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What’s On- Maple Harvest Festival

This hafted stone axe head would have been used to chop, split, or shape wood. This object, along with many other Indigenous woodworking tools will be on display in the Permanent Gallery during the Maple Harvest festival

As Canada commemorates its 150th anniversary with hundreds of events scheduled throughout the country this year, here at MOA we are taking advantage of the opportunity to highlight the life-ways and practices of the First People who were living here for millennia before “Canada” even existed. Many First Nations traditions and practices, such as maple harvesting, are still very much alive today and part of the traditions we consider to be quintessentially Canadian.

As part of growing up or living in southern Ontario, most of us enjoy, or have enjoyed at some point in our lives, the opportunity to walk or even ride on a horse drawn-sleigh through a snowy woodlot in late winter, observing the spiles and buckets (or today, the acres of tubes!) hanging from trees, collecting maple sap.  An isolated cabin, wood smoke billowing from the chimney and smelling of sweet, caramelised syrup is the highlight of our tour (short for the pancakes!), where sap is boiled in metal kettles or large, flat pans, reducing the liquid after many, many hours to the sweet, sticky, sugary treat that we all know and love.

First Nations of the eastern Woodlands would collect and even boil tree sap in birch bark baskets such as this

These traditions that we associate with the Sugar Bush can be traced to First Nations origins, in which families would leave their homes and villages in late winter to set up small camps in the deciduous forest to collect maple (and/or birch, box-elder and white walnut) sap. Trees were scored, sap was collected and reduced. Before metals were introduced to the region from European settlers and traders, sap collection and processing used perishable containers such as wood and bark. Raw sap, rich in nutrients after the lean winter months, was also enjoyed as a tonic and a flavour enhancing base for soups, stews, and porridge. Processed syrup and sugar would preserve the taste of spring long into the year, used to sweeten culinary dishes and drinks and serving as a source of trade and commerce if collected in large enough quantities.

At our Maple Harvest Festival on March 11-12th, we will be honoured to have local First Nations Elders Dan and Mary-Lou Smoke on site to awaken the forest and conduct a sweet water blessing, thanking the trees for their nourishing gift. Anishinaabe Elder Larry McLeod will also be joining us from North Bay to teach us about the importance of birch bark, including its use as a basket to collect and even boil sap. We will also have sagamite, a traditional corn soup/stew made from fresh sap for tasting in the longhouse and an exhibition of archaeological objects relating to First Nations maple harvesting in our museum gallery.

We welcome our visitors to join us in this celebration of spring that has been honoured since time immemorial, the awakening of the forest (in the Forest City!) and the first harvest of the year. This is a festive time, marking an end to hunger and darkness as we welcome the return of light, life, and nourishment from the land around us. We hope to inspire in our visitors a wonder for the unique environment of this region in which maple trees flourish, an awareness of the wisdom and ingenuity of First Nations cultural practices and an appreciation for the rich heritage of Ontario which lies beneath our feet.

 

Online Collections: A Digital Experience

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.

A woven hat too damaged for display. Despite what you see, the brim of the hat is warped, with pieces of the interior breaking off with slight movement. The top of the hat is collapsed with its structure being held together by tissue placed inside.

The very first question about an online collection that most museums consider is weather we should create one at all, and if so, how much information should we include? One of the benefits of making the collection available online is that we can share parts of the collection that otherwise cannot be put on display, such as fragile or light sensitive objects. This allows the viewer to experience an object they cannot otherwise experience in person, while preserving the objects at the same time.

So how are online collections made? Online collections begin with the museum’s digital record of an object. New digital records are created everyday, and for some museums this may take years to change all object records into a digital form. For example MOA holds over 2 million objects and only a small fraction have a complete digital record. We also monitor what goes online especially when it comes to culturally sensitive or ceremonial materials since they are protected and not displayed unless special permissions are given. All objects are approached with care and consideration before being placed into public view. Information such as appraisals, donor information, and archaeological site information are also not shared online.

A tintype image, very sensitive to light.

The accessibility of online collections is limited only to the people who have a computer and internet making it easy for people all across the world to access the collections with a simple click. This invites research potential and allows viewers who are interested in a museum to experience the collections if they can not experience it physically. Like museum exhibitions, online collections are not static. They change and evolve with new research and objects.

Not all museums have online collections and the ones that do are hosted on the museum website. With the interest in cultural objects growing, sites that search objects from multiple museums such as the Google Art Project and Artefact Canada give you the opportunity to curate your own collection of favourite items and to learn about objects from all over the globe.

Here is a link to MOA’s Online Collection

Negotiating Authenticity: Engaging with 3D Models and 3D Prints of Archaeological Things

By: Beth Compton

Twitter: @Beth_Compton

Web Hub: http://www.ourpresentpast.org/

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.

Replicas of an ulu artifact (Ikaahuk Archaeology Project). From left to right: white 3D print, colour 3D print, handmade replica (by Tim Rast), and the original artifact excavated from Banks Island, NWT. Photograph by Beth Compton.

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.

Beth Compton cleaning archaeological artifact prints coming out of the 3D printer at Sustainable Archaeology. Photograph by Nelson Multari.

 

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.

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.

Note: if you’ve never seen or heard of 3d printing, this is a good introduction to the technology: http://3dprinting.com/what-is-3d-printing/.

+Positive Voice: Anne’s Story

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.

Photo titled Trunk taken by Anne. The story behind this image can be read in the new Warrior Womyn exhibit.

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

Message from the Director:

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.

Longhouse interior view using the HTC Vive

Interactive technologies related to Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and 3-D imaging will be moving into the gallery over the coming year, beginning with our MOA VRchaeology exhibit opening on January 12th. MOA VRchaeology will transport visitors back 500 years with HTC Vive virtual reality goggles to experience a reconstructed Iroquoian-style longhouse developed by Western Anthropology PhD candidate, Michael Carter. To read more about Mike’s project, which he’s fully documented, check out his blog here, then come out to MOA for this unique experience in person!

Our first temporary exhibit of the year opens on January 26th in partnership with Nokee Kwe Native Learning Centre. The +Positive Voice Program entitled Warrior Womyn: Reclaiming our Identity is an inspiring exhibit promoting positive narratives and memes by urban Aboriginal women who are experiencing a transition to employment/education. This will be followed in April by a temporary exhibit developed in collaboration with Western First Nations Studies. And in August, watch for our take on the year’s sesquicentennial celebrations with an exhibit featuring the negotiated identities of Chief Joseph Brant and Pauline Johnson in the era of Canada’s new confederation.

Do you love maple as much as we do? That sweet – even nutritious! – treat that maple trees reward us with after a cold winter? Then make sure to mark your calendars for the weekend of March 11-12th when we’ll be re-establishing an old event here at the museum to celebrate the Maple Harvest! We’ll be focusing on traditional First Nations’ methods of harvesting and processing this natural resource, and we’ll be offering all sorts of engaging and interactive activities throughout the weekend. And of course, plans are already underway to host our 9th annual Harvest Festival and Pow Wow on September 16-17th in conjunction with London Doors Open. That event will be followed by International Archaeology Day on the 21st of October. Also, watch for us this year out in the community, as we broaden our outreach to provide a contact and gift-shop booth at local and regional events and festivities – stop by to say hi and ask us what is new!

Male dancers for the 2016 Harvest Festival Pow-Wow
2015 MOA Pow-Wow

We are also committing to updating our education and outreach programs in 2017. With a newly installed and generously donated Smart Board from Western Ivey Business School, students will have more opportunities for interactive engagement in the classroom. And retired school-teacher Linda Imrie has donated her time and skills to revamping our Edu-kits, catered to augmenting curriculum studies from grades 1-6 – so if you are not able to get your classroom to the Museum to experience our in-house educational programs, please inquire about the availability of these instructive and archaeologically-themed kits!

MOA has a dynamic and dedicated team of Board members, staff and volunteers who continue to work diligently to create a more immersive and engaging experience for visitors of all ages – and we are always looking for volunteers willing to share their time and talents, so if you are interested in joining our team please give us a call! Whether it’s a walk through the gallery to see what’s new, your attendance at a craft workshop or school group, or just a walk along our pathways and woodlot to appreciate and reflect upon the undisturbed archaeological village preserved beneath your feet, we look forward to seeing you in 2017!

-Dr. Rhonda Bathurst-

Looking Forward: Virtual Reality at the Museum

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.

Exterior of the Longhouse

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.

Interior of the 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.

Hillary testing the Vive

 

For more details on Michaels work check out A Day in Virtual reality here.

http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/a-day-of-virtual-archaeology/#more-22779

Follow Michael Carter on Social Media

@mcarterSKW

New Norval Morrisseau Donation to MOA

2016.012.004
Shaman Motifs by Norval Morrisseau

By: Christie Dreise

This past month, MOA was provided the opportunity to acquire a new artwork collection which includes two artworks by renowned artist Norval Morrisseau: Discipline and Shaman Motifs Mohawk Clan (1975).

Discipline, a colourful serigraph, depicts two larger than life faces in profile nose to nose, almost touching each other in an intense confrontation. Shaman Motifs Mohawk Clan (1975), an original acrylic painting, reveals a unique figure from the waist up filling the entire canvas. He is an intense, bright, and engaging presence.

Norval Morrisseau can be described as one of the most recognisable painters in Canada. Morrisseau is Anishinaabe and was born on the Sandy Point Ojibway reserve. He was the influential founder of the Woodland School of painting. The Woodland School courageously and controversially presented traditional Anishinaabe icons and legends through the Western media of easel painting and printmaking. Morrisseau painted for more than 50 years and inspired many to give a visual voice to their cultural images and stories.

Morrisseau learned the icons and images associated with his grandfather’s knowledge. His grandfather, Moses Potan Nanakonagos, was an Ojibwa shaman who taught him the teachings of the Midewiwin. Oral tradition is a key part of the passing of this knowledge, but Morrisseau became the first Eastern Woodland artist who depicted and presented his culture through art in painting and printmaking.

His artwork drew from several influences during the course of his life and reflected his self-development, culture and spiritual beliefs. His influences include:  Indigenous cultures and tensions with Christianity; Anishinaabe decorative arts; Shamanism; Midewiwin scrolls; Rock paintings; Spirituality; The duality of the Soul and Body; Family; and the relationship between all living things.

Morrisseau produced acrylic and oil paintings, prints, and drawings.  His artworks are found in numerous institutions and collections across Canada such as The National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, Ontario. His artwork combines intense colours, flowing lines and semi-abstract figures, which can be seen in the two works donated to MOA. He passed away in December 2007.

2016.012.003
Discipline by Norval Morrisseau

As mentioned earlier, Discipline is a serigraph, which means that Morrisseau screen-printed it in layers on paper.  The bold yellow background would have been printed first, and then the colourful layers of the figures were printed on top. This work is from an edition of 93 prints, which gives a sense of the laborious working process, as well as the unique quality of print-making for distribution. The graphic images created by flat fields of colour is a quality of the print-making process, but is also part of Morrisseau’s own creative way of seeing the world.

The graphic quality of colour defined by shapes, often organic, is also felt in Shaman Motifs Mohawk Clan (1975). This acrylic painting’s bold and commanding figure is created by building bright colours between black outlines. Morrisseau signed his work with Cree syllabics on Shaman Motifs Mohawk Clan, in the pen name for the Anishnaabe name he has been honoured with – Copper Thunderbird.

Morrisseau is an important and influential Anishinaabe painter who has made vibrant pieces about his cultural viewpoint and stories, and they remain filled with life and vitality today.

 

References

CBC Arts. “Iconic Canadian painter Norval Morrisseau dies at 75” CBC News, December 5, 2007. Accessed November 25, 2016. http://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/iconic-canadian-painter-norval-morrisseau-dies-at-75-1.648773.

Norval Morrisseau Entry. “Biography,” Wikipedia. Accessed November 25, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norval_Morrisseau.

“Teachers Resource Guide,” MacKenzie Art Gallery, p. 15-16, 2013, accessed July 26, 2016, http://www.mackenzieartgallery.ca/admin/aMediaBackend/original?slug=7-pniai-teacher-resource-guide&format=pdf.

A Journey in Conservation: Basketry

Many objects in a museum collection require conservation treatment to extend their longevity and First Nations basketry is no exception. Treating baskets requires multiple steps, but the general philosophy is simple: reduce the effects of damage by using a controlled, documented, and reversible way.

MOA Conservation Intern Josh cleaning a basket from the ethnographic collection.
MOA Conservation Intern Josh cleaning a basket from the ethnographic collection.

The first step of conversation is documentation. Once this is complete, it is time to treat the basket. Conservators consider a lot during the treatment of an object including; fragility, materials, and the object’s continuing health. The first round of cleaning is usually ‘dry’ cleaning. This includes brushing surface dust and debris from the object, as well as using cosmetic sponges to remove adhered dirt or accretions from the surface. Dry cleaning is an effective way to gently remove most of the dirt and dust from an object without being aggressive or invasive (because causing extra damage to the object only means more work later). In my experience with the basketry collection at the MOA, most require dry cleaning only.

However, some objects may be broken or torn and require more intensive treatment. The severity of damage can vary. For example, minor breakage such as a small tear in the middle of a basket weave is not likely to weaken the structure enough to cause further damage. Some breakage can even be natural stress-relief from changing environmental conditions such as fluctuating relative humidity.

Significant breakage can weaken the structural stability of the basket or result in loss.  For example, multiple breaks along the rim may leave the rim sagging, which then puts stress on the weave of the basket, and may lead to severe warping in the future.

To consolidate and repair more severe damage, I am using a Wheat Starch paste as an adhesive. This method of treatment is recommended by the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) for use with paper artifacts (both basketry and paper are cellulose-based). Wheat starch paste is chemically inert and stable, as well as strong, workable, and adaptable. Once prepared, it can be watered-down without losing strength or applied as a relatively thick gel.

Once treatment is complete, the baskets are wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and placed in archival-quality boxes. This protects them from dust, as well as light. Light and UV rays fade colours of both wood and paint. Baskets in storage should also be kept at a consistent temperature (below 25oC is best) and relative humidity (RH). Fluctuating RH can lead to splitting, and prolonged periods of high RH can cause mould.

Once conservation is complete, the basket is wrapped in acid free tissue and placed into archival quality boxes for long term storage.
Once conservation is complete, the basket is wrapped in acid free tissue and placed into archival quality boxes for long term storage.

It is important to consider all these factors before treatment, in order to make an informed decision. Any work that you do not feel comfortable completing yourself should be completed by a professional conservator.

International Archaeology Day

Come celebrate MOAs International Archaeological Day!

On October 15th, over 100 organisations across the world will be holding workshops, fairs, and lectures for International Archaeology Day. With only five years under its belt, this once National day held by the Archaeological Institute of America started from humble beginnings with only 14 participating institutions in the United States. You may be thinking why is this important to me?

iad2016-logo

“International Archaeology Day is a celebration of archaeology and the thrill of discovery. Every October the AIA and archaeological organisations across the United States, Canada, and abroad present archaeological programs and activities for people of all ages and interests. Whether it is a family-friendly archaeology fair, a guided tour of a local archaeological site, a simulated dig, a lecture or a classroom visit from an archaeologist, the interactive, hands-on International Archaeology Day programs provide the chance to indulge your inner Indiana Jones.”
-AIA Website-

For the past year, the city of London has been working on reviewing their Archaeological Master Plan with a focus on updating the modeling for predicting the location of Indigenous sites and better modeling the urban core of the City. Overall, the four goals of the Master Plan review are:

1. To update the archaeological site database and associated mapping for known archaeological sites in London
2. Review the existing archaeological site potential model and make recommendations for potential improvements/compliance
3. Review current federal, provincial, and municipal planning and management guidelines
4. Develop an implementation framework for responsible municipal stewardship and management of archaeological resources in the city.

international-archaeology-day

This year’s International Archaeology Day features collaboration between the City of LondonArchaeological Services Inc. (ASI) and the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.  ASI’s Dr. Ron Williamson (also the Museum Board Chair) and Jonas Fernandez will present Something Old and Something New: Archaeological Management Plans in a City Building Context. You have the opportunity to attend this free lecture to learn about modern ways municipalities are managing their cultural resources and how this updated Archaeological Master Plan will help preserve our city’s rich archaeological heritage. See our website for additional fun activities.

Importance of Chase Wesson Site

Image of flagged test pit

In 1992, the Museum of Ontario Archaeology carried out a Stage 1/2 assessment of a proposed subdivision in Simcoe County that led to the discovery of a previously unknown Huron-Wendat village. This village was subsequently subject to Stage 3 and limited Stage 4 excavations carried out by another consultant, revealing an undisturbed fifteenth century village, which is now known as the Chase-Wesson site. Nineteenth and early twentieth century research by people such as archaeologist A.F Hunter.and more recent investigations by cultural resource management firms have resulted in the documentation of hundreds of Huron-Wendat villages in Simcoe County (Williamson 2014). The founder of the museum, Wilfrid Jury, carried out exploratory excavations at a number of these sites in the 1940s through early 60s (see Stories of Pre-History: The Jury Family Legacies by Robert Pearce, our former Executive Director). Copies may be ordered from the Museum, where they are also on sale in our store.

Chase Wesson Methodology

At the time of the museum’s 1992 assessment, 30% of the property was clear of vegetation and was being actively farmed while the balance was forested.  It seems the closest water source for the village was one or more natural springs just south-southeast of the village.

MOA’s team of archaeologists began their assessment by completing a visual pedestrian survey of the active farmland.  The heavily wooded area was test-pitted.  The test pits were 30cm in diameter or greater and excavated to the subsoil. The team tested all areas of high archaeological potential at five metre intervals or less while areas with low potential were assessed at intervals of 10 to 20 meters.  It was confirmed that the site extended to the north and northwest edges of the property.

Results of the test pits:

Artifacts from the dig, captured in the screen

The results of the test pits revealed a large settlement that was mostly undisturbed. The first sign of the site was the many ceramic sherds being unearthed.  Subsequent excavations revealed a total site area of about two hectares.

A total of 308 artifacts were found at the site by the Museum, ceramics being the majority. There were 11 rim sherds, 20 fragmentary rim sherds, 26 neck/shoulder sherds, 145 body sherds, and 93 fragmentary sherds (for a total of 295 pieces or 95.8% of the collection). The other artifacts found included one piece of chert debitage, two pieces of ground stone, and six animal bone fragments.

Analysis of Chase Wessen

The Museum team working on the site reported that it was difficult to determine a precise chronological placement for the site since only a few diagnostic artifacts were found. Based on the ceramic traits evident in the limited assemblage, they suggested it was an assemblage similar  to other fifteenth century (AD 1450-1500) pre-contact Huron-Wendat sites in the area such as Lalonde, Copeland, Baumann, and Ellesmere-Morison. The work conducted after the Museum yielded a similar but larger artifact assemblage; neither the Museum’s nor subsequent work on the village yielded European trade items. In the absence of radiocarbon dating of maize from the site, the Museum’s original estimate of the site’s age will have to suffice.

Chase Wessen – A site protected

Chase Wessen reconstructed pot

The discovery of the Chase-Wesson site in 1992 was significant in its demonstration that there were undisturbed Wendat villages yet to be documented in Wendake, the Wendat homeland in northern Simcoe County.  The site is registered with Ontario’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport and efforts are underway to protect the site permanently.

References:

Williamson, R.F.

2014       The Archaeological History of the Wendat to AD 1651: An Overview. Ontario Archaeology 94:3-64