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Archaeology Field Kit

MOAs resident archaeologist Ontario Doug and his tools

Have you ever wondered what tools archaeologists use and why they are important?  Ontario Doug is helping answer those questions by sharing the contents of the professional archaeologist’s tool kit.

The most iconic tool in an archaeologist’s field kit is the trowel.  Trowels allow archaeologists to carefully clear thin layers of soil making it easier to reveal features in the ground.  At the Lawson Site, a common feature archaeologist’s find are post moulds which look like dark circular stains in the ground.  An archaeologist needs to have a good eye to catch the changes in soil colour when excavating. Read more

The Thornton Abbey Project

The Thornton Abbey Project – One Curators Journey in Archaeology

By Nicole Aszalos, Musuem of Ontario Archaeology Curator

For the month of June, I spent most of my days out of the office and in the trenches at Thornton Abbey in North Lincolnshire England. Since this was my first time in England, I wanted to experience as much as I possibly could. To do this, I left a few days early to travel York and Leeds to gain an understanding and appreciation of history I was hoping to unearth. And being the Harry Potter fan that I am, I just had to venture on a day touring The Shambles, an opportunity that the nerdiness in me fully appreciated.

Nicole at The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds. Also had the opportunity to shoot a crossbow here which was a cool experience.
Nicole at The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds. “I also had the opportunity to shoot a crossbow here which was a cool experience.”

My goal in York and Leeds was to gain an understanding of the museums and their presentation of history since this is something I am passionate about.  I spent my days touring museums and historic sites such as York Minister, York Castle Museum, and the Royal Armouries in Leeds just to name a few. It was exciting to see how interactive these museums were with engaging the visitor in history.  The museums I visited created immersive experiences by combining both historic objects and modern technology in their displays. One of the most immersive and unsettling experiences happened while exploring the dungeons of York Castle Museum where projections of actors representing some of the most notorious people hung at the gallows played in each cell.  Being the active person I am I also spent a couple hours hiking historic paths including what remains of the Roman Wall in York. Read more

Southdale Site Longhouse

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 Southdale Site Longhouse

(1988 Volume 10, Number 1)

An intriguing page of the London area’s early history was unearthed in south London during July with the Museum’s salvage excavation of the Southdale site on Southdale Road.  Of particular interest to Museum archaeologists was the discovery of a 14th or 15th century Neutral longhouse that measured an incredible 53 metres (174 feet) in length.  While larger longhouses have been found in other parts of the province, the Southdale house becomes the largest prehistoric structure ever documented in the London area.  This unusual find has revealed a hitherto unknown aspect of prehistoric Neutral settlement patterns, yet as often happens in archaeology, we have come away with more questions than answers. Read more

The Attawandaron Discoveries

by Marjorie Clark
(Part 3 of a 3 part series)


This article, part 3 of this history series, was previously published in the Puslinch Pioneer, 2015 and re-printed here with permission from the author, Marjorie Clark and PuslinchToday


The Huron First Nation called their southern neighbours “Attawandaron”, meaning “People of a slightly different language”. The French labelled those same people “Neutrals”, as they remained neutral between the Huron and Iroquois.

The Attawandaron or Neutrals inhabited dozens of villages in Southwestern Ontario stretching along the north shore of Lake Erie from the Niagara Peninsula to the Detroit River, perhaps as far north as Toronto in the east and Goderich in the west.

A semi-nomadic society, the Neutrals lived in villages, which would usually be abandoned after about twenty years. When the game, the soil and the wood in an area became depleted, the area would be left to regenerate and the village would relocate to a new spot. The largest Neutral village site in Wellington County and perhaps in Ontario, covering thirteen acres, was in the Badenoch section of Puslinch, on the east side of Morriston, lot 32, concession 8. The other one situated within the Badenoch area was on lot 28, rear of concession 8, the former McPhee farm.

In 1615-1623, some of Samuel de Champlain’s men travelled south from Midland to meet the Neutrals and in 1625-1626, Etienne Brulé spent the winter among them. A Récollet priest, Father Joseph de la Roche Daillon described them in a letter dated July 18, 1627. At the time, there were approximately 40,000 Neutrals Read more

Sir William Flinders Petrie

Sir Flinders Petrie, 1903
Sir Flinders Petrie, 1903

Sir William Mathews Flinders Petrie is responsible for making archaeology the scientific discipline it is today.

Archaeology in popular media is frequently portrayed as a treasure hunt. Many popular characters perpetuate this image, perhaps most famously Indiana Jones, a professor of archaeology who travels the globe in search of precious artifacts, which he obtains by any means necessary, and at anyone’s expense, with little regard for context beyond the value of the object. Although this is a misleading image of archaeology today, in its early years the discipline really was more like treasure hunting than science. Sir William Mathews Flinders Petrie is the man responsible for taking the first steps towards making archaeology the scientific discipline it is today. Read more

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). Read more

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! Read more

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 Read more

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. Read more

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. Read more