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The Law of Superposition

Superposition is a relative dating method that looks at the layers of soil beneath the Earth’s surface. Layers of soil that are younger are found on top of layers of soil that are older.  The Law of Superposition isn’t only used by archaeologists, though – it is also very important to other scientists like paleontologists and geologists.

At first superposition might seem pretty simple: older things on the bottom, newer things on the top. But what happens if something moves the soil around, like a farmer’s plow or an animal burrowing into the earth?  That is when things can get a little tricky.

A good way to think about superposition is to imagine a messy desk, full of four weeks of mail!  Say one day you need to find a letter from three weeks ago in those layers of envelopes, how will you know where to look in the pile when there are two weeks’ worth of newer mail on top? To get to the letter from three weeks ago, you will have to dig and sift through the other weeks before you can find the one you are looking for.  When you’ve found it, there will still be about a week of even older mail left in the desk. Read more

Five Ways to Date Old Things: An Introduction to Archaeological Dating Methods

When archaeologists talk about dating, they aren’t talking about who they took out to dinner last night. Instead archaeologists are talking about how they find out the age of the artifacts and sites they study.

How do you think archaeologists date artifacts and sites? You may have answered “carbon dating.” And you’re right! Carbon dating, or radiocarbon dating, is one very common method that archaeologists use, but it’s not the only one.

In Archaeology there are two types of dating: Absolute Dating and Relative Dating Read more

We’re Hooked on Archaeology

The staff at MOA wanted to share how we became hooked on archaeology.  We would love to hear how you got hooked on archaeology too, so please leave us your story in the comment section below!

 

Joan, Executive Director

Gilmore
Gilmore

Some of my earliest memories as a child are the many family visits we took to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum and the RCMP Museum.  I can still clearly visualize many of the exhibits that fascinated me as I imagined what life must have been like so many years ago.  My interest in people and cultures led me to Anthropology in university, but it was my first field course in archaeology that set me on my career path.  We were excavating a bison pound site and the experience of uncovering the bone bed and tools needed to hunt these massive animals and survive on the prairies was exciting. Read more

Changing Landscapes: Unearthing London’s Past

Bird's Eye of Victoria Park
Birds Eye View sketch of the Barracks.
Courtesy of D.R. Poulton & Associates

 

Our changing landscapes can reveal much about how communities develop and we can learn much about London’s past by studying how our landscape has changed.

Did you know that London Ontario contains hundreds of archaeological sites scattered throughout the city? Some of these sites might even be located in your neighborhood.  A new exhibit at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology will explore London’s Changing Landscapes and provide insight on how archaeology is conducted.  The early history of London 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. Read more

Exhibit Redevelopment

MOA is seeking input to guide plans for exhibit redevelopment and renewal.

Gallery (2)

As most OAS members know, many Ontario archaeologists can trace the beginnings of their working lives to the Museum of Ontario Archaeology (MOA) at Western University. The Museum continues to offer programs in archaeology to southwestern Ontario students and to the public at large, and the London Chapter of the Society still holds its meetings at the Museum.

Sustainable Archaeology is now adjoined to the Museum although it will operate independently for several more years. The innovative technologies at Sustainable Archaeology present exciting opportunities for the Museum to refresh its public programming and exhibits, both inside and outside in the Lawson village. – Read more

Can you dig it? Ontario Doug on an archaeological adventure!

Ontario Doug
Ontario Doug

Hi everybody! Ontario Doug here with exciting news about a recent excavation I went on with MOA’s curator Nicole Aszalos. We visited the Davidson Site near Parkhill this past June, and they even let me help with the excavations. It’s great to learn about history up close and I was eager to get my hands dirty!
The Davidson site is inland from Lake Huron on the Ausable River, and we got to work with Dr. Chris Ellis, Ontario Archaeologist and Professor at the University of Western Ontario. Dr. Ellis and his crew were looking at an old First Nations Site dating between the Late Archaic and Early Woodland period in Ontario. Did you know Dr. Ellis’ specialty focuses on the Late Archaic time period of about 3000-4500 years ago? Read more

What’s this Point?

Identifying a Fluted Point Donated to MOA

Paleo point recently donated to MOA.
Paleo point recently donated to MOA.

 

A couple months ago, a beautiful Paleo Period projectile point was donated to MOA. MOA’s curatorial team conducted further research and would like to share why this point is so interesting to us.

Projectile points from the Paleo Period are hard to come by in comparison to points from the later Archaic and Woodland Periods. This is due, in part, to the living conditions and resources available to people during this time. During the Paleo period, people lived in small bands following a nomadic lifestyle which means they were continually moving from place to place, often following the migration of their food. Read more

Context in Archaeology

Context in Archaeology or “where did it come from?” is one of the most important questions archaeologists ask.  One of the primary philosophies in archaeology is reconstructing daily life of human history and prehistory through material remains. Although one artifact can outline the potential age of a site and its trade relations between communities, it cannot tell you the bigger picture of how the object is understood and what it means to the daily life of the people unless you look at its association with the environment and other material remains that surround it.

So how do we look at context in archaeology? The stratigraphy (the layering of soils and remains) of a site and the objects within each layer are examined in order to understand the meaning of the object and its association to the site. Soil develops layers over time; therefore objects found in one layer are considered to be related and date to a similar time of use, while objects found in another layer, either above or below, are deposited at an alternate time and indicate a different period of use. Read more

Burial Investigations

An excerpt from Before and After: A Test of the Reliability of Surface Assessments of Mortuary Features by Michael W. Spence. KEWA Newsletter of the London Chapter, Ontario Archaeological Society. November & December 2013. 13-7 & 8. Page 17-23.**

There is a long history of burial investigation in Ontario. At present the discovery of possible human remains triggers a sequence of procedures required by the Coroner’s Act, the Cemeteries Act (Revised) of 1990, and the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act of 2002 (see Carruthers 1999). The discovery must be reported to police and/or a coroner, who will initiate an investigation conducted by a forensic anthropologist. There are six individuals in Ontario currently approved to do these investigations. Each of us works with a Forensic Pathology Unit and a Supervising Coroner. Read more

Women Pioneers of Archaeology

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, archaeology was digging its roots as a scientific, methodological discipline. Historically, archaeology was mainly a male dominated career and women often did not stand at the forefront of archaeological discoveries. Often women who supported the work received little public recognition making the achievements of the following women stand out all the more.

Harriet Boyd Hawes

Harriet Boyd Hawes (1871-1945)

This well-educated American majored in Classical Studies and was fluent in Greek. After earning her degree, she rode around the island of Crete on the back of a mule (often alone) while looking for ancient sites. In 1901, she discovered Gournia, the first Minoan town site ever unearthed and she supervised excavations for three years. She was able to publish her findings in a highly illustrated report which is still consulted this day. She is noteworthy for her classification of artifacts and using ethnographic parallels of Cretan rural life during her time. Read more