatic antiseptic to relieve sores and joint aches.

Yarrow tea is used for irritated eyes, measles, chicken pox, poison ivy/oak, and many other general itching. Tea was also used for women to promote their menstrual cycle and stronger doses were used to induce abortion. It was ingested to treat malfunctioning kidney and liver systems.

Medicinal plants are used today in modern medications such as Tylenol and are still effectively used by many all around the world.

MOA provides an adult tea tasting workshop where you can sample traditional teas such as cedar, lavender, sassafras, and a few others while learning about their health benefits. Call 519-473-1360 for further details.

-Heather : co-op student, April 12, 2011.

From the Archives: Real Photo Postcards

Real Photo Postcards 1899-1930s

Real Post Card and Cabinet card-2
Real Post Card and Cabinet card-3

MOA has a vast collection of hundreds of Jury Family personal photographs beginning in the 1890’s and ending in the 1960’s. Within the collection we see the unique shift of photography during the early 1900s, especially with the introduction of the real photo postcard.

The real photo postcard began after the development of the dry plate process and roll film in the 1880s. The introduction of roll film was integral to the shift of professional photography allowing for photos to be created by the ‘common man’. Many companies opened during this time in order to supply the public’s demand which in turn depressed the entire market. George Eastman, the man most responsible for the real photo postcard decided in order to survive the highly competitive market, he needed to create something unique. He created the new camera system Kodak with a highly recognized marketing campaign; you press the button, we do the rest.

Real Post Card and Cabinet card-4

By 1899, the first real photo post card was created which proved cheaper to make than the traditional cabinet cards. This revolutionized the photo industry since it allowed the ‘common man’ to take their own images, including scenery, and have them developed at a quicker pace for a minimal fee. Professional photographers found it hard to compete in the new open market and many of them took up selling their own postcards in order to make ends meet. That being said, sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between a mass produced image and a one of a kind.  Whats extrodinary about the new real post cards is that it offers museums and historians alike a glimpse into the ordinary lives of people in the past.

Real Post Card and Cabinet card-1

Additional Sources:

A Guide to Real Photo Post Cards

Online Photography Magazine. 2009. Real Photo vs. Printed Photo Postcards.


Staff Only: Behind Scenes Part 2

STAFF ONLY: Behind the Scenes Part 2

As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I believe the same can be said for exhibits and the design process from its initiation to the final grand opening.  Museum exhibits focus on two areas, the permanent and the temporary. We often have temporary exhibits planned months if not years in advance because it allows better scheduling and team management since exhibits require a lot of preparation and work. I think the best way to talk about it is to divide it into three main stages.

The Planning

Roots Nation (3)

Every exhibit starts with an idea and a goal. For the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, our goal is to share knowledge through visual stories that engage the public and connects us with one another. Recently, the curatorial staff reimagined our permanent exhibit, Roots of a Nation, to include ethnographic items from all over Canada. Previously, Roots of a Nation talked about plants and its uses to Indigenous peoples. We thought that Roots of a Nation can take on a wider meaning, it can mean beginnings, the beginnings of clothes, the beginnings of baskets, and of all essential daily life items and how it has grown and prospered into what the items we recognize today. To facilitate this idea we create text panels for the exhibit and every artifact in order to explore deeper meanings and create connections between the artifacts and people.

The Preparation

Nicole (2)

Exhibits take a lot of hours, a lot of teamwork, and a lot of creativity to become successful. But one of the best parts, if not THE best part of building an exhibit is going through the collections to see what we have and what we can use. The Museum of Ontario Archaeology collections is currently in the process of becoming digitalized by hooking the accession file up with the object and its location on PastPerfect, the museum cataloguing software. If the item isn’t in PastPerfect we simply sift through accession records and open boxes to see what is inside. Once the objects are selected and found, their condition and location are updated in PastPerfect after which they are prepared to be carefully relocated by the curatorial staff to the exhibit. All the artifacts in the old Roots of a Nation drawers are taken out, and safely moved by staff so the case can be cleaned and prepped with inert material for the new ones to enter. After all of the artifacts are in place the didactics (text panels) are printed, drymounted (pressed to foam board), cut, and hung, then the lights are placed to better highlight the new exhibit.

The Finale

Opening day, the fruits of our labor coming together for show. We double check the exhibit and make sure nothing is misplaced or forgotten. The Museum of Ontario Archaeology holds official openings for all temporary exhibits featuring delicious foods and drinks for the public. We use social media and the website to post our upcoming events such as exhibit openings. All exhibits the Museum of Ontario Archaeology creates is for the public, sharing our story with the public which in turn helps us grow and become a better institution.

exhibit opening

Work Study Profile: Nicole


I have been at the Museum for two months as the Archaeological Interpreter and I instruct groups of school children activities that are offered by the Museum. As well as providing demonstrations that better explain archaeology to children. I became involved with the Museum through volunteer work that began in 2013 which provided me with experience with the collection of artifacts and how the Museum operated. I am in my fourth year of the Honors Specialization Program of Anthropology at the University of Western Ontario. The Archaeological position offered at the Museum allowed for me to transfer my knowledge acquired through my education to be applied to a practical workplace environment.

The atmosphere at the Museum is welcoming and the staff members are all wonderful. They make working at the Museum an absolute pleasure. The Museum of Ontario Archaeology allows for children as well as adults to learn about a group of people that not everyone knows existed and that the City of London was previously occupied hundreds of years ago by the Attawandaron people.

Currently I am working on creating a demonstration to provide some insight into an Archaeologist’s job. Archaeology does not just involve digging but rather collecting data from the artifacts and placing them into a context to better understand the lives of individuals from the past. The demonstrations that I have prepared illustrate decomposition in various environments while the second demonstration explains soil formation and how levels of the earth indicate different time periods.

When I am not working I enjoy baking and cooking. Recently I have begun to select recipes pertaining from one country and make a dinner based off of that one country’s main meals. Then I will switch to a different country and attempt their food as well. Finding all of the ingredients can be a challenge but once the meal is complete it is all the more enjoyable.

–          Nicole Braden