Archaeologists can encounter a lot of problems when looking at the archeology of maple sugar. Since archaeologists study material remains from human activity, logically there needs to be material remaining to study. Unfortunately, the seasonal and temporary nature of sugaring activities leaves often leaves little for archaeologists to analyze.
That is why archaeologists can find themselves categorizing a site based on what isn’t there instead of what is. For example let’s look at a site that was excavated in the 1960’s in Glencarry County which was dubbed a pre-historic Iroquoian sugar bush site. This wasn’t done because there was a wealth of information pointing towards the camp being used as such, but because of the lack of post-European contact trade materials, or really any materials for that matter. The absence of artifacts led the archaeologists to think that it was used seasonally instead of continuously. Also, large deposits of ash were thought to indicate the extensive use of hearths in the area.
Both Indigenous traditional knowledge and historical accounts attest to the existence of maple sap harvesting in the past. As there is no certainty about when and where it started, it can be said to have been done since time immemorial. The sap would have been collected in birch bark containers and then been processed into syrup or sugar by constant heating to evaporate the water in sap. Kettles and other technologies were adopted once they became more accessible through trade with European settlers.
This cultural exchange allowed for new innovations in processing to be developed, and these can be more easily identified in the archaeological record. In Michigan and Wisconsin, archaeologists have excavated the remains of ‘boiling arches’ at some indigenous sites from the early 20th century. These are ‘u’ shaped structures of stones packed with earth, with one open end to allow a fire tender entry into the fire box. These “arches” were an efficient replacement for kettles, as they permitted a more even distribution of a greater amount of heat (that was also better controlled), and for more steam to be allowed to escape during the boiling process. Instead of using a series of small kettles, people processed maple in a large rectangular metal pan held over the arch. This technology left behind a lot of archaeological evidence. This includes the unnatural arrangement of soil and stone, called the “borrow pit,” where the builders took the dirt they used to reinforce the arch, charcoal and ash deposits found near the opening of the arch from intermittent cleaning of the fire box, and various other materials, such as smoke stacks and support rods for the boiling box.
The history of the maple harvest is almost as rich as the delicious snacks we get from it. While we know that Indigenous people have always been central to this story, it can be difficult for archaeologists to identify cultural activities surrounding harvesting maple. To learn more about what archaeologist can say about prehistoric sugaring activities, visit the Museum of Ontario Archaeology’s temporary exhibit, “A Sweet Excavation”.
“Cleveland” was the affectionate name by which researchers at
McMaster University came to refer to a dog in their archaeological collections.
(Bathurst and Barta, 2004). Originally discovered on the Cleveland
archaeological site near Brantford, Ontario, the dog was an unusual find – a
complete burial recovered within what remained of a large ceramic pot. From the
robust markings on the skull and a distinctive bone called a baculum, or “penis
bone”, found among the remains, there was no doubt that Cleveland had been a
male. Minimal dental wear and almost no deterioration in the joints indicated
that he was likely no older than three or four years old at the time of his
death. Measurements of his limbs determined that he had likely once stood about
knee-height to an adult human.
Dogs are humanity’s oldest domestic companions, and recent research
confirms that they were present in North America over 10,000 years ago. (Perri
et al, 2018) Archaeological evidence of dog remains suggest that the
agricultural communities living in the Brantford area 450 years ago had complex
relationships with their dogs. While some were carefully buried whole and
undisturbed, as Cleveland was, other remains have been found burnt, broken, sometimes
polished around the edges from bouncing around in a boiling pot, scarred by
cuts or gnaw-marks, and scattered among the garbage heaps – or middens – within
the same communities. Some dogs, it seems, were invited to dinner, whereas
others were dinner.
There are things we can presume about ancient dogs that we cannot
see or confirm from archaeological evidence. We know from our relationships
with them today, as well as from historic accounts and traditional knowledge,
that dogs would have served many purposes in a community, from labourers to
companions. They would have been helpful on a hunt, and loyal guardians within
a village. They would have eaten scraps and garbage, controlling waste, and
driven away predators around a village or pests within the fields of crops. They
may even have helped as pack animals, prior to the arrival of the horse,
bearing burdens from one community to the next. Dogs feature in many
traditional narratives as loyal and helpful companions to humans in both life –
and in death.
Cleveland’s remains show that he suffered from a condition called
hypertrophic osteopathy, or HPO, a painful and obvious bone condition that may
have been caused by a reaction to lung-related infections such as pneumonia,
cancer, or tuberculosis. Thanks to modern veterinary medicine, HPO is condition
that is not seen often today and can be readily cured when it is. The
archaeologists were particularly interested in knowing whether Cleveland’s
condition was caused by tuberculosis, because TB is a zoonotic disease – that is, an infection that can be shared between
animals and humans. Therefore, they tested Cleveland’s bones for evidence of
tuberculosis DNA – and they found it. This told them two interesting things
about the relationship between humans and dogs in this ancient community.
First, Cleveland was cared for. With HPO and tuberculosis, he would have looked and acted very sick, with symptoms of TB such as weight loss, cough, and vomiting. The HPO would have swollen his paws and lower limbs, making them thick and painful and difficult to move. He likely would have required assistance eating and drinking and would not have been able to defend himself. The advanced state of the condition suggested that he’d lived with the condition for some time. His remains showed no evidence of cut marks, gnawing, nor any other indication of violence or abuse. This suggested to the archaeologists that Cleveland was able to rely on his human companions for food, protection, and care as his illness progressed. People in this ancient village cared for this dog in much the same way we do with our pets today.
Second, Cleveland’s condition potentially posed a great and unexpected danger to those who were caring for him. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that the World Health Organization still considers one of the top 10 causes of death, worldwide. (World Health Organization, 2018) Just as it can be passed from person to person, it can also be passed between humans and animals. Tragically, those who had cared so tenderly for this dog, may have become infected themselves, and in turn may have passed this deadly condition along to others in the community – human and canine, alike.
Despite his short and difficult life, Cleveland appears to have been tenderly cared for by his human companions. Almost 500 years later, his discovery has sparked over 20 years of research – from his archaeological recovery to historic, pathological, etiological, DNA, microscopic, and microCT research that has served to teach us all more about the conditions he and his human companions once lived in and the relationship that they once shared.
Dr. Rhonda Bathurst is the lead author on the research paper that this story is drawn from (you can read this article in full at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305440303001985). Dr. Bathurst wrote it during her PhD at McMaster University after her (re)discovery of the Cleveland dog remains in a locked cabinet in a basement archaeology lab. She collaborated with a fellow PhD candidate at the time, Jodi Barta, who was working in the newly built McMaster Ancient DNA Centre. Barta helped her to confirm the hunch she had about the dog’s primary condition – tuberculosis. Today Dr. Bathurst is the Executive Director of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, and is delighted to share this story about her favourite dog.
To read more about Cleveland, other research involving
this dog includes:
James A. Burns.
“The Dog Who Couldn’t Be.” Arch Notes,
73 (1973): 3–5. Print.
Hunnius, T. Von. “Using Microscopy to Improve a Diagnosis: an Isolated
Case of Tuberculosis-Induced Hypertrophic Osteopathy in Archaeological Dog
Remains.” International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, vol. 19, no.
3, 2009, pp. 397–405., onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/oa.989.
Technology is an integral part of our society. We spend countless hours checking our emails, browsing social media, and looking up ratings of places before we even visit them. We have the opportunity to connect with places across the world we may otherwise never have the opportunity to visit. The widespread accessibility of the internet allows museums the opportunity to present their collections online, making them more accessible and present within a wider community. With the quick advances in technology, it can be hard to stay up to date in the museum world. Online collections are one way of staying relevant with today’s technologically savvy generation. Read more
Welcome to a brand-new year at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology! I am honoured to start my first full year as the new Executive Director at MOA, and I am excited about what 2017 has in store for us. I follow in the footsteps of some incredible people who have had the honour of directing this unique facility, the last of whom – Joan Kanigan – left a strong foundation of policy development and infrastructure renewal that will allow us to begin the first stages of our merger with Sustainable Archaeology, the research and curation facility next door. The integration of SA will allow us to incorporate new and interactive technologies into our galleries and classroom, highlighting some of the innovative archaeological research being done at this state-of-the-art facility. Read more
Parents, the weather is slowly turning dark and grey. The opportunities for outdoor play are becoming harder to find. That’s why we’re sharing Archaeology Activities that you can do at home. Read on, download the tools, and have fun with your young adventurer.
Keeping kids entertained on rainy days can be difficult. Why not engage them in fun, educational activities, which can be done with only a few materials and simple instructions? Here are just two of the many activities you can do with your little ones that will keep them engaged and teach them about archaeology! Read more
MOA is pleased to announce the launch of six new and improved Edukits (for more detailed information on each portion of the Edukit, read our previous post). Teachers and other educators can now rent one or more of these kits designed to offer classroom activities and hands-on materials you can use when developing their Social Studies lesson plans. Each kit has been developed to meet the specific Ontario Curriculum points for grades 1 – 6. Read more
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.
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. Read more
Is your Young Explorer looking for a March Break Adventure?
A March Break Adventure is closer than you think at MOA’s Adventure through South America camp, offered from March 14-18, 2016. Campers will explore the peoples, environment, and animals of South America as they stamp their ‘passport’ with days of exploration!
March Break starts on Monday with a Welcome to South America party, where we will explore the countries and geography of the region while playing some great games. On Tuesday, we’ll be checking out South America’s Food and Culture! Not only will our Explorers learn about South American foods, they will also become farmers and plant their own bean crop. We’ll be watching our beans grow throughout the week before our Explorers take their plants home. Read more
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.
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
Why should you volunteer as an Education Assistant at MOA?
Do you enjoy making crafts, playing games, and helping children explore, discover and learn? If the answer is yes, then being an Educational volunteer at MOA might be for you.
Educational programming aims to create an engaging and interactive museum experience for visitors of all ages and volunteer opportunities within this area are ideal for those who enjoy working with children and have experience with or hope to go into teaching. It is also an excellent opportunity for those interested in gaining experience in museums, as it allows the opportunity to interact directly with museum audiences.
Benefits of volunteering with Museum Education and Interpretation: