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Beadwork with Dakota Ireland

Dakota Ireland

Shekoli/Hello, my name is Dakota (Kalo:loks) Ireland.

I do a lot of different beadwork, but mostly jewelry such as rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces/medallions. The main beading style that I use is peyote stitch (also known as gourd stitch) and it is a particular style of weaving.

I come from the Oneida Nation of the Thames and my clan is Bear. I have been working with the Museum of Ontario Archaeology for two and a half years now. I was the curator for The Story of Our Grandfathers: Our Original Medicine exhibition from May-August 2014 and the assistant curator for the On^yota’a:ka: ukwehuwenekha’ khale’/miinwaa Anishinaabemowin language exhibition that is currently on display at the museum.

2 row set

The peyote stitch was originally used by the Kiowa and Comanche tribes from the South.  It is similar to the brick stitch where only one bead is used at a time. Each First Nation tribe has their own signature style of beadwork. I am not using the style of beadwork that comes from my people.  I learned the peyote style of beadwork because I like it.   Being able to share amongst each other is how traditions get passed on. It is important to acknowledge where the original style or craft comes from.

The Peyote stitch can be used for many different things – decorating pipes, drum sticks, whistles, and lighters.  It can also be made into jewelry like rings, bracelets, and earrings. Since using this style of beading can be time-consuming, it is best to start with rings, bracelets, or decorating around something small like a lighter. The video will show you the basic stitch of peyote style. Once you have the basic stitch down, then the possibilities are endless with what you can do with it!

It is during times of beading when we share stories, sing, or just be in tranquility. It is important to put good energies and love into your beaded project!

I find that beading is calming and therapeutic. It is a great way to relieve stress and calm the mind. I love beading!  I would like to share the joy of beading and will be planning a workshop at the museum in the future. Before the workshop, I will be offering a drop-in beading session on Sunday, June 5th. If you have any questions, want to see the style, or try it out before signing up for a workshop, feel free to drop by! If you are interested in taking part in a workshop, please CLICK HERE to let us know and we’ll be sure to let you know when the workshop is scheduled.

Yaw^’ko:/thank you!

thunderbird bracelet

Ice Patch Archaeology

Many portrayals of archaeology in popular culture include travelling to remote locations in order to recover artifacts regarded as “treasure”, usually under dramatic and somewhat harrowing circumstances. For Greg Hare, the Yukon Territory’s site assessment archaeologist, ice patches are the equivalent of the treasure filled tombs in an Indiana Jones film.

Figure 1. Archaeologists Survey the Friday Ice Patch, Yukon Territory Photo courtesy of Yukon Cultural Services Branch
Figure 1. Archaeologists Survey the Friday Ice Patch, Yukon Territory. Photo courtesy of Yukon Cultural Services Branch

Ice Patch Archaeology began in the late 1990s through the Yukon Ice Patch Project (Hare 2011: 2). Ice patches are accumulated snow and ice from previous winters that does not melt in the summer. They are found in alpine regions around the world, including the southern Yukon. Unlike glaciers, they do not flow downhill or move over time (except for seasonal melting along the perimeter). When the Yukon Ice Patch project began, changing temperatures were resulting in massive melting of these ice patches, which revealed many archaeological artifacts that had previously been encased in the ice. Due to the extremely dry and cold conditions, as well as the sedentary state of the ice, these artifacts are  remarkably well preserved and can include sinew, hide, and feathers on objects up to 9,000 years old (Hare 2011: 22).

It may seem odd that so many artifacts are recovered from these remote ice patches, but there is a simple explanation for these archaeological hotspots. Caribou herds travel to ice patches in the summer heat in order to cool down and escape from insects, providing an ideal hunting ground for ancient hunters (Figure 1). Not surprisingly, the artifacts recovered from ice patches are almost exclusively hunting tools such as projectile points and dart shafts (Hare 2011: 20). The large quantities of black material at the base of ice patches are further evidence that it was caribou that drew people to the ice patches. They were recognized by the man who first discovered an ice patch artifact in 1997 as “the largest concentration of caribou dung he had ever seen” (Hare 2011: 6).

Even today, Indigenous elders can recall oral histories of hunting caribou on these ice patches. The Yukon Ice Patch Project works closely with many different First Nations groups because these archaeological zones are located across traditional territories, and “the discoveries have become a source of pride for local First Nations people” (Hare 2011: 5). Many local Indigenous people are actively involved with and very enthusiastic about the project, even going so far as to join archaeologists on the ice patches to help look for emerging artifacts.

Flying to these remote ice patches via helicopter, archaeologists are tasked with surveying them and recording the degree of melt since the previous summer. Archaeological work on ice patches does not require excavation.  Instead, it involves walking along the edges of the patch and the surrounding area looking for artifacts with the naked eye — no digging required! This ensures that any artifacts that have melted out of the ice will be spotted and brought to the lab for preservation and analysis. Some of the more fragile organic artifacts must be kept refrigerated to replicate the environmental conditions of the ice patch (dry and cold). One example is a 1,400 year old caribou hide moccasin found in 2003, making it the oldest known moccasin in Canada (Figure 2). However, most of the artifacts recovered from ice patches such as throwing shafts and dart points can be stored at room temperature. They are placed on trays in cabinets to prevent breakage and allow for additional examination.

Figure 2. Caribou hide moccasin. Photo courtesy of Government of Yukon (Hare 2011).
Figure 2. Caribou hide moccasin. Photo courtesy of Government of Yukon (Hare 2011).

Ice patch archaeology:

is conducted only in a few areas in the world where ice patches are found. Currently, there are ongoing projects in the mountains of Alaska, the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Colorado, Norway and elsewhere, in addition to the work in the Yukon. While Indiana Jones prefers to loot artifacts and destroy tombs, ice patch survey is an ecologically responsible and effective localized adaptation of archaeological practice, pioneered in Canada’s very own Yukon Territory.

Written by Nahanni Dynes  for Adventures in Pop Culture Archaeology taught by Dr. Lisa Hodgetts, Western University.

References Cited

Hare, Greg

2011    The Frozen Past: The Yukon Ice Patches. Government of Yukon. Retrieved from

Lawson Site Changes: Part 2

 The Lawson Site “Un” Field School

Picture of students learning about archaeology at the Lawson Site.
School group at the Lawson site in 2000.

As part of the long term management of the Lawson Village and partnership we have with the Department of Anthropology at Western University, the Museum’s Lawson Chair (Neal Ferris) will be running a field school on the site though the last half of May and early part of June. This course is not your typical field school because it’s not  focused on teaching students how to dig up a site. Instead, students will undertake field investigations that are designed to protect the heritage value of this important archaeological site while remaining consistent with our aim to preserve the site. In other words, students will be learning how not to dig up the Lawson site!

Picture of student using a transit to map the Lawson Site
Mapping at the Lawson Site

The Lawson Village is a nationally listed and provincially designated archaeological site dating to the 16th century AD, the majority of which is undisturbed within a woodlot.  The idea of the field school is to develop and implement measures to protect and care for the site over the long term. Students will undertake fieldwork that helps remediate open areas that had been previously excavated.  They will also undertake detailed mapping to tie in earlier fieldwork with current activities on the property, define no disturbance areas, and use remote sensing equipment such as ground penetrating radar to better understand the below ground archaeology of the site without having to dig it up to get that information.

An important dimension of the management plan for the Lawson site is public education and appreciation of this heritage. As such, students will also be trained in fieldwork that focuses less on research and more on being a public service.  Working with Museum staff, volunteers and the public, students will learn to both appreciate the role public archaeology plays in society, and understand how to talk to people about archaeology in ways that are important to them, and not always as important to archaeologists.

The immediate aim of the field school is to teach students a different way of thinking about and doing field archaeology. But more importantly, the field school gives us the chance to really implement the first steps in what will be an ongoing process of remediating and managing the archaeology of this important, centuries old site.  We want to ensure that the Lawson Village remains an important part of our heritage for the centuries ahead.

Lawson Site Provincial Heritage Sign

You are welcome to visit us between 10:00 a.m and 2:00 p.m. May 25th to May 27th and then again from June 1st to 3rd  to observe and to get a better sense of the “Un” part of this field school!  Come check out what we are doing!

Lawson Site Changes: Part 1

For the past number of years, visitors to the Lawson Site will have noted an ongoing state of deterioration.  Over the years, weather, animals, and time have not been kind to the interpretive signs, gardens, and buildings.  The process of remediating the site and developing an ongoing management plan are now underway and over the next few years, visitors will start to see ongoing improvements.

Small longhouse as it appeared in 2015.
Condition of small longhouse in 2015.

One of the first big changes at the Lawson Site was the removal of the small reconstructed longhouse adjacent to the forest.  Originally built in 2002, the small longhouse helped illustrated the variation in house sizes at the Lawson Site but was closed to the public about 5 years ago when it became unsafe.

In 2015, the decision was made to dismantle the small longhouse, and thanks to a group of staff and volunteers the longhouse was removed at the beginning of the summer.  The initial plan was to leave the main support posts to mark the original location of the longhouse but unfortunately, the posts were so badly deteriorated that they had to be completely removed.

Images of the small longhouse being dismantled and the final area after being cleaned up.
Dismantling the small longhouse and the final area cleaned up.

With the small longhouse removed we turned our attention to the gardens, especially the large Three-sisters garden located by the longhouse.  The Three-sisters garden is an important interpretive feature, but has always struggled to be successful because the deer and woodchucks have been particularly appreciative of the easily available and very tasty plants our volunteers have strived to grow.  From an interpretive perspective, having the gardens inside the village is also problematic since the Three-sisters were grown in vast fields surrounding the Lawson Village and not within the site itself.

During the winter, plans were developed to move the Three-sisters garden to a location outside the palisade walls and with support from the City of London’s SPARKS grant, the new garden will be built this summer.  Although the existing garden is being dismantled, we are taking care to ensure that two important perennials, the Sweet grass and Jerusalem artichoke are preserved.  The sweet grass will be planted throughout the current garden area to keep the weeds at bay and the Jerusalem artichoke will be moved to a safe location until the new garden is ready to be planted.

In addition to the changes in the garden, the old signs are being removed this summer and a general clean-up of the site is under way, including removing any trees in the forest which have become unsafe due to age and disease.

We are also very excited about the archaeological field school being offered by the Department of Anthropology at Western University this spring.  The course has been specifically designed to address the long term care of the Lawson Site.  The plans for the field school and the work being undertaken will detailed in Lawson Site Changes: Part 2.

We’re excited about the changes being made at the Lawson Site and grateful to the volunteers who are helping us make these significant improvements.  If you are interested in getting involved with this project, please check out the volunteer opportunities available or contact us at (

Museum Governance Matters


While you may be aware that MOA has a Board of Directors, have you ever considered what the Board does?  Or why museum governance matters?

By definition (Canadian Museums Association) museums are not-for-profit institutions created in the public interest.   While museums have operational functions that differ from other not-for-profit organizations, as institutions, they still operate within the same legal, ethical and business frameworks of any other not-for-profit organization.

Because museum are created in the public interest, they have two fundamental public trust responsibilities: stewardship and public service.   The Canadian Museums Association’s Ethical Guidelines defines stewardship and public service as follows:

  • The trust of stewardship requires museums to acquire, document and preserve collections in accordance with institutional policies, to be accountable for them, and to pass them on to future generations of the public in good condition.
  • The trust of public service requires museums to create and advance not only knowledge, but more importantly, understanding, by making the collections and accurate information about them, physically and intellectually available to all the communities served by the museum.

Stewardship and Public Service are the hallmarks of museums and the basis for the respected status that they have in their communities.  Not only keeping but growing the respect of their communities requires museums to be public focal points for learning, discussion and development, and to ensure equality of opportunity for access.

This is why museum governance is so important because it is with the governing authority that the responsibility for everything the museum does rests.  Simply put “governance” is the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented.  Whether the governing authority is a Board of Directors (as with MOA) or a municipal council (as with many municipally operated museums), governance is the way in which authority, control and direction over the museum’s activities are enacted.

So What is the Board’s role in Museum Governance?

The Board is the highest level of decision-making and legal authority in a museum.  By law, it is ultimately accountable for, and has authority over, the museum’s resources and activities.  The Board articulates and communicates the museum’s vision and defines the parameters within which the museum carries out its work.

At MOA, the Board of Directors has chosen to operate under a policy governance model.  What that means is that the Board provides leadership through policy development and strategic direction and assigns the implementation of day to day activities to the museum’s staff.

Museum governance and how authority is delegated.

MOA is governed by a 13 member Board of Directors, each bringing unique skills and knowledge, as stewards of the museum now and into the future.  Currently, MOA is going through a period of transition which will result in the renewal of the facility, museum exhibits, and community relationships.  While this presents a great opportunity for the museum to re-establish itself as a hub for archaeology in Ontario, it will take significant effort and resources on the part of all involved to achieve this goal.

Serving on any Board of Directors requires commitment, energy, and enthusiasm for the museum’s mission and the service it bring to its community.  With this commitment also comes the excitement of working with others to champion a cause you care passionately about.  For more information about serving on MOA’s Board of Directors, check out our Board Recruitment Package.

Board Recruitment

Look Back: The Pipe Site Pipe

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.

The Pipe Site Pipe

(Spring 1993, Volume 15 No. 1)

“Of all the pits, in all the fields, you had to pop out of mine.”

No, it’s not a bad line from a great movie, it’s just my way of introducing this article, which deals with the experience of finding that one artifact, in one test pit, on one survey.

This happened in November, 1992, when the Contract Archaeology crew conducted an archaeological assessment of approximately 64.5 hectares (160 acres) of land in Flos Township, Simcoe County.  Only 30 percent of this property could be visually surveyed.  The rest of the property that had both natural and reforested woodlot had to be surveyed using a technique known as ‘test pitting’.  Using this method we were able to recover three isolated find spots and one undisturbed village.  After a brief description of the survey technique, I will discuss the find spot which produced the pipe pictured here.

Test Pitting

Test pitting is a technique used when the surface of an area has little or no visibility.  A pit no smaller than 30×30 cm (12×12 in.) is dug from surface to subsoil.  In this case the depth was approximately 25 cm (10 in.).  The top soil is sifted through a 6 mm (1/4 in.) mesh screen and any cultural material removed.  The hole is then back-filled and the sod replaced.

On this survey, the property was considered to be of high archaeological potential, because of its location in Huronia, and its physical setting.  There are numerous registered and unregistered sites close by.  The physical setting has great potential because of the number of high knolls, the Lake Algonquin beach ridge bisecting the property, and the well-drained, sandy loam soil.

When it came to digging, pits were placed in five meter intervals.  In this survey, that translated into approximately 4,000 holes!  So, it was either a touch of luck, or skilled field intuition, that led Ernie Salva to choose the spot that produced the pipe.  First, he found two fragments of the pipe bowl while turning the earth, then he found the stem in the screen.  The rest of us narrowed the interval of test pits to between one and three meters around the find spot, but no other artifacts were recovered.  We had a complete limestone pipe in three pieces, which we could glue together back in the lab.


The pipe is made from a soft chalky limestone.  The overall length is 100 mm (4 in.), and the height is 69 mm (2 1/2 in.).  The pipe has a very rough, unfinished look, but this condition could have been produced by the acidic soil ‘eating’ away at the surface.  As you can see, holes have been successfully drilled through the stem and the bowl making this pipe functional, although there is no evidence of charring or residue to suggest it was used.  The bowl is decorated with four punctates.  These round impressions are four to fine mm (1/4 in.) in depth, and evenly spaced at 20 mm (3/4 in.) apart.

The hardest part of an analysis of a single artifact find spot is assigning a date to it.  There are relatively few samples of pipes made of stone of any kind and even fewer limestone pipes.  The punctate motif is most often associated with clay pipes of the Huron people, and with the close proximity of large Huron villages in the area, a date of 1300-1500 A.D. is a reasonable assumption.

This exquisite find from the Pipe Site tells us there was movement of people through the area.  Every piece of evidence, even a single find spot such as this one, adds to our knowledge which is invaluable in the research and understanding of the prehistory of Ontario.

The Museum would like to acknowledge Cyril Chase and Malone Given Parsons’ consulting firm for allowing us the opportunity to survey the property.

Written by Karen Mattila, Archaeology Technician at MOA in 1993.

The Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone

Swinging through tombs, jumping into dark caves and discovering rare artifacts, Indiana Jones has a way with luck that surprises many people. Because of these characteristics, you’d expect someone like Indy to find something as culturally important as the Rosetta Stone. However, this Indy-worthy find was actually made by a French solider in 1799. Pierre Bouchard, who was simply trying to increase the size of a French fort in Rosetta, Egypt, stumbled upon the Rosetta Stone. It was located in an old wall that was being demolished for the expansion of the fort. Fortunately, the commanding officer recognized its importance and extracted the piece. At the time of its discovery, Napoleon, the emperor of the French, was invading Egypt, so the Rosetta Stone was claimed as French property until 1801. Soon after its discovery, the British defeated the French and claimed all of their important cultural artifacts. Since 1802, the stone is held in the British Museum for viewing. The ownership of the stone has caused a lot of controversy over the years. Many Egyptians feel that the stone belongs to their country and should be held in a museum on Egyptian soil.

How was the Rosetta Stone created?


The Rosetta Stone was created in 196 BCE for Ptolemy V, the king of Egypt at the time. It is a black basalt slab with an inscription, also known as a stela. It measures about four feet by two and a half feet and it was originally a part of a bigger slab that was located in a temple at Sias, about 35 miles North of Alexandria. The stela presents a decree issued in Egypt that praises Ptolemy V for his achievements and states that a statue will be set up in his honour. The text further decrees that the king’s birthday and coronation date be celebrated with festivals and sacrifices. The Rosetta Stone was a landmark in understanding Egyptian culture. It was written in two languages, Greek and Egyptian, and three scripts. A script is a writing style using a particular alphabet. The scripts included Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Egyptian demotic. In antiquity, all Egyptians used one language to communicate; however, priests and many elites used hieroglyphics and the common people of Egypt used demotic as their form of writing.

For years, archaeologists were unable to decode the writing of Egyptian hieroglyphics, but the Rosetta Stone gave them the answers they were looking for. The same passage was inscribed on the stone three times, in three different scripts. This allowed English scientist, Thomas Young and French scholar, Jean-François Champollion to decode the Egyptian hieroglyphic script. Thomas Young started the process by decoding a few symbols, but Jean-François Champollion is credited with deciphering the majority of the Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet using his knowledge on the ancient Greek language. At last, the culture of the Egyptians could be understood in its full context and the inscriptions on tombs, pyramids and other structures could be read. This was a momentous moment, not only for scholars, but the Egyptians as well. It allowed them to further understand their past and read the inscriptions of their late kings and queens. In the end, you could say that Pierre Bouchard, the French soldier who uncovered the Rosetta Stone, was just as lucky as Indy.

Written by Monique Gill for Adventures in Pop Culture Archaeology taught by Dr. Lisa Hodgetts, Western University.

MOA’s Edu-Kit

What’s an Edu-Kit you ask?

The MOA Educational Kit (“Edu-Kit” for short) is full of resources and artifacts that anyone can rent.  Containing over 30 artifacts, a teacher’s guide, and reading resources, the Edu-Kit is an excellent tool for elementary school teachers, homeschooling groups, or youth groups with an interest in history and archaeology.  It’s great for exploratory learning and is a way to bring the museum into your classroom.

edu-kit guide, teachers resource

Resource Guide

Starting with the Resource Guide is the best way to get the most our of the Edu-Kit.  The Guide provides a stress-free way to use the Edu-Kit materials in your group.  Lesson plans on First Nations History and Archaeology are included along with customizable PowerPoint slides on a USB drive and artifact identification tools.  The Guide also includes additional history information for grades 6-8 or advanced learners, worksheets, and activity pages, along with First Nations myths and legends, and project ideas.


In addition to the Guide, the Edu-Kit includes a variety of books suitable for learners from 6 to 14 years old.  The books are full of different materials you can use to complement the lesson plans in the guide and include colouring pages, traditional songs, historical information, a biography of the Jury Family, and research materials for archaeology and history projects.

reference books, edu-kit

The most exciting part of the Edu-Kit- the artifacts. Each of the artifacts is a genuine, irreplaceable piece of history and date from the Paleo-Indian Period (11000-9000 B.C.E.) to the Late/Terminal Woodland Period (900-1600 C.E.), and vary in material and purpose. The kit includes artifacts such as pottery sherds, ceramic pipes, animal bone ornaments, and stone projectile points.

artifacts, edu-kit

The Edu-kit is ideal for students who work at their own pace and is also an excellent option for groups on a tight budget.  The EduKit is available to rent for $25/2 weeks. If you are interested in renting our Educational Kit, contact Katie, our Learning Coordinator.
Please note that due to the fragile nature of the artifacts included the Edu-Kit must be picked up and dropped off at the museum, shipping is not possible.

Vikings of L’Anse aux Meadows

Frequently Axed Questions About the Vikings of L’Anse aux Meadows

archaeology, Newfoundland, L_Anse_aux_Meadows, Vikings

Did Vikings come to the New World? Yes. Are we talkin’ Ragnar and Lagertha? No. What’s a L’Anse aux Meadows? Newfoundland’s L’Anse aux Meadows is a Canadian National heritage site and it was also declared a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1972 (Kristensen & Curtis 2012, 70). It is marketed for archaeological tourism that focuses on the fact that it is the first and only pre-Colombian Norse settlement in North America. In addition to viewing the ruins and re-creations of Norse structures, visitors who make the 12hr drive north from St. John’s can participate in “traditional” Viking games, arts and crafts (Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism). The site is also notable for having been occupied by numerous Indigenous peoples for thousands of years (Kristensen & Curtis 2012, 71). Despite this, public interest in the Norse dominates the narrative of the site.

Image of L'Anse Aux Meadows foundations
Credit: Torbenbrinker, Wikicommons 2012

L’Anse aux Meadows is a site that is of interest to archaeologists and historians. Centuries before Christopher Columbus set sail in 1492, Norse ships landed in the New World. The Norse, also known as Vikings, were a Scandinavian civilization of raiders and traders that crossed the Atlantic between 800-1300 CE (Common Era) (Suthren 2009, 42). Before there was physical evidence of the Norse in North America, indications were read in the 14th century Groenlendinga Saga (Wallace 2009, 116). These tales recount the voyage of Icelandic explorer, Lief Eriksson, who described the lands of Helluland (Flat Stone Land), Markland (Wood Land) and Vinland (Possibly translated as Grape Land). Sea routes and geographic descriptions suggest these are Baffin Island, Labrador and Newfoundland respectively (Suthren 2009, 44). Furthermore, portrayals of conflict with a group of “skraelings” (Foreigners/Barbarians) in Vinland point to the ancestors of the Innu and Beothuk who inhabited the Labrador and Newfoundland area during the period. The descriptions in the saga fuelled archaeological debate that led to the 1960 discovery of a Norse site at L’Anse aux Meadows by the husband and wife team of Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad and archaeologist Anne Stein Ingstad (Suthren 2009, 45). Their excavations throughout the 1960s revealed Norse artifacts, remnants of sod buildings and iron forges.

Although the Indigenous history of the site is not represented prominently in the tourist marketing and archaeological investigations, pre-contact archaeological research has revealed rich activity in the area dating back six thousand years from the present. These hunter-gatherer excavations uncovered stone tools and ways of life from numerous Indigenous cultures (Kristensen & Curtis 2012, 71). The proliferation of Indigenous archaeological material in the area demonstrates that although L’Anse aux Meadows helped to challenge the notions of what it means to “discover” the New World by predating Columbus, it must be emphasized that people had been living in the area for generations and contributing to Canadian heritage.

Written by Clayton Needham for Adventures in Pop Culture Archaeology taught by Dr. Lisa Hodgetts, Western University.


Kristensen, Todd J., and Jenneth E. Curtis. 2012. “Late holocene hunter-gatherers at L’anse aux meadows and the dynamics of bird and mammal hunting in Newfoundland.” Arctic Anthropology, 49 (1): 68-87.

Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism. “L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site,”, Accessed February 10, 2016.

Suthren, Victor. The Island of Canada: How Three Oceans Shaped Our Nation. Toronto: Thomas Allen Publishers, 2009.

Wallace, Birgitta. 2009. “L’Anse aux Meadows, Leif Eriksson’s Home in Vinland.” Journal of the North Atlantic, 2 (sp2): 114-25.

Changing Landscapes: London Parks

Springbank and Victoria Parks are two well know London Parks.  The archaeology of these parks reveals a history that stretches over 12,000 years in London that includes aboriginal, pioneer, and early military functions. With new development and reuse of our landscape,  London’s history can be studied through excavated archaeological sites, archived stories, maps, and photographs.  Part of the Changing Landscapes exhibit at MOA, Springbank and Victoria Parks illustrate how our use of the land has changed over time.

Springbank Park, Byron Ontario

London Parks - Springbank Park including Northern Hotel 1880
The Pumphouse complex, including the Northern Hotel, in 1880 before the flood in 1883.

Located in Byron Ontario, Springbank Park is a multi-use park consisting of gardens, nature trails, bicycle paths, grassed and natural areas along the Thames River. Springbank park is part of the Springbank Cultural Heritage Landscape and is highly valued by Londoners since its history and memories weave the past with the present while contributing to the community’s sense of identity and rich cultural fabric. Through historical research and archaeological findings, we can piece together the history of Springbank Park and it’s changing landscape.

Pre- Contact Aboriginal Occupation

Over the past two decades, park improvements have contributed to an increase in archaeological knowledge of the site. Excavations lead by Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants in London Ontario have revealed that Springbank Park was occupied on numerous occasions over thousands of years from the late Middle Archaic Period (3050-2550 B.C) to the Late Woodland Period (A.D. 900- 1650). One site within the park located on the Thames River revealed over 6800 Aboriginal artifacts, animal bones, and plant fragments. This particular site was occupied on multiple occasions during the Middle Archaic (3500- 2550 B.C.), Late Archaic (1500- 500 B.C.), and Middle Woodland (400B.C- 500 A.D.), and Late Woodland periods (1400-1650 A.D.).

Euro-Canadian Occupation

As many as five 19th and 20th century Euro- Canadian archaeological sites have been located in Springbank Park.  Interestingly, the discovery of these sites are attributed to picnic goers visiting the park as opposed to archaeologists. Artifacts found during excavations include structural items (nails, window glass), table ceramics, and kitchen related items.

Early Park

Springbank Park - Amusement park prior to Storybook Gardens

In 1914, the Springbank Amusement Park was opened and featured a cannon ball roller coaster, merry-go-round, bowling alleys, shooting gallery, and Ferris wheel, among other thrills.  However due to lackluster performance, the park eventually closed and was removed by 1942.

In 1958, Storybook Gardens open to serve the families of London and the surrounding area.


Victoria Park, London Ontario

Sitting Prominently in the heart of London, Victoria Park attracts thousands of visitors each year. With known Pre-Contact remnants, military history, and the remains of an earlier park, the archaeology of Victoria Park reveals layers of London’s history that spans thousands of years.

Discovered in London Parks - Victoria Park
Flow Painted Ewer found during excavations, reconstructed.

Archaeological fieldwork conducted by D.R. Poulton & Associates has continued at intervals in Victoria Park over the last 18 years. The vast majority of archaeological remains uncovered relate to the British Military occupation of the site between 1840-1853 and 1861-1869 then the early park landscape design features. The high level of preservation on this site provides interesting details such as some interior walls in the barracks were covered in whitewashed plaster and some were covered in red plaster.

Since the discovery of what lies under the lush canvas of Victoria Park, archaeological excavations are undertaken before the city makes any improvements to the park. This is done to ensure the park’s historical layers are preserved. In addition to supporting the archaeological fieldwork, the City has erected plaques in Victoria Park to commemorate the history of the property. To date, excavations have recovered hundreds of thousands of artifacts which will eventually find its new home in the collections of Museum London.

To discover more about London Parks, come in to see the Changing Landscapes: Unearthing London’s Past exhibit to see the complete timeline of Springbank Gardens and Victoria Park along with additional photos, and excavated materials.

We are now in the final week of MOA’s Feature Exhibit Changing Landscapes: Unearthing London’s Past.  Don’t miss your last chance to check out this exhibit before it closes on March 21st and explore the course of London’s 12,000 year history.

London Parks - Springbank park pump house (1)