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Ceramic Identification

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

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

Identifying qualities of Historic Ontario Ceramics: Read more

The origin of moccasins

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

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

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

Jury’s Life on the Farm

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

Written by Wilfrid Jury February 24, 1967

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

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

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

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

Mammoths & Mastodons

mammothsvsmastadon

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

What is a longhouse

longhouse MOA

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

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

Dream Catchers

dreamcatcher

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

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

Medicinal Teas

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

Examples of medicinal teas/plants and their uses:

  • Pitcher plant was used by Native groups as a tea made from the root as a specific cure for small pox. The treatment not only shortened the term of the disease but also prevented the formation of “pox” marks or scars.
  • Wintergreen berries were used by the Mohawks as well as the Ojibwes. They knew the teas, as a medicine as well as a healthful beverage. Wintergreen contains methyl salycliates, the active pain killers of aspirin, useful for colds, headaches, and to bring down fevers. Tea was used to treat kidney problems, colds, fever and asthma. Tea and berries were used to increase the mother’s milk flow and delay menstruation. Also used as an aromatic antiseptic to relieve sores and joint aches.
"FountainSpringsWintergreen" by Mike Serfas - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://bit.ly/1oCZdlu
“FountainSpringsWintergreen” by Mike Serfas – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://bit.ly/1oCZdlu

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From the Archives: Real Photo Postcards

Real Photo Postcards 1899-1930s

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Real Post Card and Cabinet card-3

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

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

Real Post Card and Cabinet card-4

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Staff Only: Behind Scenes Part 2

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

The Planning

Roots Nation (3)

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

The Preparation Read more

Work Study Profile: Nicole

Nicole_Braden

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

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