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Changing Landscapes: London Parks

The archaeology of Springbank Park and Victoria Park reveals a history that stretches over 12,000 years in London and includes indigenous, 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.  As 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, and 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 contribute 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 its changing landscape. Read more

Changing Landscapes: Kensal Park Norton Site

Imagine you are next up at bat in the baseball diamond in Kensal Park. Did you know you are also standing on the remains of a 15th century Iroquoian village officially known as the Norton Site?

Kensal Park – Norton Site

The Norton site was brought to the attention of Canadian archaeologist William Wintemberg in the early 1920’s when he was conducting extensive surveys at the Lawson Site. Although he mentions this discovery in his report of the Lawson excavations, no fieldwork was attempted at the location. At the time, the Norton family had been continually farming the adjacent land since the 1800’s and had recently acquired the land where the site is located.

Kensal Park finds, Changing Landscape Exhibit

The site was later rediscovered in 1987 in connection with a proposed water main being built in the north end of the park. The survey, conducted by Archaeological Services Inc. from Toronto, recovered a sample of artifacts that were similar in time to that of the Lawson Site. Further investigation revealed nine longhouses, a palisade, and one midden dating 1400-1450AD. In addition to flaked stone projectile points, bifaces, ceramics, and groundstone tools, worked bone items such as awls, beads, and a perforated antler object were recovered. Based on the evidence, the people living on site are identified as Ancestral Neutral.

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Family Day 2016

Family Day 2016 new

Since the first Family Day was observed on February 18, 2008, many Ontarians have enjoyed taking advantage of the holiday to spend time with their family and explore their communities.  Family Day 2016 falls on February 15th and you don’t have to look any further than MOA for something fun to do as we continue our tradition of hosting a Family Fun Day filled with wonderful indoor family activities.

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Families will be able to listen to and share stories with Mi’kmaq storyteller Nina Antoine-Ogilvie as well as explore and shop at First Nations Craft Vendors throughout the day!  Children can discover the secrets to archaeological digs by uncovering and mapping chocolate chips in our Cookie excavation and explore the importance of First Nations Wampum as a means of communication through our wampum activity. Read more

What’s in a Collection?

Help preserve our collection with the Adopt an Artifact program

The recent discovery of Beatrix Potter’s Kitty in Boots in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Beatrix Potter archive highlights the tremendous challenge museums can face in managing their collection and the information about them. With often thousands of objects and documents held in trust within museum collections the task of knowing not only what’s in the boxes but where in the museum things are located often falls to a select few people.

Museums hold their collections in trust for the public, and that responsibility includes not only caring for the collection but making the information and knowledge about it accessible.  Having worked with and for museums for over 15 years, I’ve seen examples of extraordinary collections management processes as well as “We don’t know what we’ll do if (fill in name) retires.  They’re the only person who knows where everything is.” Read more

Changing Landscapes: Archaeology in London

Introduction and Summerside Site

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Welcome to our four-part blog series titled Changing Landscapes that takes us on the journey into London’s archaeological past! Although there are hundreds of archaeological sites located throughout London and its surrounding area, we are going to focus on four sites in this series. These sites are featured in our feature exhibition Changing Landscapes: Unearthing London’s Past until April 2016 and highlights archaeology in London.

Before we dive into specific sites, let’s consider why these sites are excavated. The archaeological process in Ontario is not as simple as picking up a trowel and digging a square! The process is guided by rules and regulations set by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport under the Ontario Heritage Act. Since 1974, this act has defined the process that evaluates, investigates, and manages the cultural heritage resources of our province. Read more

Elsie Jury: Pioneering Local Archaeology

Elsie Jury Typing Notes in the Field
Elsie Jury typing notes in the field

The career of Dr. Elsie Jury is just as fascinating as the career of her husband, Wilfrid Jury, and she played a huge role in fostering the acceptance of women in Ontario archaeology!

Elsie was of Irish and Scottish decent; her parents had immigrated to Millbank (Mornington Township) in Perth County in the early 19th century.  Her father was a doctor and her mother stayed at home to raise their family Read more

Carbon Dating aka Radiocarbon Dating

One of the dating methods most people think of when they talk about archaeology is radiocarbon dating. This is one of the absolute dating methods that archaeologists use to date an artifact. Only organic materials can be dated using this method, but archaeologists can also use it for inorganic artifacts sometimes too.  If an inorganic artifact, like pottery or stone tools, comes from the same layer of soil as an organic artifact, like plant remains or bone tools, archaeologists can use the age of the organic artifact to assign an approximate age to the inorganic artifacts as well.

Even though radiocarbon dating is a pretty well known technique not all archaeologists that have organic samples are able to do it, or perhaps more importantly, the funds to do it. It can cost over $600 to run these kinds of special scientific tests so sometimes archaeologists need to rely on other dating techniques instead.

The science behind it all… Read more

Dendrochronology, a.k.a. Tree Ring Dating

With fall coming to a close, there is no better time to talk about tree rings and their use in archaeology.

You probably know that trees have rings (which you can see and count when you look at a stump after a tree has been cut), but did you know that the rings of a tree let you know how old it is? Tree ring dating allows archaeologists to date when a tree was cut. The method was developed in the early 20th century by A.E. Douglass.  Douglass was an astronomer who worked at archaeological sites in the Southwestern United States.  By the 1960’s, tree ring dating spread to Europe.  Soon, with the rise of computers and statistical methods, scientists, like archaeologists, were able to create long series of tree ring dates that could be used to help figure out how old things are Read more

Index Types

Note: Archaeologists don’t dig up dinosaurs… or fossils… but we borrowed this method from our Paleontology friends.

Index fossils are fossils that are used to identify a particular period of time.  Archaeologists don’t look for fossils, but they can use other types of artifacts that don’t decay to do something very similar.

One type of artifacts archaeologists find are stone tools.  Stone doesn’t decay, so these artifacts can sometimes be the only thing archaeologists find at very old sites.  What archaeologists often find are small chips of stone or the debris (debitage) from making stone tools; other times they find a whole tool.  When archaeologists find a whole tool, they compare it to the index type from the different time periods.  If the artifacts match archaeologists can date the site the artifact was found at to that time period.

Chances are you’ve been using a simple version of this kind of method since you were a kid!  Do you remember this song from Sesame Street? Read more

Seriation

Next time you go to the mall take a look at the cars around you. Can you tell which ones are newer and which ones are older? You probably have a good idea of which ones are older even if you don’t know anything about cars. Take a look at the image below. Chances are, you can tell the 1981 Honda Accord apart from the 2014 model just by looking at them!

And what about clothes? If you saw someone wearing a patchwork sweater you can be sure they bought it in the 1970s. That’s because the things that people make and use change in appearance over time. One fashion style might be new and unpopular at first, but soon everyone is wearing it. Then, one day, the baggy patchwork sweater you used to love is no longer trendy and gets replaced by shoulder pads! Read more