Could the world’s oldest dress be the coolest Archaeological discovery of 2016? Recent work by Alice Stevenson and Michael Dee shows that a dirty linen cloth excavated in 1913 by Sir Flinders Petrie is actually a dress. But not just any dress, the worlds oldest woven garment! The Tarkhan dress dates to around 3200 BC and was once worn by a female Egyptian teenager of royal descent. It was found in a First Dynasty Tomb south of Cario and is made out of flax plants that were spun, then woven into linen. Linen was the fabric of choice in ancient Egypt; many people were wrapped in it during the mummification process and it was often given as a symbolic offering after death. The dress was tailored, meaning that it was not draped or tied to the body, but cut and fitted. It had a V-neck and pleated sleeves and bodice. Signs of wear at the elbow and armpits show that it was a beloved item worn in life, then brought into the after world. It was placed in the tomb folded and inside out to allow the detail around the cuffs and neckline to stay intact through the years.
Dating the Dress
The dress was overlooked by archaeologists in the early 1900’s and sat in museum storage, dirty and entwined with other textiles for years. It was discovered in 1977 when the textiles were sent for cleaning and conservation. In 2016, a small sample of the dress was sent for radiocarbon dating. This process established that the dress was older than previous estimates, and was made shortly before the First Dynasty.
Doesn’t it make you wonder what exciting finds are waiting to be discovered in the collections right here at the Sustainable Archaeology facility?
Thank you to Dr. Lisa Hodgett’s Adventures in Pop Culture Archaeology class, Western University
If you’ve ever been really excited to go to a museum exhibition only to discover later that part or all of the display was made up of replicas – you’ll know that, for some reason, people tend to feel differently about the “real thing” than they do about the “copy” or the “fake.” People have fascinating relationships with things and their copies. Sometimes we don’t know or understand where our own impressions of authenticity come from, or why we feel better about certain modes of representation and replication than we do about others. While some might really enjoy looking at a 3D model of an artifact on a screen – zooming in to take a closer look, flipping it around to see its different sides – others might prefer seeing the original artifact in a glass case in a museum. Still others might prefer to hold a 3D printed replica, able to run their fingers over the surface of the object and heft it in their hand. A lot of this is pretty subjective.
There is no doubt that new 3D technologies are impressive in their ability to mimic the originals – but are these replicas and representations really useful beyond the “wow” factor? How do experiences with originals and copies compare with one another? Does making a copy (either digital or physical) change our view of the original artifact in any way? Ultimately, can we generate more meaningful experiences with digital and physical facsimiles?
In partnership with the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project, Sustainable Archaeology, and the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, I explore the nature of archaeological objects and their digital copies in two localised contexts – one in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the Canadian Arctic (Banks Island, NWT) and the other in Southwestern Ontario. With the help of the wonderful folks at Sustainable Archaeology, I have been able to take two collections of artifacts (provided by the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project and Museum of Ontario Archaeology) and expand those collections to include digital photographs, 3D models, and 3D prints.
These collections have provided inspiration for dialogues with a diverse array of archaeological constituents including local Inuvialu it and First Nations community members (elders, adults, and youth), museologists, curators, and archaeologists. Overall, I hope to shed some light on how experiences, perceptions, and values differ amongst individuals.
While the majority of participants thus far have certainly demonstrated a strong interest in emerging 3D technologies, there is also a high diversity of opinion, both between and within communities, about the specific roles archaeological replicas should play. It will be interesting to see down the line how these views will shape what we choose to replicate and how.
Collection of artifacts, replicas, photographs and 3D models prepped for an interview at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, NWT. Photograph by Beth Compton.
Interview with Anne from the +Positive Voice Program at Nokee Kwe
My name is Anne and I am a woman who was lucky and proud to have been a part of the +Positive Voice program. Over the seven weeks I spent with the program’s director Summer and the women, I can truly say was a positive experience.
I have seen many programs for aboriginal woman, but this is a program where I have seen aboriginal woman stand in front of me and praise one another. This is why I wanted to be apart of the second session of +Positive Voice.
On the first day of the program we were asked why we wanted to be in +Positive Voice and my answer was “I heard from the women of the first group it was good, and I want to find my independence and not just be a mom anymore. I want to find me”.
Summer explained everything to us such as how the next seven weeks were to run and who our hopeful guests were to be. She was very coordinated, organized and excited about the second session and us. I can’t complain, I was pretty excited too.
We did a small exercise on the first day with a ball of rope, and we tossed it to whomever saying who we are and something about ourselves. When we were finished, Summer pointed out that we were all connected and that we share a bond. Mentally I laughed it off.
I never really stopped to think about having a true bond with other women until +Positive Voice. The first two weeks I found to be the most challenging for me personally. As it being the beginning of a relationship, especially between five women, my emotions got the best of me. And I am not an emotional person, but the bonding that was happening was intense and I didn’t realise it was taking place until the program was over.
We were introduced to different aspects of art, and artists and it opened my mind so much. I believe I live outside of the bubble, but the way that the artists express themselves is amazing. The colors, contemporary pieces, and stills are mind blowing. Everyone had a different opinion and were not held back from speaking their voice. I am that type of person and I felt like I finally found a piece of me.
We then dove into computers and Memes. I just sat there and looked at Summer with the oddest look ever and then turned to the computer with the same look. I raised my hand and asked the question that my face was giving the look too. and thankfully Summer and my classmates had a week to help me figure out what a Meme was and what I was suppose to do before the next assignment. If it wasn’t for the women I’d still be looking at the binder trying to figure out what a Meme is and how to use Canva. Once I was comfortable with creating Memes, Summer gave us cameras. Christmas came early.
Summer explained how they worked, and we had instructions in both our binders and the cases. For a starter, Summer sent us on a scavenger hunt to get use to the camera to see the different settings . I am also thankful for the other women, because we helped each other learn these technologies.
Now the fun part, taking photos of our own. I can honestly say my face lit up, and I know my soul did. But, with the photos we took, we needed to do a small piece about why we took that photo. Not a novel or anything, just a few words. I got stage fright. I couldn’t take a photo until our first snow fall. And on that beautiful Sunday morning I was up, out my door at 11, grabbed my Tim Hortons and hit the trails with my camera to start taking pictures. I was so happy and full of life, it’s hard to put into words. Walking around looking at nature and just seeing her as she is without noise. I found my peace. I found my stories. Actually they’re not stories, they are my feelings and perception.
+Positive Voice is just that. It doesn’t matter how you look at it, I have learned a lot about myself. I have been taught more then I thought I could learn. I formed a bond with more women in one place then I have in my 42 yrs. And I trust them. How many people can say that and mean it?
Summer has made a difference. Not only in myself. But my family. They see something different, they see the camera in my bag, they hear “I need another picture frame”, and they hear my voice more. Actually a lot of people do.
My dining room has turned into my own little art gallery. My twitter account is starting to grow and I’m more independent. With camera in tow I have my girls. I have me.
At the beginning I had said “I wanted to find me”. Want to know what happened?
I did find me…
I found the old me before I became a wife and mom. Misunderstood, judged, abused, mistreated and tossed aside
I found that I am a mom and I am proud of that and that will never change. My son is my every ounce and fiber. He is my everything and he knows it.
I found that the present me is loving of writing again and passionate about it. And photography is a new passion.
All together, Nokee Kwe has created an outstanding program. I am proud to have this chance to learn more as an adult and as a woman. Strength comes in numbers… And that’s proof from my sisters. Much Love
By: Amy St. John, PhD candidate in Anthropology, Western University
As an archaeologist, I believe we can access some of the day-to-day, face-to-face interactions of past people through the material culture they left behind. Ceramics are one of the most commonly found material culture types around the world and throughout time. There are many steps that go into ceramic making. Some of these include: gathering and refining clay, adding materials to that clay to make it more workable, forming that clay into a pot, then decorating, drying and firing that pot. Some of the steps in ceramic making, like exterior decoration, have been studied extensively by archaeologists trying to understand cultural connections in the past. Other steps, such as how people actually formed clay into pots, are more difficult to access. However, ethnographic evidence tells us that formation methods are often learned, passed on and maintained across generations, even as more visible decorative techniques change over time. So how can we access how people were forming pots out of clay?
My research explores the ceramic analysis potential of innovative micro CT technology available at the Sustainable Archaeology: Western, located next door to MOA. Micro CT uses X-rays to provide non-destructive, high resolution, fully 3D images of the interior and exterior of ceramics based on the density of materials. It can show us interior features in a unique way, augmenting traditional techniques that include destructive methods.
As a case study, I’ve scanned ceramic sherds from an archaeological collection that are part of a larger research project, directed by my supervisor Prof. Neal Ferris (Lawson Chair of Canadian Archaeology), related to a Late Woodland Borderland in southwestern Ontario dating to around 1100-1250 A.D. Micro CT is proving to be an extremely promising method for examining the interior features of ceramics. These include: voids/air pockets, micro folds in clay, and both intentionally added material known as temper and natural inclusions in clay, which you can see we can easily isolate in the 2D slices and 3D renderings that micro CT creates.
Patterns that we can see in these interior features often relate directly to the formation techniques potters used to make ceramics. I’m finding that on these borderland sites, there were several different ways of making pots that are visible in the scans. For example, some pots’ rims are folded over, while others have clay added on to the exterior.
So what I am demonstrating through the micro-analysis of ceramic craft is how micro CT can help us understand an often neglected aspect of this common artifact type: how people were using their hands and other tools to manipulate clay into pots. Using some of the most advanced technology available today, we can explore how the craft of making pots relates to communities, learning, tradition, and innovation over several generations in the past.
Trained as both an archaeologist and computer animator, Michael has spent his professional career immersed in the creative, technical and business roles of animation and visual effects (VFX) film and broadcast production. Returning to his archaeology roots twenty years later, Michael’s research focuses on the use of Virtual Archaeology (VA) to better inform archaeological and heritage research, dissemination, and mobilization. His interest is in VA epistemology, paradata and the experiential application of technology for archaeological knowledge construction.
Michael’s most recent completed research project explores the application of virtual reality in the (re)imagination of a 16th century Iroquoian Longhouse.
“What’s cool about Iroquoian longhouses in Ontario archaeology is that nothing survives of these once massive wooden structures except for the post hole stains in the ground, remains of fire hearths, storage pits or even burials within the disintegrated walls of these houses.” Using the archaeological evidence found in the ground, archaeologists make an educated guess as to how the longhouse once appeared as it stood. By coupling European historical accounts and Indigenous oral histories with archaeological data, Michael can stitch together a virtual 3D account of a typical longhouse.
This longhouse combines the interpretation of the cultural material available, modern methods of CGI and virtual reality production, and 3D scanned artifacts from the Lawson collections to provide visitors of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology a chance to explore the sights and sounds of what a potential longhouse might have looked and felt like within the 16th century in Southwestern Ontario.
In 2017, the museum plans to make this technology available for use to visitors to experience at the museum. Stay tuned for updates, stories, and new information relating to the use of virtual reality in the museum here through our notes, or on social media.
For more details on Michaels work check out A Day in Virtual reality here.
As part of our programs, we encouraged University students to contribute to our blog, based on what they were learning. In this week’s guest blog, Elizabeth McConkey. then a student in Western’s ANTHRO 2261 – Adventures in Pop Culture Archaeology, covered Kathleen Kenyon, an Archaeologist we would all benefit from knowing better.
Kathleen Kenyon, Archaeologist
Indiana Jones is one of the most well known movie franchises of all time. In the first installment of the series, with the Nazis hot on his trail, Indiana Jones equipped with his whip, shotgun, satchel and fedora sets out to uncover arguably the most significant archaeological find in all of history, the Ark of the Covenant. Despite having an affiliation with a museum and university, Indiana adds some unconventional aspects to the archaeologist’s job description. Such criteria include gun fighting and hand to hand combat. Despite the image that popular culture provides, the truth is that real archaeologists are quite different from Harrison Ford’s character. For example, British archaeologist Dame Kathleen Kenyon could not seem further from this portrayal of an archaeologist. Kenyon was a significant British archaeologist in the 20th century, taking part in excavations all over the world. She might not have been involved in gun fighting and car chases, but her career was nothing short of extraordinary.
As a significant female archaeologist, Kenyon defies the masculine image and stereotype that the Indiana Jones franchise reflects. A graduate of Oxford University in London England, Kenyon pursued a career in archaeology with a special interest in stratigraphy (the distribution of different soil types in the ground) (3). She created the concept of the baulk, which is now a very significant part of stratigraphic analyses in modern archaeology (3). A baulk is the wall or edge of an excavated area, which reveals the different layers of soil in the ground (4). Baulks are significant because they allow archaeologists to identify the different layers of the soil and thereby to determine the age of a site and categorize the artifacts into time periods.
Kathleen Kenyon at Jericho
Though Kenyon never set out to find the Ark of the Covenant, she did take part in significant excavations with a biblical theme. For example, she was greatly involved with the excavations at Jericho, a site located in Palestine and associated with the ancient Israelite’s (1). This site is not only significant because it is thousands of years old, but evidence collected by Kenyon suggests that it is the only site that has been inhabited continuously from the beginnings of the first human agricultural settlements until the present (2). The evidence that she collected shed light on the lives of those who inhabited the site in more ancient times. Her research records the development of the people of Jericho from their nomadic beginnings to their use more sophisticated year round settlements (2.Pg 269). Though nothing supernatural came with her finds, she certainly contributed a great deal to knowledge about the site.
Kenyon’s career was not lacking in excitement. Through the development of new archaeological techniques like the use of the baulk and her excavation of sites at Jericho, Kathleen Kenyon clearly made a large mark on the field of archaeology. Despite their differences, Kenyon was more like Indiana Jones than we might have expected at first glance.
References and Additional Resources:
Kenyon, Kathleen. 1955 “Some Archaeological Sites and the Old Testament: Jericho,” The Expository Times 66(12). 355-358.
Editor’s note: We’ll be sharing the Field School Experiences over the next weeks from students in the program. This week, meet Jeff Hardy.
Hi, my name is Jeff and this is me at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology here in London,Ontario, when I got to participate as a student in the recent “Un-field-school” carried out by Dr. Ferris at the Lawson site. As the son of a curio-collector, I was instilled with a strong interest in archaeology from an early age. However, it was not until my first field school experience at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology that I began to truly appreciate the complex processes, methods, and perspectives involved in defining and doing this thing known as archaeology.
designed not to dig up new areas of the site, but to help rehabilitate the Lawson site by ‘cleaning up’ past archaeology, mapping features, both ancient and the ones made by earlier archaeological fieldwork, and look at ways to sustain and preserve the site as a living museum, with an emphasis on long-term care. I chose to take this class after an eight-year hiatus from Western, as one of the final two credits I needed to complete the anthropology requirements on the double minor I am working towards.
My experience on this field school has been truly amazing, and has inspired me to pursue a major in anthropology and archaeology following the completion of my double minor this summer. The opportunity to use geophysical equipment such as the ground penetrating radar, resistivity meters, and total station for mapping purposes and to get an insight into the below ground features of the Lawson site was an incredible learning opportunity. The fact that the mapping we assisted on, along with the partial excavation we conducted of an area that was part of a past dig, was all part of the sustainability initiative for the Lawson site to help remediate and care for it, was just incredible. Remediating past archaeological actions and working to balance current uses of the site area while minimizing the loss of integrity for the site was an important goal of the field school. But so to was the idea we were helping to create a new narrative for the Lawson site, one that is inclusive of all the people and communities how value and differently understand what the Lawson site means in terms of heritage, and so offer a new perspective on what it means to be doing archaeology today. I also liked how the decision making process over what we were going to do next was fluid and always changing by the information we were finding, but remained shaped by the goals of the field school. It was wonderful to be a part of that discussion and decision making.
I encourage anyone with an interest in archaeology to visit the Lawson site. There are volunteer opportunities throughout the year, and a lot of learning to be had by touring the gallery, and by talking to the wonderful staff at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.
Editor:Gordon Nicotine-Sands, our 2016 Harvest Festival Pow-Wow Emcee, provides some information below on the origins of a pow-wow and its significance to First Nation’s peoples and some information on each of the dances that you’ll witness. You can find event details at the bottom of the post Key points to know .
What is a Pow-Wow:
The Pow-wow was originally a ceremony (amongst dozens that were designed to give thanks to Creator and the spirits for the many blessings found in everyday life) typically found in the western Plains of North America by many of the First Nation’s who inhabited the area. It is from these ancient practices that the modern day “Pow-wow” derives from, and has made its way to all points in North America. Today, the Pow-wow is a drug/alcohol free celebration of “life” through the expression of song and dance, where all are welcomed. The event is led and given direction by an Emcee, and an “Arena director”, who watches over the dance arena.
At a “Pow-wow” the use of Eagle Feathers (and other items from the eagle) is quite prevalent. First Nations people have governmental exemption (within reason) when it comes to the ownership of eagle feathers. In many Native Creation stories the “eagle” is represented as a messenger from the spirit world, and is also seen as a protector. It is considered an honour by most First Nations to adorn eagle feathers on their outfits, which are given in different ways by a competent individual depending on the territory. For the most part the recipient immediately attempts to take on the responsibility of dedicating their life to teachings set out by their own nation.
The Drum is an integral instrument for any gathering as singers use it to provide music for the event, for mainly the “dancers”, but also for everyone’s enjoyment. The Drum is sacred and considered to be the “heartbeat” of Mother Earth, and in combination with prayer and medicine’s it is said that the drum beat can be heard on the “other” side.
First Nations Men, Women, and Children showcase dance outfits referred to as “regalia”, and dance to various songs. These practises are spiritual-based and are meant to invoke a “spirituality” for everyone in attendance. Many First Nations people believe that these experiences are healthy for your mind/body/and spirit. Good feelings, positivism, and adrenaline are what people typically feel at a “Pow-wow”.
Although not a religious event per-se, (many Native ceremonies are held in First Nation territories and not for public view) several components of the singing and the dancing are considered to be not “man-made” and were given to the people by a higher power. It is this belief system that many participants hold true and keeps them respectful and humble. Through modernization, many Nations throughout North America have contributed several dance and singing styles through sharing and gift-giving. Many dances and song styles also originated in “societies” within First Nations where members were selected for admission based on fulfilling obligations and/or sacrifices. Many of these ‘societies’ still exist several hundred years after their creation. In addition to the singing and dancing, you will also find many authentic Native craft and food stands, friends and families laughing and sharing, and occasionally visiting dignitaries from the local community. Visitors are invited and encouraged to participate at different times in the program where some songs are designated for ALL people; not just First Nations.
Dance Styles and their Meaning that you’ll see at the 2016 Harvest Festival and Pow-Wow
A word on modern day dance styles: Although originally inspired by materials found in nature, some First Nations people have opted to replace many of the natural materials that have been used in outfit creation many years ago with a more durable selection of materials that stand up to the elements along with wear and tear. So it is not unusual to see materials such as yarn, ribbon, leather, metal works, for example, all of which can be found at fabric, and hardware stores, etc. It is the way that Native people fashion these items to their outfits that make them uniquely “First Nations”.
All men dancers use Breach-cloth type bottoms, bells, bead-work, and head pieces called a “roach” which are made from porcupine and deer tail hair.
The Men’s Traditional dance is a “warrior’s” dance that originated from the western plains. The dancers are distinguished by a circular item on the back known as a “bustle’ which is constructed of Eagle Feathers and other materials. The dancer tells the story of the warrior who may be on the hunt, or on the warpath. During this dance you will see the dancer crouching, looking off into the distance, looking at the ground, and forward bursts. The dancers regalia is adorned with items needed for not only battle but also for healing. Although some dancers stay true to ‘tribal’ colours and designs, the outfit is designed to the dancer’s preference. The dance style is accompanied by a slower-to-medium fast drum beat.
The Men’s Grass Dance is a dance that originated in the western plains where the landscape is void of trees and abundant with long grass. There are several origin stories on the dance with some tribes having warrior societies. Some believe that dancers cleared an area of an impending ceremony of all the grass. Others believe that it is a dance of acknowledgement to the power of items in nature such as the sweet-grass, used in nearly ALL native ceremonies. The dancers have long flowing yarn and ribbon on their outfits to mimic that long flowing grass blowing in the wind. It is accompanied by stepping and swaying. The dance style is accompanied by a medium-fast drum beat.
The Men’s Fancy Bustle Dance is another type of warriors dance used by young men and boys, and originated in the southern United States. The dance style is categorized by two “bustles” constructed of white turkey feathers and brightly coloured “hackle” feathers, which are worn at the base of the neck and back. It is an opportunity for young men and boys to showcase just how acrobatic, fast, and athletic they can be, which usually gets the crowds cheering. The dance is of course accompanied by a fast drum beat.
The Women’s Traditional Dance is a dance of honour, respect and inspiration. In many First Nation teachings, women are held in the highest regard. First, and foremost, for being givers of life, but also for other qualities and contributions that bind families and communities together, such as wisdom, strength, and pride. There are several “medicines” such as tobacco, sage, sweet-grass, etc. carried by the dancer. The dance is very stoic, with minimal movement. Typically there is detailed and high quality bead, fabric, ribbon and feather work put into the outfit. The dance is accompanied by a slower to medium-fast drum beat.
The Women’s Jingle Dress Dance originated from the Great Ojibway Nation of Northern Ontario and Minnesota, this special dance is considered to be “healing” in nature. It is believed to be given to the people from the sky-world, as a ceremony to help those who are in need of spiritual lifting. From its creation to modern day, dancers are still called upon whenever there is a member of the Pow-wow circle or community who are in need of spiritual help due to tragic and unfortunate circumstances. Young women who decide to take up the jingle dress dance are handed down protocol and teachings by senior dancers, explaining their roles and responsibilities when wearing the dress. The dress is also unique in its creation in that metal cones are fixating to the dress to create a “shook” type of sound which is said to be heard on the “other” side, just like the “drum”.
The Women’s Fancy Shawl Dance is relatively modern, and is a way for women to showcase how athletic, fast and light footed they can be. It has been nicknamed the ‘butterfly’ dance because of the wide and colourful shawl worn by the dancer. Emphasis is also put on the outfit design, with plenty of detailed, colourful and eye-catching patterns used in the ribbon and material work. It is unique in the way that it is the only dance style that doesn’t employ noisemakers, such as bells or jingles.
Editor: Our thanks to Gordon for his contribution to the blog and for providing such great information. For the event details and to stay current right up to your visit, head on over to our Pow-Wow site and bookmark it for future reference. You could always sign up to our e-newsletter and stay abreast of all the museum’s activities.
Key Points to Know:
Plans are underway for our 9th Annual Harvest Festival and Pow-Wow taking place September 17 & 18, 2016.
Event highlights each day include:
traditional singers, dancers and drummers
cultural teachings, workshops and demonstrations by local First Nation’s artists
I was lucky enough to be accepted into the Western University summer field school experience of 2016, conducted by Dr. Neal Ferris, and I was looking forward to it. This course is not a typical archaeological field school. Dubbed the “Unfield School“, it is an opportunity for us to learn how to map, record, and the remediation past archaeology conducted on the Lawson site. As a crew we were going to start the very long process of caring for and repairing the site for the future.
My field school experience with Mapping
Mapping is an important part of that process. So we spent our early days on the site being taught how to use a Total station and prism (photo above). In many ways, as Ed Eastaugh from the Department of Anthropology noted, the Total Station is one of the most important pieces of equipment we can use on a project like this field school. It would allow us to accurately map the condition of the Lawson site at this moment in time. this, together with all of the current and past activity evident on the site both natural and human, would provide a comprehensive evaluation of the activity on the site over time. In those early days of the field school, Ed taught us how to set up the total station and how to operate record location information from it. Darryl Dann, a volunteer at the Museum who also helped the field school. Darryl, an avocational archaeologist pointed out cultural features present on the forest floor, and features of current conditions on the site that need to be part of the mapping process.
Recording these features and site context – basically where everything is across the site that is either a feature of the archaeology. It can include a feature of the current land use and those characterising the surface of the site (such as building locations, sign poles, paths, etc.) is critical for this long term caring for the Lawson site. By understanding accurately where previously excavated and unexcavated portions of the site are, we can ensure the site’s integrity and preservation for the long term. Ultimately, our work will inform future actions at the Lawson site for generations to come.
But most of all, the field school taught us to remember that stewardship and management is not simply about mapping and collecting, but about making sure that all people who care for a site appreciate the cultural significance of a site,
At the Lawson site, the museum, archaeologists, community, and Indigenous peoples who celebrate the ancestors that lived and worked here, will continue to work toward an archaeological plan that makes the site accessible to all through proper interpretation and understanding. These groups and future generations will be able to appreciate the Lawson site for what makes this place special to them. Really, caring for the site needs to be a community collective decision making process. Our job in the field school was to know and share the heritage of this place and to manage the integrity of the site together for all who will use and have used this area.
Archaeology Summer Field School – Site Management and Service May 2016.
By: Dr. Neal Ferris, Lawson Chair of Canadian Archaeology, Western University.
It has been a few weeks since the end of our first “Un Field School” here at the Lawson site, with students and instructors since moving on. But, for me, I finally have a moment now to reflect on the field school and what we discovered during those three weeks. Below is an update and brief summary of what we managed to achieve.
This Lawson field school had several aims: First, it needed to be instructive and a good learning experience for the Western anthropology students who took the course. Second, it had to serve the needs of the Museum’s Lawson Site Management Plan and provide insight on how we can best manage this site long term. Third, it had to be a successful experience for the volunteers and visitors who joined us. Our goal was to make archaeology accessible to non-archaeologists and to underscore to the class the bigger context within which we do archaeology today. Finally, I was hoping to learn just a little bit more about the Lawson site. Not just to care for it as the Lawson Chair, but also to have a better sense of the importance of this place. It has been both an ancient home and village and is one of the oldest continuously excavated sites in Canada. Really, when you think of it, the entire history of Canadian archaeology has happened on this site!
While sorting through the findings will still take some time, I am fairly confident in saying that we’ve managed to achieved those aims. I must thank, as essential to that success, the help of MOA volunteer and field director Darryl Dann, as well as Department of Anthropology staff and geo-spatial and geo-physical expert Ed Eastaugh. Darryl and Ed were vital to the success of the course and meeting the aims we had set for ourselves.
In terms of the geo physical survey, we are only just starting. The use of three complementary and different technologies (magnetometer, resistivity meter, ground penetrating radar), each added a bit more below ground insight into possible archaeological features. The technologies illustrated the edge of past excavations, and even old fence lines reflected in 19th and early 20th century mapping for the site. As part of the ongoing site evaluation, a wider area of geophysical mapping will be planned for the years ahead.
I wasn’t sure how productive excavating previously excavated areas would be, which was the primary task for the Lawson field school this year. After all, in theory there should be little archaeological data or material left. But to the contrary, we were able to confirm that, at least in the Previously Excavated Area C, past hand excavations did not always completely get down to subsoil, leaving remnant site intact for us to document. More critically, cultural features in these areas were only rarely excavated, (14 of the 18 features that were mapped appear to be cultural, and not archaeological from previous excavations). Moreover, because we were able to open a relatively large area relatively quickly, we were able to see more of the site. I was quite pleased to see clear settlement data, in the form of post mould rows, visible to be recorded.
Perhaps most exciting of all, we also uncovered a very large stain (Feature 10, which encompasses Features 17 and 18) in the very edge of our excavations. This stain was not deep, and revealed cultural features below it. When I align this area of our excavations with previous work done on the site, it is clearly very close to a part of the trenches excavated across the site between 1921-1923 by William J. Wintemberg. This is really important because it suggests we can start to accurately align his trenches and findings in real space and with the findings from more recent fieldwork. It also is pretty exciting, almost a 100 years later, to “see” Wintemberg’s hand revealed so intimately on the site and reach back to that early formative period in Canadian archaeology!
In terms of artifacts and remains, most of what we uncovered were small items that would have been missed first time out (flakes, animal bone, small ceramic fragments). But we did recover large quantities of carbonized maize from around Feature 8, which we will be able to run C14 dates on (update will be provided in a future piece). This will represent one of the first times we can date from controlled context materials recovered from within the older, pre-expansion area of the village, in order to better understand the history of the site.
Fortunately a wide range of volunteers joined our efforts, to work with the students. The public aspect was twofold, to give them a hands-on experience while at the same time giving the students an opportunity to think about how to talk about archaeology and the site to a wide range of visitors. We were joined by a diverse group, from grade school students, to a visiting, retired American archaeologist that happened to show up one day, to a group of parents and home schooled students from Oshweken and Brantford. I really wanted the students to think about archaeology as a practice that occurs not just in pursuit of knowledge about the past. It is a practice that occurs in the present and is of interest to a wide range of people beyond archaeologists. I couldn’t have chosen a better setting for bringing that message home.
Really, it is hard to imagine a set of outcomes I would have preferred to those we achieved. The students themselves got into the spirit and the aims of the field school (a sample of the blogs they wrote for the course will be posted here subsequently, so you can get a sense of their perspective directly) and all did really well. We have tested out a series of methods that will work well for rehabilitating the site. These efforts will ensure the various other uses that happen here are managed so as to avoid degrading the site. We’ve gained new insights into the site itself that will help advance our understanding of the archaeology and human history of this place. Most importantly, we have a better appreciation for the long history of archaeology that has been carried out on the site. All of which will provide the Museum’s and the Lawson site visitors a better experience and understanding of the history captured here.
I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to further these aims again at the Lawson site!