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Archaeology for Kids: Excavate the Chocolate Chips from a Cookie!

If you’re looking to introduce a young archaeologist to some of the principles of archaeology, try this fun (and delicious!) activity for #InternationalChocolateChipDay! This cookie excavation will help children understand how important it is to be careful while excavating fragile artifacts. They will also learn how an archaeological excavation destroys a site, and why recording the location of artifacts is crucial to preserving archaeological knowledge. In this activity, the chocolate chips serve as the artifacts while the cookie serves as the archaeological site.

Image of cookie excavation

For this activity, you will need:
– Toothpicks
– Chocolate chip cookies
Activity Sheet

Instructions:

  • Give each child a cookie, activity sheet, and two toothpicks.
  • Before starting the excavation, children should place their cookie on Grid A. Then draw the cookie, with all the visible artifacts (chocolate chips) included. This will be their record of the archaeological site.
  • Excavate the cookies with the toothpicks, by carefully chipping away at the dirt (cookie) to slowly reveal any hidden artifacts (chocolate chips). Be careful not to damage the artifacts while excavating! For an added challenge, remind them that they should not pick up their cookies because archaeologists cannot pick up sites.
  • For each “artifact” found add it to the drawing on grid B.
  • At the end each child should have a pile of back dirt (cookie crumbs) and artifacts (chocolate chips), and their drawing of what they looked like before.
  • Count artifacts; who has excavated the most?
  • Eat the destroyed cookie!

What does this activity teach us about archaeology?

Archaeological excavations are a destructive process. When archaeologists have finished with a site, they have largely taken it apart piece by piece to discover its secrets. Unfortunately, this means a site, once excavated, can’t be excavated again. To fix this problem, archaeologists take lots of notes, drawings, photographs, and soil samples, and they write detailed reports so archaeologists in the future can come back to their excavations and learn even more.

New Collections with MOA Merger!

Last December we announced that the MOA was taking over the 8000 square foot repository formerly operated by Western University.  As part of this transfer, the museum has also taken responsibility for the care of the objects, introducing millions of new artifacts to the museum’s collections.  These include collections from UWO’s Anthropology department, as well as hundreds of boxes from cultural resource management firms including ASI, TMHC, Dr. Poulton, Golder, AECOM, and Amec Foster Wheeler. The museum has also taken over the responsibility of caring for over 2000 boxes of archaeological materials for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport that were transferred to the repository in September 2017. These materials are now accessible to Indigenous communities, and to support interpretation and research taking place at the museum!

A long row of shelves with labeled green – a peek a repackaged collections in the repository.

Work is underway by collections staff and volunteers to integrate these with existing collections, and bring all materials up to the standards of packaging and care for long term storage in the repository.  This involves repackaging of collections, moving archaeological collections from the museum’s storage area into the new repository, and completing data entry of artifact and inventory information.

Collections volunteer assisting with repackaging

Interested in helping out?  Check out our current Volunteer Opportunities!


A Rich History of the Maple Harvest

Archaeologists can encounter a lot of problems when looking at the archeology of maple sugar. Since archaeologists study material remains from human activity, logically there needs to be material remaining to study. Unfortunately, the seasonal and temporary nature of sugaring activities leaves often leaves little for archaeologists to analyze.


That is why archaeologists can find themselves categorizing a site based on what isn’t there instead of what is. For example let’s look at a site that was excavated in the 1960’s in Glencarry County which was dubbed a pre-historic Iroquoian sugar bush site. This wasn’t done because there was a wealth of information pointing towards the camp being used as such, but because of the lack of post-European contact trade materials, or really any materials for that matter. The absence of artifacts led the archaeologists to think that it was used seasonally instead of continuously. Also, large deposits of ash were thought to indicate the extensive use of hearths in the area.


Both Indigenous traditional knowledge and historical accounts attest to the existence of maple sap harvesting in the past. As there is no certainty about when and where it started, it can be said to have been done since time immemorial. The sap would have been collected in birch bark containers and then been processed into syrup or sugar by constant heating to evaporate the water in sap. Kettles and other technologies were adopted once they became more accessible through trade with European settlers.


This cultural exchange allowed for new innovations in processing to be developed, and these can be more easily identified in the archaeological record. In Michigan and Wisconsin, archaeologists have excavated the remains of ‘boiling arches’ at some indigenous sites from the early 20th century. These are ‘u’ shaped structures of stones packed with earth, with one open end to allow a fire tender entry into the fire box. These “arches” were an efficient replacement for kettles, as they permitted a more even distribution of a greater amount of heat (that was also better controlled), and for more steam to be allowed to escape during the boiling process. Instead of using a series of small kettles, people processed maple in a large rectangular metal pan held over the arch. This technology left behind a lot of archaeological evidence. This includes the unnatural arrangement of soil and stone, called the “borrow pit,” where the builders took the dirt they used to reinforce the arch, charcoal and ash deposits found near the opening of the arch from intermittent cleaning of the fire box, and various other materials, such as smoke stacks and support rods for the boiling box.


The history of the maple harvest is almost as rich as the delicious snacks we get from it. While we know that Indigenous people have always been central to this story, it can be difficult for archaeologists to identify cultural activities surrounding harvesting maple. To learn more about what archaeologist can say about prehistoric sugaring activities, visit the Museum of Ontario Archaeology’s temporary exhibit, “A Sweet Excavation”.

To read more about it:
Henshaw, H. W. “Indian Origin of Maple Sugar.” American Anthropologist, vol. 3, no. 4, 1890, pp. 341–352. 

Kuhnlein, Harriet V, and Nancy J Turner. Traditional Plant Foods of Canadian Indigenous Peoples: Nutrition, Botany and Use. Gordon and Breach, 1991.

Matthew M. Thomas (2005) Historic American Indian Maple Sugar and Syrup Production: Boiling Arches in Michigan and Wisconsin, Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology, 30:2, 299-326, DOI: 10.1179/mca.2005.010

Pendergast, J.F. “The Sugarbush Site: A Possible Iroquoian Maplesugar Camp” Ontario Archaeology, OA23, 1974, pp. 31-61.

For International Women’s Day, MOA is celebrating women in archaeology!

Dr. Holly Martelle has had a wide and varied career in archaeology. She worked as a Heritage Planner with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, has taught in universities across Ontario, and served as President of the Ontario Archaeological Society. Dr. Martelle co-founded Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants Inc. with Dr. Peter Timmins in 2003, which won the Ontario Archaeological Society’s award for Excellence in Cultural Resource Management in 2013. Dr. Martelle kindly agreed to share her knowledge and experiences in Ontario archaeology with us for this special International Women’s Day MOA Blog post!


How long have you worked in archaeology and how has the field changed over that time?

I started my undergraduate degree over 30 years ago. At that time, students were encouraged to go all the way through graduate school and complete a Ph.D. The push was that the first generation of professionally trained Ontario archaeologists would be retiring and there would be positions to fill! That never turned out to be the case. I only had a small cohort of archaeology majors and most of those were women! I was fortunate to have gone to Wilfrid Laurier University and to have been taught and mentored by an inspiring group of both male and female faculty, in archaeology, anthropology and biology. My grandfather owned a road construction company and I grew up in it. Coming from that background where there was a clear gender-divide in roles and less involvement of women directly, gender discrepancies in archaeology were not visible to me.  When I started in archaeology it was still very much research-based. As I sit here today, most archaeology done in Canada is cultural resource management and driven by land development. University archaeological courses are much larger than they were and departments much bigger. There are far more opportunities for people in archaeology today and folks make a decent living at it. Back in my early days you were just lucky to get a job in archaeology and you were usually paid minimum wage or less to do it.


What are your research interests? Why are you passionate about that particular topic?  

My passion drives everything I do as an archaeologist. Since before I began my Master’s research on “other ways of knowing and understanding,” I have been very much interested in the power of archaeology to tell the stories of people who are often written out of traditional historical narratives. This has generated my interest in the archaeology of women, of the working class, of African-Canadians and immigrants to Canada generally. I spent much of my career advocating for the inclusion of the voices of Indigenous and Descent community voices in archaeology and our shared responsibilities in managing, describing and interpreting archaeological sites.

My dissertation work and early cultural resource management experience also developed my interest in ceramics and ceramic technology, from Iroquoian pottery to the 19th century. I’m interested not just in how ceramics were made or used, but how they were perceived by their makers and users and integrated into all facets of daily life.


What significant projects/publications have you worked on and what impact do you hope they will have on the field?

There are many. Some of my biggest learning moments came during contentious projects where I was working directly with or for Indigenous communities. My experiences working with Indigenous communities have shaped my entire approach to doing archaeology and talking about our findings. Our recent work in downtown Toronto on St. John’s Ward, a multi-ethnic working class district, resulted in the book The Ward Uncovered: The Archaeology of Everyday Life. It is the publication of which I am most proud because it incorporated stories from authors of many disciplinary and ethnic backgrounds and was not about an archaeologist only telling their version of the past. I hope that it will encourage archaeologists to be more considerate and inclusive of multiple perspectives on the past.

What advice do you have for young archaeologists looking to break into the field?

I would say the best thing they can do is continue to learn. Every moment is a learning moment. Be receptive to multiple perspectives. Take every opportunity you can to listen to and spend time with the elders of Ontario archaeology. They have much to offer and provide the best perspective on how Ontario archaeology (and its issues) have evolved over time.

On #LoveYourPetDay, MOA is celebrating the animals that have brought joy, comfort, and company to so many of us for so long

“Cleveland” was the affectionate name by which researchers at McMaster University came to refer to a dog in their archaeological collections. (Bathurst and Barta, 2004). Originally discovered on the Cleveland archaeological site near Brantford, Ontario, the dog was an unusual find – a complete burial recovered within what remained of a large ceramic pot. From the robust markings on the skull and a distinctive bone called a baculum, or “penis bone”, found among the remains, there was no doubt that Cleveland had been a male. Minimal dental wear and almost no deterioration in the joints indicated that he was likely no older than three or four years old at the time of his death. Measurements of his limbs determined that he had likely once stood about knee-height to an adult human.

A micro-CT scan of Cleveland’s skull

Dogs are humanity’s oldest domestic companions, and recent research confirms that they were present in North America over 10,000 years ago. (Perri et al, 2018) Archaeological evidence of dog remains suggest that the agricultural communities living in the Brantford area 450 years ago had complex relationships with their dogs. While some were carefully buried whole and undisturbed, as Cleveland was, other remains have been found burnt, broken, sometimes polished around the edges from bouncing around in a boiling pot, scarred by cuts or gnaw-marks, and scattered among the garbage heaps – or middens – within the same communities. Some dogs, it seems, were invited to dinner, whereas others were dinner.

There are things we can presume about ancient dogs that we cannot see or confirm from archaeological evidence. We know from our relationships with them today, as well as from historic accounts and traditional knowledge, that dogs would have served many purposes in a community, from labourers to companions. They would have been helpful on a hunt, and loyal guardians within a village. They would have eaten scraps and garbage, controlling waste, and driven away predators around a village or pests within the fields of crops. They may even have helped as pack animals, prior to the arrival of the horse, bearing burdens from one community to the next. Dogs feature in many traditional narratives as loyal and helpful companions to humans in both life – and in death.

Cleveland’s remains show that he suffered from a condition called hypertrophic osteopathy, or HPO, a painful and obvious bone condition that may have been caused by a reaction to lung-related infections such as pneumonia, cancer, or tuberculosis. Thanks to modern veterinary medicine, HPO is condition that is not seen often today and can be readily cured when it is. The archaeologists were particularly interested in knowing whether Cleveland’s condition was caused by tuberculosis, because TB is a zoonotic disease – that is, an infection that can be shared between animals and humans. Therefore, they tested Cleveland’s bones for evidence of tuberculosis DNA – and they found it. This told them two interesting things about the relationship between humans and dogs in this ancient community.

Cleveland’s left calcaneus and metatarsals displaying proliferative perio- steal reaction, characteristic of hypertrophic osteopathy.

First, Cleveland was cared for. With HPO and tuberculosis, he would have looked and acted very sick, with symptoms of TB such as weight loss, cough, and vomiting. The HPO would have swollen his paws and lower limbs, making them thick and painful and difficult to move. He likely would have required assistance eating and drinking and would not have been able to defend himself. The advanced state of the condition suggested that he’d lived with the condition for some time. His remains showed no evidence of cut marks, gnawing, nor any other indication of violence or abuse. This suggested to the archaeologists that Cleveland was able to rely on his human companions for food, protection, and care as his illness progressed. People in this ancient village cared for this dog in much the same way we do with our pets today.

Second, Cleveland’s condition potentially posed a great and unexpected danger to those who were caring for him. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that the World Health Organization still considers one of the top 10 causes of death, worldwide. (World Health Organization, 2018) Just as it can be passed from person to person, it can also be passed between humans and animals. Tragically, those who had cared so tenderly for this dog, may have become infected themselves, and in turn may have passed this deadly condition along to others in the community – human and canine, alike.

Despite his short and difficult life, Cleveland appears to have been tenderly cared for by his human companions. Almost 500 years later, his discovery has sparked over 20 years of research – from his archaeological recovery to historic, pathological, etiological, DNA, microscopic, and microCT research that has served to teach us all more about the conditions he and his human companions once lived in and the relationship that they once shared. 

Dr. Rhonda Bathurst is the lead author on the research paper that this story is drawn from (you can read this article in full at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305440303001985). Dr. Bathurst wrote it during her PhD at McMaster University after her (re)discovery of the Cleveland dog remains in a locked cabinet in a basement archaeology lab. She collaborated with a fellow PhD candidate at the time, Jodi Barta, who was working in the newly built McMaster Ancient DNA Centre. Barta helped her to confirm the hunch she had about the dog’s primary condition – tuberculosis. Today Dr. Bathurst is the Executive Director of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, and is delighted to share this story about her favourite dog.

To read more about Cleveland, other research involving this dog includes:

James A. Burns. “The Dog Who Couldn’t Be.” Arch Notes, 73 (1973): 3–5. Print.

Barta, Jodi Lynn. “Man’s Best Friend: Implications of Tuberculosis in a 16th Century Neutral Iroquois Dog from Canada.” Multiplying and Dividing: Tuberculosis in Canada and Aotearoa New Zealand, edited by Judith Littleton et al., Research in Anthropology and Linguistics, 2008, pp. 22–30, www.researchgate.net/publication/270904768_Man’s_best_friend_Implications_of_tuberculosis_in_a_16th_century_Neutral_Iroquois_dog_from_Canada.

Hunnius, T. Von. “Using Microscopy to Improve a Diagnosis: an Isolated Case of Tuberculosis-Induced Hypertrophic Osteopathy in Archaeological Dog Remains.” International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, vol. 19, no. 3, 2009, pp. 397–405., onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/oa.989.

Works Cited

Bathurst, Rhonda R., and Jodi Lynn Barta. “Molecular Evidence of Tuberculosis Induced Hypertrophic Osteopathy in a 16th-Century Iroquoian Dog.” Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 31, no. 7, 2004, pp. 917–925., https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305440303001985.

Perri, Angela, et al. “New Evidence of the Earliest Domestic Dogs in the Americas .” Cambridge Core, Cambridge University Press, 26 Dec. 2018, www.cambridge.org/core/journals/american-antiquity/article/new-evidence-of-the-earliest-domestic-dogs-in-the-americas/0DBDDAAD435BBFD7A929F0C2FC7CD365.

“Tuberculosis (TB).” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 18 Sept. 2018, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tuberculosis.

Meet the Staff: Co-op Student Victoria Wilson

Victoria recently completed a high school co-op placement at MOA. Here’s what she had to say about her experience!

My name is Victoria Wilson, and I am currently in grade 12 and in my final year of high school before I go to university. As my career choice, I want to be a forensic anthropologist and have archaeology as a major. I started my co-op in the fall of 2018 and am ending February 2019. I chose to do my co-op at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology because of the learning environment. Each day I have learned something new from how the programs run with each grade to taking people through the Virtual Reality tour. I grew up always interested in the history behind people and artifacts. When I first started at the museum, my knowledge was limited to what I have learned in school and read about in books or the news. Planning out courses in high school that were related to ancient history and anthropology helped direct me to my career choice as well as this placement.

Being a part of the museum has helped me be more confident in the tasks I am given as well as helping me come out of my shell. Since I want to major in archaeology, the museum gives me insight on what this career path will look like and what it entails as well as the many people willing to help me reach my goals.  Joining the staff and assisting with the school programs has taught me a lot about the history of the Indigenous peoples as well as teaching me about myself and what I am capable of. When I first started, I would help make sure the students had the material they needed for the activity they were working on. Now I am able to teach students from other schools or even universities. I have learned through my experience here that there are many possibilities following this path. I found that working in an environment that helps you grow while teaching others and building up your own strengths gives you a boost to your personal goals and to achieving them.

Maybe you’re interested in volunteering or completing a placement at MOA? Every day is something new that you learn and see, whether it be from staff, students or even just looking around. The staff members are always welcoming and make sure you are comfortable in the task you are doing. You will get to experience a broad range of activities and sights that you are able to participate in throughout the year and will learn many things throughout your time here just like I have.

Conservation Corner: Pipe Tomahawk

This artifact is a single-handed hatchet from North America.
General-purpose tools, they were often employed as a hand-to-hand or a thrown weapon. There is a pipe-bowl opposite to the cutting blade and a hole drilled down the center of the shaft (for smoking tobacco). A decorative soapstone bead, group of feathers, and an orange pom-pom are held together with green yarn and attached to the stem with leather lace. Furthermore there is a band embellishment of brass tacks (metal studs) around the diameter of the haft.

In general the iron axe-head was rusted, the brass areas, decorative string, and pom-pom were soiled, and the feather embellishments were damaged.

Above top: tomahawk before treatment; encircled were the main treatment areas.
Above below: tomahawk after treatment.

Importantly, the rachis of one feather had split apart, and the feather was held together only by the integrity of the barbs. Therefore the main conservation technique involved a modified form of the veterinary treatment imping: implanting a splint inside the rachis of the feather to repair it.

 

Above: anatomy of a feather showing the rachis and barbs. Image courtesy of The Cornell Lab, Bird Academy.

Above left: decorative detail before treatment; encircled were the main treatment areas.

Above right: decorative detail after treatment.

 

This treatment, along with careful, specialized cleaning revitalized the tomahawk and revealed some unique characteristics. For instance, an unusual pattern of circles was uncovered on the axe head which was previously obscured by rust and a possible maker’s mark was uncovered on the pipe bowl which could provide more diagnostic information in the future.  

 

Aside: Fleming College conservation intern Jazmin Beddard performing controlled cleaning. Image courtesy of Marie Hoffmann.

 

Treatment Images provided by Jazmin Beddard.

The Story of Ste. Marie II- A Virtual Exhibit

Located along the southern shore of Christian Island, Ste. Marie II was the last Jesuit Mission to the Huron-Wendat Nation in what is now southern Ontario and was a central place in one of the most significant stories in early Canadian history. It is one of struggle, sacrifice and change, all of which left both the Wendat and Jesuits with unexpected consequences.

A google map image showing the site of Ste Marie II. Copyright 2018.

We begin in the early seventeenth century when the French and Wendat thrived alongside one another. By far the most comprehensive records of Wendat life are the annual accounts of the Jesuit priests who lived among the Wendat from 1634 until 1650. These regular reports by those Jesuits who lived among the Wendat are filled with descriptions of Wendat life and society. Jesuit missions in North America began early in the seventeenth century. Christian proselytization was an important component of the Christian church at this time around the world. All of these sources must be employed with caution, however, as they were written by outsiders with their own agendas. Read more

Staff Profile: Charles Parker

How long have you worked at MOA?

A year a bit now intermittently throughout the summer and university year. I have been a volunteer, a work study student, a volunteer again, and I am currently a summer employee.

What is your job title and what do you do?

Front Desk is my job title, and I do a plethora of various things, and while the title may tell you an idea what I do, just sitting at the front desk is far from all of it. I open and close the museum, greet and guide visitors as they enter, make sure the gift shop and gallery are tidy. I answer the phone; run the gift-shop, operate the Virtual Reality and inform customers about the history of the museum and its programs. If you call the phone on certain days of the week, I will be the one that answers. If you’re buying things from the gift shop, I help you. Above everything else, I am happy to be the first face you see when you enter the museum, and I will help you as best I can. Read more