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Importance of Chase Wesson Site

Image of flagged test pit

In 1992, the Museum of Ontario Archaeology carried out a Stage 1/2 assessment of a proposed subdivision in Simcoe County that led to the discovery of a previously unknown Huron-Wendat village. This village was subsequently subject to Stage 3 and limited Stage 4 excavations carried out by another consultant, revealing an undisturbed fifteenth century village, which is now known as the Chase-Wesson site. Nineteenth and early twentieth century research by people such as archaeologist A.F Hunter.and more recent investigations by cultural resource management firms have resulted in the documentation of hundreds of Huron-Wendat villages in Simcoe County (Williamson 2014). The founder of the museum, Wilfrid Jury, carried out exploratory excavations at a number of these sites in the 1940s through early 60s (see Stories of Pre-History: The Jury Family Legacies by Robert Pearce, our former Executive Director). Copies may be ordered from the Museum, where they are also on sale in our store.

Chase Wesson Methodology

At the time of the museum’s 1992 assessment, 30% of the property was clear of vegetation and was being actively farmed while the balance was forested.  It seems the closest water source for the village was one or more natural springs just south-southeast of the village.

MOA’s team of archaeologists began their assessment by completing a visual pedestrian survey of the active farmland.  The heavily wooded area was test-pitted.  The test pits were 30cm in diameter or greater and excavated to the subsoil. The team tested all areas of high archaeological potential at five metre intervals or less while areas with low potential were assessed at intervals of 10 to 20 meters.  It was confirmed that the site extended to the north and northwest edges of the property.

Results of the test pits:

Artifacts from the dig, captured in the screen

The results of the test pits revealed a large settlement that was mostly undisturbed. The first sign of the site was the many ceramic sherds being unearthed.  Subsequent excavations revealed a total site area of about two hectares.

A total of 308 artifacts were found at the site by the Museum, ceramics being the majority. There were 11 rim sherds, 20 fragmentary rim sherds, 26 neck/shoulder sherds, 145 body sherds, and 93 fragmentary sherds (for a total of 295 pieces or 95.8% of the collection). The other artifacts found included one piece of chert debitage, two pieces of ground stone, and six animal bone fragments.

Analysis of Chase Wessen

The Museum team working on the site reported that it was difficult to determine a precise chronological placement for the site since only a few diagnostic artifacts were found. Based on the ceramic traits evident in the limited assemblage, they suggested it was an assemblage similar  to other fifteenth century (AD 1450-1500) pre-contact Huron-Wendat sites in the area such as Lalonde, Copeland, Baumann, and Ellesmere-Morison. The work conducted after the Museum yielded a similar but larger artifact assemblage; neither the Museum’s nor subsequent work on the village yielded European trade items. In the absence of radiocarbon dating of maize from the site, the Museum’s original estimate of the site’s age will have to suffice.

Chase Wessen – A site protected

Chase Wessen reconstructed pot

The discovery of the Chase-Wesson site in 1992 was significant in its demonstration that there were undisturbed Wendat villages yet to be documented in Wendake, the Wendat homeland in northern Simcoe County.  The site is registered with Ontario’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport and efforts are underway to protect the site permanently.


Williamson, R.F.

2014       The Archaeological History of the Wendat to AD 1651: An Overview. Ontario Archaeology 94:3-64

Updated and Improved Edukit

Image of New and Improved EduKits

MOA is pleased to announce the launch of six new and improved Edukits (for more detailed information on each portion of the Edukit, read our previous post). Teachers and other educators can now rent one or more of these kits designed to offer classroom teachers activities and hands-on materials they can use when developing their Social Studies lesson plans. Each kit has been developed to meet the specific Ontario Curriculum points for grades 1 – 6.

Materials included in each kit are:

  • Support Booklet for the specific grade
  • Curriculum Connections Pages
  • Activity Cards
  • Activity Descriptions and Outcomes
  • Genuine archaeological artifacts and identification guide
  • Resource Materials
  • List of additional books, recommended resources, and websites

Kits must be picked up and dropped off at the Museum and can be rented for $50/2-week period. For more information, please call 519-473-1360 or email Katie at

We would like to acknowledge the contributions of our key volunteers who helped update and improve the Edukit; without their efforts, this would not have happened.

Image of Edukit developer, volunteer Linda Imrie

Linda Imrie, retired TVDSB teacher:

“I appreciate everything I learned and contributed during my thirty-five year teaching career with the Thames Valley District School Board. I taught students at the primary, junior and intermediate level in the classroom, in special education at W. D. Sutton School in a treatment facility, then as a Learning Support Teacher and finally in a self-contained classroom with Autistic students. In my new life as a volunteer, I have been involved with different associations and groups. Then in April of 2016 after a conversation with the Educational Consultant at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, an opportunity came up to refurbish the existing Edukit.  The kit truly needed to be brought up to date and made applicable to meet the needs of today’s student. As a life-long learner, I could not refuse the task of creating six individual Edukits for grades one through six. First I had to weed through the Ontario Social Studies Curriculum and sort out points of relevance for teachers. The next task was to condense the curriculum into words that would make sense in the classroom. Creating the activities and descriptors for each grade level was a task in itself because the content had to coincide with the curriculum. In the final stages of creating the Edukits collaboration took place with a local artist to modernize my logo and with a young expert in sorting and cataloguing artifacts. I believe we came up with an Edukit for teachers and students making Social Studies interactive, educational and fun for use in the classroom. A large focus in the kits is on the First Nations People, but the activities try to go beyond that with many cross-curricular opportunities. It is my hope that the activities will spark an interest in students and teachers to come and visit the Museum. There is a lot to explore at the MOA and a day away makes a wonderful field trip!

It has been my pleasure to work on the Edukits and to hopefully inspire young students to be curious about the world around them, to encourage them to continue asking questions, and most of all to help motivate the learning process.

Yours in education,

Linda Margaret Imrie, M.Ed, Retired Teacher, Thames Valley District School Board (1977-2012)

Christopher Dupon-Martinez, Graphic Design Volunteer:

“Christopher Dupon-Martinez is an illustrator, cartoonist, and designer. He offers solutions for visual problems in the industry of editorial periodicals and publications. Christopher is completing his fourth year at OCAD University studying design and majoring in illustration. In his free time, he enjoys volunteering at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, it allows him the opportunity to continue learning and collaborate in meaningful projects. Learn more about him at his website.”

Madison Keller, Archaeological Interpreter:

We were fortunate to have Madison join us and have her contribute on this project. Madison, a University of Western student, joined us at the Lawson Site Field school this spring and then spent her summer working at the museum.

Thank you to everyone.

Materials for Improved Edukit
Improved Edukit Grade 3 workbook

Staff Profiles Angela and Andrew

As is tradition at MOA, we turn our blog internally to introduce staff profiles, meet Angela and Andrew, our newest team members. Both have come to the museum on a contract from now until the end of March 2017 and will be focused on enhancing both our volunteer and membership programs.

Angela “Angie” Piccinin, Volunteer Coordinator

Image for Meet the Staff Angela and Andrew

Angela joins the museum with extensive experience in volunteer management at London Health Sciences and business in banking and administration. Angie, will be responsible for the further development of and care of our volunteer program. With our Annual Harvest Festival and Pow Wow, just a week ahead. Angie will be delving right in. There are still some volunteer needs for next Saturday and Sunday and we certain that Angie and the Museum would love to hear from you. If you’r interested in helping the Museum make our visitors experiences great, please get in touch.

Andrew Fratepietro, Membership Coordinator

Meet the Staff Angela and Andrew image

Andrew joins the museum with extensive experience in customer relations and management experience in the restaurant industry, including event organization. Andrew will be responsible for enhancing and driving the museum’s membership program forward over the next six months. Did you know that the museum offered a membership program and the benefits that members receive? If not, read more Andrew joins the museum with extensive experience in customer relations and management experience in the restaurant industry, including event here and then give Andrew a call to learn more about what you would receive and how your membership helps to support the work and mandate of the museum. Andrew’s responsibilities are not only to maintain the museum membership database, but to develop the program that meets the mission of the museum and the needs of our members. If you have any suggestions that you feel would make the program better, Andrew would love to hear from you.

Rhonda Bathurst, our incoming Executive Director added “We are delighted to welcome both of them to the MOA team and we anticipate that their depth and breadth of experience will benefit us greatly”.

Welcome Angela and Andrew – we’re looking forward to working with you!

Look Back: Underwater Archaeology in Ontario

Long before the creation of this blog, and before the digital Palisade E-Post, the museum sent out paper newsletters.  First published in February 1979 each Palisade Post issue is a snapshot of what was happening in Ontario archaeology during this time, and is the basis of our Look Back series.

Underwater Archaeology in Ontario: An Overview

April 1982 Vol 4. No. 2 Author: Scarlett Janusas (ed note: Ms. Janusas was an intern at the museum at the time).

Image of submerged ship Underwater Archaeology in Ontario

Underwater archaeologists share a common goal with treasure hunters and salvagers. Each wants to bring to the surface that which the sea and other bodies of water have claimed. In all other respects, the similarities between these groups disappear.

Treasure hunters, as the label implies, occupy themselves with the removal of items for which monetary gains may be made. Occasionally, they may complete maps denoting positions of artifacts and other items of worth, but these maps at best, are just sketches employed for relocating the site for the sole purpose of continuing the pillage. Salvagers are even less concerned with recording and mapping. Their purpose is to haul up items which can later be sold for scrap metal. There is a time and profit incentive for both the treasure hunter and the salvager. Greater profits can be realized by spending less actual time on the site.

This attitude of ‘ultimate greed’ is totally irreconcilable to anyone concerned with heritage conservation. Removal and deconstruction of information is a by-product of the occupation of the treasure hunter and salvager. It is this information that is of primary importance to the underwater archaeologist, for it can lead to the disclosure of details concerning the shipboard activity, vessel type, shipbuilding technology, vessel dimensions, cargo, cause of wreck, and much, much more.

Underwater archaeology creates an aura of adventure and excitement. The adventure exists, but the reality is that almost ninety percent of the excavation involves lifting and hauling, which can be monotonous. Cold, deep, fresh water presents the opportunity for archaeologists to discover sites (prehistoric and historic) in an almost perfect state of preservation. But these same conditions which make a site so attractive and culturally valuable, also create specific problems for the underwater archaeologist.

Cold water dictates that some protection for the diver be made available. Exposure suits can protect the diver for hours at a time, but they also reduce mobility and dexterity. Thick neoprene restricts the divers’ movement and the use of three-fingered gloves involves a new method of manipulating pen and tools. Working at great depths reduces the amount of allowable bottom time without having the diver risk decompression sickness, better know as the ‘bends’.

Breathing compressed air at depth produces another complication for the underwater archaeologist called nitrogen narcosis or ‘rapture of the deep’. As the phrase implies, the diver experiences an euphoria not unlike drinking one to two martinis on an empty stomach. This not only impedes work but creates a danger to the diver.

Many of the tools that the underwater archaeologist uses are modified versions of the tools of the terrestrial archaeologist. The tape measure, mallet, sketch pad, grid system, and camera are all employed underwater, but, the trowel, shovel and the traditional stake-grid system are absent from the underwater archaeologist’s tool assemblage.

Another problem in excavating an underwater site is the reduced visibility that can be caused by the diver stirring up bottom sediment. Two methods can be used to resolve this difficulty. The first involves a simple weight adjustment by the diver so that he is literally suspended above the bottom and is thus prevented from kicking up sediment with his fins. The second method involves actual removal of the sediment by means of an air suction hose which deposits the sediment far enough from the site to prevent reduced visibility. Unfortunately, the two methods are not always sufficient. In many areas of Ontario, visibility will remain poor to nil at all times. Rivers with mud bottoms, such as the Thames (ed. note – in Southwestern Ontario) River, create difficulties in even locating sites by vision alone.

Another visibility-related problem occurs at deep water sites. Less sunlight is able to filter through to deeper regions, thus creating a dark working environment. This problem can in part be alleviated by dive lights. A case in point is the H.M.S. Breadalbane, a 428-tonne supply ship that sank in 1853, off Beechey Island in the Northwest Territories. Seven lights, the type employed on a Boeing 747 aircraft, will be used in the near future to illuminate the British barque for photographic purposes.

Although not in Ontario, the Breadalbane Project is of great historical value and interest. The vessel was on a rescue mission, searching for the explorer Sir John Franklin, when it was holed by ice. The ship sank in a short fifteen minute span in 325 feet of water. These cold Arctic waters have done much to preserve the wreck, even to the point where remains of her sails are still present. Further work on the Breadalbane is contingent upon the ice thickness which affects equipment transport.

Map of Fathom Five National Park

Grid systems employed in underwater archaeology must fulfill several criteria. These systems must be compact, portable, flexible and be heavy enough or have securing devices to be anchored above a site and withstand strong currents to avoid displacement. Mr. Stan McCellan of the Ministry of Natural Resources, employed an aluminium grid system (ed note – image can be seen in original publication, unsuitable for reprinting here), which was embedded in the sediment to conduct some shallow water work during his Griffon Cove Project.

The aim of this two year study, conducted during 1978 – 1979, was to identify a vessel which had been purchased by Fathom Five Provincial Park in Tobermory, to collect any additional data about the area in which the wreck was originally found. The vessel was reputed to be the “Griffon” which is thought to be the first sailing vessel to cruise the Great Lakes. The “Griffon” was constructed by La Salle in the 17th century near Fort Erie, to carry furs during the fur trade back to Montreal. La Salle sailed her from Fort Erie to Green Bay and through the Straits of Mackinaw. The “Griffon” disappeared on her return voyage and the vessel purchased by Fathom Five Provincial Park was originally thought to be the one and the same. Mr. McClellan was able to ascertain that the wreck was a mid-19th century vessel and establish that it was not, in fact, the “Griffon”.

Notable Ontario Underwater Archaeology Projects (ed note)

Image of the shipwreck Sweepstakes
Image: Jack Salen

Other careful and well-conducted work is being carried out elsewhere in Ontario in the field of underwater archaeology. For example, Mr. William Fox, of the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture, investigated a wreck discovered in 1981 in the Thames River in Chatham, Ontario. The hull of a 50 foot vessel was lifted from the river this past year, and, while local interested parties believed the vessel to be of 1812 vintage, Mr. Fox was able to correctly date the vessel to the turn of the twentieth century. Although not verified as yet, this wreck may well have been the “Morning Light”. Plans for the wreck include a graphical documentation in the spring of 1982. It is not surprising to discover a wreck of this nature in Chatham since this city was a major port in the early 19th century and also supported a ship-building industry.

There are numerous other small projects being undertaken by concerned individuals and groups who are collaborating with heritage resource management people and the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture to accurately record and excavate both historic and prehistoric sites. Fathom Five Provincial Park conducts a continuing program of mapping all the wrecks in the park. The Park prohibits any destruction or removal of underwater sites, and thus provides a veritable ‘diving mecca’ for sport divers.

Mr. Michael Verbrugge obtained assistance from the Ontario Heritage Foundation to investigate a mid-19th century merchant vessel in Lake Erie. The project was initiated in 1978, but was delayed almost a full year due to a faulty reading from the Loran system which had been employed to pinpoint the wreck. The vessel was found by fishermen who had repeatedly lost or damaged their nets on the wreck’s rigging. This project involves examination of a virtually intact vessel and will continue this summer.

Banner for the Hamilton Scourge National Historic Site

A major project that has recently received considerable press coverage, centres on the U.S.S. Hamilton and the U.S.S. Scourge. During the War of 1812, the United States found their navy in short supply of armed vessels. An immediate solution to the problem was to commandeer 13 merchant schooners and outfit them as war schooners. Two of these vessels were the Hamilton, originally called the U.S.S. Diana and the Scourge, originally named the H.M.S. Lord Nelson. On August 7, 1813, the British fleet lay in waters near Grimsby when a storm developed out of Port Credit. The U.S. fleet was hit broadside, and the already unstable Hamilton and Scourge sank. The storm had been so violent that the two ships were not reported missing until the following morning.

Dr. Dan Nelson, head of the Hamilton-Scourge Foundation, assisted in the search for these two vessels. The logbook of a British flagship was employed for rough locational data and, on the basis of the information derived from this book,  a 90 square kilometre search area was defined. This area was surveyed in 1972-73 in 50 meter strips employing magnetometers, side-scan sonar and depth sounders, but without success. After moving the search area to the west, the project finally met with some success when an image at last appeared on the side-scan sonar! No further work could be conducted on these wrecks since the find was made on the last day of the project and the crew of the search vessels had a previous commitment – a stag party.

The image on the side-scan sonar showed that most of the Hamilton was still standing. The Scourge lies in waters not too distant from the Hamilton. Both ships rest at a depth of 290 feet with a visibility of 1 to 1.5 meters. The ships are extremely well preserved owing largely to their present environment of a constant four degree Celsius temperature in almost total darkness.

The project recently completed a photogrammetry survey of both ships using equipment donated by the National Geographic Society (ed note: images in link above). Further plans for these two vessels, under the direction of Mr. Ken Cassovoy, include compiling a complete visual reference, conducting conservation studies by examining core samples of the hull, and geotechnical studies of bottom sediments.

Final plans are being prepared to raise the ships and duplicate their present environment for purposes of storage and exhibition. The last phase is being carefully researched before actual implementation since other raised ships have demonstrated that the traditional treatment with polyethelene glycol – which forces moisture out and thus prevents shrinkage and decay – is not sufficient for good conservation.

One example of  the problem in using this polyethelene glycol treatment is the soft cheesy texture of the wood of the Swedish warship, “Vasa”. The “Vasa“, a 1400 ton galleon which sank in 110 feet of water on its maiden voyage in 1628, is under serious threat of suffering irreparable damage. The Hamilton-Scourge Project, wishing to avoid this consequence, plans to raise the ships and place them in a large bath solution to duplicate their present environment.

Multiple factors contribute to the condition in which an underwater archaeologist finds a wreck. The state of a vessel before it went down may contribute to a quicker deterioration in its watery grave. The actual event of the wreckage will dictate whether the archaeologist will be dealing with a semi-intact vessel or miscellaneous planking spread far and wide. Currents, surf and the tide aid in the deterioration of a vessel. Burial of the wreck in sediment may protect it from attack from aerobic organisms. Shifting sands may subject the vessel to undue stress and present difficulty for the underwater archaeologist  in locating and excavating the wreck. Depth and water temperatures are critical to the state of the site. Greater depth disallows light from penetrating, and also restricts organism growth. Cold water, discussed elsewhere, also aids in the preservation of the wrecks. Fresh water versus salt water environments determine the type of organisms present and hence their involvement in the destruction of the materials. Pollution is yet another factor to consider. And, perhaps, most hazardous of all to a sites’ preservation, is man himself.

Sport diving has become very popular within the last decade. A diver descends into a world of weightlessness and his curiosity to explore is aroused. The reasons for diving vary but, one class of diver, the ‘wreck’ diver presents many problems for the underwater archaeologist. What better way in which to commemorate a dive than for a wreck diver to claim a souvenir  by prying off a dead-eye or bronze porthole, hauling it back to shore and proudly displaying his new found treasure. The prize is taken home, and all too often, the artifact becomes a center for a coffee table or finds a new home in a dingy back closet. Stripping wrecks or prehistoric sites is illegal and should not be condoned by anyone.

We have laws to protect our heritage against such pillage, but such laws are difficult to enforce. Three privately organized groups have recently taken steps against the continued desecration of wrecks and sites. One organization is called S.O.S. (Save our Shipwrecks), another is called P.O.W. (Preserve our Wrecks) and the third is the Ontario Marine Heritage Committee. S.O.S. and P.O.W. base their objectives in the education of divers through various certifying agencies, by promoting shipwreck conservation, and by organizing volunteer activities where needed. They have made a beginning, and with growing awareness comes growing concern. Ultimately, heritage awareness and preservation will result.

Editors Note to Underwater Archaeology in Ontario.

We contacted Ms. Janusas to let her know we were reprinting this article from her early days. Ms. Janusas also offered the following:

You can say….that MTCS has indicated that they will not address marine archaeology until they “clean up” land archaeology (Finnerty, DM, personal communication to S. Janusas when Pres. of APA). I continue to work in the business, and new technologies make things much easier than before.   Ontario is still the only province in Canada that does not have more “lenient” laws regarding scientific diving, meaning that we are required to follow Min. of Labour regulations when it comes to diving (i.e. putting people in the water).   We have many shipwrecks that predate those of the Erebus in the Arctic but marine archaeology remains a neglected part of our heritage….

Ms. Janusas has also indicated that she may give us all an update to this piece in the near future. What has changed, what technology has meant to underwater archaeology, and others. In the meantime, if you have anything to add to this piece, we’d love to hear from you.

Field School Experience – Jeff

Editor’s note: We’ll be sharing the Field School Experiences over the next weeks from students in the program. This week, meet Jeff Hardy.

Image of Jeff Hardy excavating in a pit during the field school
Hi, my name is Jeff and this is me at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology here in London,Ontario, when I got to participate as a student in the recent “Un-field-school” carried out by Dr. Ferris at the Lawson site. As the son of a curio-collector, I was instilled with a strong interest in archaeology from an early age. However, it was not until my first field school experience at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology that I began to truly appreciate the complex processes, methods, and perspectives involved in defining and doing this thing known as archaeology.
I was able to take part in a special topics intersession course offered by the Department of Anthropology at Western University. This field school was
designed not to dig up new areas of the site, but to help rehabilitate the Lawson site by ‘cleaning up’ past archaeology, mapping features, both ancient and the ones made by earlier archaeological fieldwork, and look at ways to sustain and preserve the site as a living museum, with an emphasis on long-term care. I chose to take this class after an eight-year hiatus from Western, as one of the final two credits I needed to complete the anthropology requirements on the double minor I am working towards.
My experience on this field school has been truly amazing, and has inspired me to pursue a major in anthropology and archaeology following the completion of my double minor this summer. The opportunity to use geophysical equipment such as the ground penetrating radar, resistivity meters, and total station for mapping purposes and to get an insight into the below ground features of the Lawson site was an incredible learning opportunity. The fact that the mapping we assisted on, along with the partial excavation we conducted of an area that was part of a past dig, was all part of the sustainability initiative for the Lawson site to help remediate and care for it, was just incredible. Remediating past archaeological actions and working to balance current uses of the site area while minimizing the loss of integrity for the site was an important goal of the field school. But so to was the idea we were helping to create a new narrative for the Lawson site, one that is inclusive of all the people and communities how value and differently understand what the Lawson site means in terms of heritage, and so offer a new perspective on what it means to be doing archaeology today. I also liked how the decision making process over what we were going to do next was fluid and always changing by the information we were finding, but remained shaped by the goals of the field school. It was wonderful to be a part of that discussion and decision making.
I encourage anyone with an interest in archaeology to visit the Lawson site. There are volunteer opportunities throughout the year, and a lot of learning to be had by touring the gallery, and by talking to the wonderful staff at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.

2016 Harvest Festival Pow-Wow

Editor: Gordon Nicotine-Sands, our 2016 Harvest Festival Pow-Wow Emcee, provides some information below on the origins of a pow-wow and its significance to First Nation’s peoples and some information on each of the dances that you’ll witness. You can find event details at the bottom of the post Key points to know .

What is a Pow-Wow:

Pow Wow Dancer
Pow Wow Dancer

The Pow-wow was originally a ceremony (amongst dozens that were designed to give thanks to Creator and the spirits for the many blessings found in everyday life) typically found in the western Plains of North America by many of the First Nation’s who inhabited the area.  It is from these ancient practices that the modern day “Pow-wow” derives from, and has made its way to all points in North America.  Today, the Pow-wow is a drug/alcohol free celebration of “life” through the expression of song and dance, where all are welcomed.  The event is led and given direction by an Emcee, and an “Arena director”, who watches over the dance arena.

At a “Pow-wow” the use of Eagle Feathers (and other items from the eagle) is quite prevalent. First Nations people have governmental exemption (within reason) when it comes to the ownership of eagle feathers.  In many Native Creation stories the “eagle” is represented as a messenger from the spirit world, and is also seen as a protector.  It is considered an honour by most First Nations to adorn eagle feathers on their outfits, which are given in different ways by a competent individual depending on the territory.  For the most part the recipient immediately attempts to take on the responsibility of dedicating their life to teachings set out by their own nation.
The Drum is an integral instrument for any gathering as singers use it to provide music for the event, for mainly the “dancers”, but also for everyone’s enjoyment.  The Drum is sacred and considered to be the “heartbeat” of Mother Earth, and in combination with prayer and medicine’s it is said that the drum beat can be heard on the “other” side.


First Nations Men, Women, and Children showcase dance outfits referred to as “regalia”, and dance to various songs.  These practises are spiritual-based and are meant to invoke a “spirituality” for everyone in attendance. Many First Nations people believe that these experiences are healthy for your mind/body/and spirit.  Good feelings, positivism, and adrenaline are what people typically feel at a “Pow-wow”.

Image of woman dancing for 2016 Harvest Festival and Pow-Wow
2015 MOA Pow-Wow Dance Participant

Although not a religious event per-se, (many Native ceremonies are held in First Nation territories and not for public view) several components of the singing and the dancing are considered to be not “man-made” and were given to the people by a higher power. It is this belief system that many participants hold true and keeps them respectful and humble.   Through modernization, many Nations throughout North America have contributed several dance and singing styles through sharing and gift-giving.  Many dances and song styles also originated in “societies” within First Nations where members were selected for admission based on fulfilling obligations and/or sacrifices.  Many of these ‘societies’ still exist several hundred years after their creation.  In addition to the singing and dancing, you will also find many authentic Native craft and food stands, friends and families laughing and sharing, and occasionally visiting dignitaries from the local community. Visitors are invited and encouraged to participate at different times in the program where some songs are designated for ALL people; not just First Nations.

Dance Styles and their Meaning that you’ll see at the 2016 Harvest Festival and Pow-Wow

Male dancers for the 2016 Harvest Festival Pow-Wow
2015 MOA Pow-Wow

A word on modern day dance styles:  Although originally inspired by materials found in nature, some First Nations people have opted to replace many of the natural materials that have been used in outfit creation many years ago with a more durable selection of materials that stand up to the elements along with wear and tear.  So it is not unusual to see materials such as yarn, ribbon, leather, metal works, for example, all of which can be found at fabric, and hardware stores, etc. It is the way that Native people fashion these items to their outfits that make them uniquely “First Nations”.

All men dancers use Breach-cloth type bottoms, bells, bead-work, and head pieces called a “roach” which are made from porcupine and deer tail hair.

The Men’s Traditional dance is a “warrior’s” dance that originated from the western plains.  The dancers are distinguished by a circular item on the back known as a “bustle’ which is constructed of Eagle Feathers and other materials.  The dancer tells the story of the warrior who may be on the hunt, or on the warpath. During this dance you will see the dancer crouching, looking off into the distance, looking at the ground, and forward bursts.  The dancers regalia is adorned with items needed for not only battle but also for healing.  Although some dancers stay true to ‘tribal’ colours and designs, the outfit is designed to the dancer’s preference.  The dance style is accompanied by a slower-to-medium fast drum beat.

The Men’s Grass Dance is a dance that originated in the western plains where the landscape is void of trees and abundant with long grass.  There are several origin stories on the dance with some tribes having warrior societies. Some believe that dancers cleared an area of an impending ceremony of all the grass.  Others believe that it is a dance of acknowledgement to the power of items in nature such as the sweet-grass, used in nearly ALL native ceremonies.  The dancers have long flowing yarn and ribbon on their outfits to mimic that long flowing grass blowing in the wind.  It is accompanied by stepping and swaying.  The dance style is accompanied by a medium-fast drum beat.

The Men’s Fancy Bustle Dance is another type of warriors dance used by young men and boys, and originated in the southern United States.  The dance style is categorized by two “bustles” constructed of white turkey feathers and brightly coloured “hackle” feathers, which are worn at the base of the neck and back.  It is an opportunity for young men and boys to showcase just how acrobatic, fast, and athletic they can be, which usually gets the crowds cheering.  The dance is of course accompanied by a fast drum beat.

The Women’s Traditional Dance is a dance of honour, respect and inspiration.  In many First Nation teachings, women are held in the highest regard.  First, and foremost, for being givers of life, but also for other qualities and contributions that bind families and communities together, such as wisdom, strength, and pride.  There are several “medicines” such as tobacco, sage, sweet-grass, etc. carried by the dancer.  The dance is very stoic, with minimal movement. Typically there is detailed and high quality bead, fabric, ribbon and feather  work put into the outfit.  The dance is accompanied by a slower to medium-fast drum beat.

The Women’s Jingle Dress Dance originated from the Great Ojibway Nation of Northern Ontario and Minnesota, this special dance is considered to be “healing” in nature.  It is believed to be given to the people from the sky-world, as a ceremony to help those who are in need of spiritual lifting.  From its creation to modern day, dancers are still called upon whenever there is a member of the Pow-wow circle or community who are in need of spiritual help due to tragic and unfortunate circumstances.  Young women who decide to take up the jingle dress dance are handed down protocol and teachings by senior dancers, explaining their roles and responsibilities when wearing the dress.  The dress is also unique in its creation in that metal cones are fixating to the dress to create a “shook” type of sound which is said to be heard on the “other” side, just like the “drum”.

The Women’s Fancy Shawl Dance is relatively modern, and is a way for women to showcase how athletic, fast and light footed they can be.  It has been nicknamed the ‘butterfly’ dance because of the wide and colourful shawl worn by the dancer.   Emphasis is also put on the outfit design, with plenty of detailed, colourful and eye-catching patterns used in the ribbon and material work.  It is unique in the way that it is the only dance style that doesn’t employ noisemakers, such as bells or jingles.

Editor: Our thanks to Gordon for his contribution to the blog and for providing such great information. For the event details and to stay current right up to your visit, head on over to our Pow-Wow site and bookmark it for future reference. You could always sign up to our e-newsletter and stay abreast of all the museum’s activities.

Key Points to Know:

Plans are underway for our 9th Annual Harvest Festival and Pow-Wow taking place September 17 & 18, 2016.
Event highlights each day include:

  • traditional singers, dancers and drummers
  • cultural teachings, workshops and demonstrations by local First Nation’s artists
  • flint knapping demonstrations
  • pottery pit firing demonstration (London Potters Guild)
  • storytelling and legends in the longhouse
  • historical re-enactments
  • youth activities (pottery, corn husk doll making, archery)
  • traditional foods and crafts on sale

Here’s the 2016 Program: 2016_powwow-program-1

The event runs from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both days. Admission by donation. Free offsite parking with shuttle service. Accessible Parking available on-site only.


Meet Dr. Rhonda Bathurst

Editor: We’re releasing the news of our new Executive Director, meet Dr. Rhonda Bathurst.

The Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Dr. Rhonda Bathurst has been appointed as the new Executive Director of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. Her position will commence on September 26, 2016.

Meet Dr Rhonda Bathurst, MOA's new ED

Rhonda received her PhD in Anthropology from McMaster University in 2005, and has worked in archaeology around the world; including Belize, Iceland, California, the Pacific Northwest Coast and here at home in Ontario. With seven years of experience managing Sustainable Archaeology: Western, just next door, Rhonda is already well acquainted with the Museum, its core values and its staff.

From Rhonda:

“After over 30 years of experience in archaeology, I couldn’t be more proud or delighted about this opportunity to become a vital conservator of my home province’s cultural heritage. Archaeology is about narrative; it’s about telling informed stories, in multiple voices, from a fragmented and partially preserved record. My experience at Sustainable Archaeology has introduced me to exciting new technologies that archaeologists are using to share these narratives, and my vision involves using these sorts of tools to create interactive and meaningful ways of learning about and engaging with Ontario’s heritage. The Museum is a community space, where the present interacts with the past. It has a rich history of its own, and has touched many lives of researchers and residents, both here in London and across the province. I aim to share this resource broadly, to brand the Museum not only as a facility for historians, descendant communities, and students, but as a destination hub of Ontario archaeological resources, practices, and innovations. I look forward to forging new relationships and to working with the enthusiastic and supportive group of people who make up the Board of Directors, staff, interns, volunteers and students of the MOA team.”

Editor note: The highlighted link for Dr. Bathurst brings you to her page, where you’ll find her published papers. To read her works, you’ll need to register – it’s free to do so.

Field School Experience – Arlyn

I was lucky enough to be accepted into the Western University summer field school experience of 2016, conducted by Dr. Neal Ferris, and I was looking forward to it. This course is not a typical archaeological field school. Dubbed the “Unfield School“, it is an opportunity for us to learn how to map, record, and the remediation past archaeology conducted on the Lawson site. As a crew we were going to start the very long process of caring for and repairing the site for the future.
Students being instructed during their field school experience

My field school experience with Mapping

Mapping is an important part of that process. So we spent our early days on the site being taught how to use a Total station and prism (photo above). In many ways, as Ed Eastaugh from the Department of Anthropology noted, the Total Station is one of the most important pieces of equipment we can use on a project like this field school. It would allow us to accurately map the condition of the Lawson site at this moment in time.  this, together with all of the current and past activity evident on the site both natural and human, would provide a comprehensive evaluation of the activity on the site over time. In those early days of the field school, Ed taught us how to set up the total station and how to operate record location information from it. Darryl Dann, a volunteer at the Museum who also helped the field school. Darryl, an avocational archaeologist pointed out cultural features present on the forest floor, and features of current conditions on the site that need to be part of the mapping process.
Image of the functions of a total station
Total Station

Recording these features and site context – basically where everything is across the site that is either a feature of the archaeology. It can include a feature of the current land use and those characterising the surface of the site (such as building locations, sign poles, paths, etc.) is critical for this long term caring for the Lawson site. By understanding accurately where previously excavated and unexcavated portions of the site are, we can ensure the site’s integrity and preservation for the long term. Ultimately, our work will inform future actions at the Lawson site for generations to come.

But most of all, the field school taught us to remember that stewardship and management is not simply about mapping and collecting, but about making sure that all people who care for a site appreciate the cultural significance of a site,
At the Lawson site, the museum, archaeologists, community, and Indigenous peoples who celebrate the ancestors that lived and worked here, will continue to work toward an archaeological plan that makes the site accessible to all through proper interpretation and understanding.  These groups and future generations will be able to appreciate the Lawson site for what makes this place special to them. Really, caring for the site needs to be a community collective decision making process. Our job in the field school was to know and share the heritage of this place and to manage the integrity of the site together for all who will use and have used this area.
Arlyn Martin
Archaeology Summer Field School – Site Management and Service May 2016.

Museum Curators Secrets

We asked our Curator Nicole Aszalos to comment on this Guardian Article and share her Museum Curators secrets.

Image of Nicole holding an artifact from the collection
Nicole and a Birdstone

The Secrets of the Museum Curators from The Guardian is a well written article, with some of England’s top flight curators sharing thoughts on their careers. Although the article is not an in-depth discussion of the curatorial field, it does provide some effective and honest career insights for the aspiring curator. In the short article the curator’s also try to solve some misconceptions commonly associated with the profession.

Often when I say I am a curator, responses run along the lines of ‘Oh that’s interesting.. What is that?” Now when we compound that on the fact that I am a curator at an archaeology museum, it can make for some interesting conversations due to the uniqueness of the position. The most common misconception about a curator’s role, is that the majority of your time is spent doing exhibit design and selecting objects to make a gallery look pretty. Realistically, that is maybe 25 percent of the job. Curators are the keepers of the museum’s collection.  This means we research, catalogue, preserve, conserve, and house museum objects for current and future generations. We maintain the gallery AND collection space and coordinate interns and volunteers. In actuality, it is a lot more behind the scenes than many people realise (editor’s note: imagine an iceberg. What the public gets to see in a museum, is only the tip, above the water).

Although the article mentions that curating is no longer a suitable long term profession, I don’t believe this is true. Starting in the field, the majority of jobs will be contract or project related work. This may be frustrating for some, however this is normal. Most curators go through many contract or part time jobs before finding a permanent position.  We also need to open our mind to what it means to be a curator. Depending on the institution a curator can also mean you are also the collection manager, executive director, or program coordinator.

Daniel Martin notes; “nothing is as important when you’re starting out as gaining experience,” for the aspiring curator, this is the most valuable knowledge one can share.  If you can, volunteer and take internship opportunities while in school. All experience will supplement your degree and make you a better candidate when vying for a position in this highly competitive field.

Image of a Jesuit Ring, found at Christian Island
Christian Island Jesuit Ring Find

I would end on a note similar to that of the article by sharing my favourite career object, a complete Jesuit ring found during excavations on Christian Island. This ring is associated with one of the last Jesuit missions in Huronia and it features a distinctive ‘L-Heart’ sign. Jesuit rings are rare to find in terms of archaeology which makes this complete ring even more awe- inspiring.





Editor’s Note: The Jesuit Ring pictured above can be viewed not only here, but in the Museum’s on-line collection page. You can search for specific items, or let the system randomly generate material for you to view. We hope you find the service to be of value and will be adding more pieces on a somewhat regular basis, as time and resources allow.

Lawson Field School Update

The Lawson Site Un-Field School Was a Success!

By: Dr. Neal Ferris, Lawson Chair of Canadian Archaeology, Western University.

Students and volunteers at work

It has been a few weeks since the end of our first “Un Field School” here at the Lawson site, with students and instructors since moving on. But, for me, I finally have a moment now to reflect on the field school and what we discovered during those three weeks. Below is an update and brief summary of what we managed to achieve.

This Lawson field school had several aims: First, it needed to be instructive and a good learning experience for the Western anthropology students who took the course. Second, it had to serve the needs of the Museum’s Lawson Site Management Plan and provide insight on how we can best manage this site long term. Third, it had to be a successful experience for the volunteers and visitors who joined us. Our goal was to make archaeology accessible to non-archaeologists and to underscore to the class the bigger context within which we do archaeology today. Finally, I was hoping to learn just a little bit more about the Lawson site. Not just to care for it as the Lawson Chair, but also to have a better sense of the importance of this place.  It has been both an ancient home and village and is one of the oldest continuously excavated sites in Canada. Really, when you think of it, the entire history of Canadian archaeology has happened on this site!

While sorting through the findings will still take some time, I am fairly confident in saying that we’ve managed to achieved those aims. I must thank, as essential to that success, the help of MOA volunteer and field director Darryl Dann, as well as Department of Anthropology staff and geo-spatial and geo-physical expert Ed Eastaugh. Darryl and Ed were vital to the success of the course and meeting the aims we had set for ourselves.

In terms of the geo physical survey, we are only just starting. The use of three complementary and different technologies (magnetometer, resistivity meter, ground penetrating radar), each added a bit more below ground insight into possible archaeological features. The technologies illustrated the edge of past excavations, and even old fence lines reflected in 19th and early 20th century mapping for the site. As part of the ongoing site evaluation, a wider area of geophysical mapping will be planned for the years ahead.

Lawson field school map
Field School Map

I wasn’t sure how productive excavating previously excavated areas would be, which was the primary task for the Lawson field school this year. After all, in theory there should be little archaeological data or material left.  But to the contrary, we were able to confirm that, at least in the Previously Excavated Area C, past hand excavations did not always completely get down to subsoil, leaving remnant site intact for us to document. More critically, cultural features in these areas were only rarely excavated, (14 of the 18 features that were mapped appear to be cultural, and not archaeological from previous excavations). Moreover, because we were able to open a relatively large area relatively quickly, we were able to see more of the site. I was quite pleased to see clear settlement data, in the form of post mould rows, visible to be recorded.


Perhaps most exciting of all, we also uncovered a very large stain (Feature 10, which encompasses Features 17 and 18) in the very edge of our excavations. This stain was not deep, and revealed cultural features below it. When I align this area of our excavations with previous work done on the site, it is clearly very close to a part of the trenches excavated across the site between 1921-1923 by William J. Wintemberg. This is really important because it suggests we can start to accurately align his trenches and findings in real space and with the findings from more recent fieldwork. It also is pretty exciting, almost a 100 years later, to “see” Wintemberg’s hand revealed so intimately on the site and reach back to that early formative period in Canadian archaeology!

In terms of artifacts and remains, most of what we uncovered were small items that would have been missed first time out (flakes, animal bone, small ceramic fragments). But we did recover large quantities of carbonized maize from around Feature 8, which we will be able to run C14 dates on (update will be provided in a future piece). This will represent one of the first times we can date from controlled context materials recovered from within the older, pre-expansion area of the village, in order to better understand the history of the site.

Volunteers at the Lawson Field School
Students interpreting the site with visitors.

Fortunately a wide range of volunteers joined our efforts, to work with the students.  The public aspect was twofold, to give them a hands-on experience while at the same time giving the students an opportunity to think about how to talk about archaeology and the site to a wide range of visitors. We were joined by a diverse group, from grade school students, to a visiting, retired American archaeologist that happened to show up one day, to a group of parents and home schooled students from Oshweken and Brantford. I really wanted the students to think about archaeology as a practice that occurs not just in pursuit of knowledge about the past.  It is a practice that occurs in the present and is of interest to a wide range of people beyond archaeologists. I couldn’t have chosen a better setting for bringing that message home.

Really, it is hard to imagine a set of outcomes I would have preferred to those we achieved. The students themselves got into the spirit and the aims of the field school (a sample of the blogs they wrote for the course will be posted here subsequently, so you can get a sense of their perspective directly) and all did really well. We have tested out a series of methods that will work well for rehabilitating the site. These efforts will ensure the various other uses that happen here are managed so as to avoid degrading the site. We’ve gained new insights into the site itself that will help advance our understanding of the archaeology and human history of this place. Most importantly, we have a better appreciation for the long history of archaeology that has been carried out on the site. All of which will provide the Museum’s and the Lawson site visitors a better experience and understanding of the history captured here.

I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to further these aims again at the Lawson site!