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Museum Secrets

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EXPLORE OUR SECRETS!

These are just some of the things you can explore at MOA.  Check out our secrets and visit www.londonsecrets.ca to learn more about other London museum secrets.

 1.  Over 2000 people lived in the Lawson Village during the 16th century.
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The Lawson Village is a sixteenth century, pre-contact Neutral Iroquoian village and one of the few Neutral village sites where earthworks are preserved. The Lawson Village is considered to be London’s “First Village”. Approximately 30-40 longhouses were built on this site and surrounded by a series of protective palisades. Outside the palisade, corn fields extended over four kilometers to the Masonville area in London. The site was occupied for approximately 25 years.

Excavations have recovered over 300,000 artifacts and the remains of at least 19 longhouses, 30 middens, and a palisade along the northern half of the site. Evidence suggests that at the height of occupation the village was home to over 2000 people. It was occupied year round although many of its inhabitants left the village from April to December to engage in hunting, fishing, gathering, and the cultivation of crops such as corn, beans and squash. It may have served as a major regional centre for other Neutral populations during this period.

2. Despite being “discovered” in the 1850s, professional excavations at the Lawson Village didn’t begin until the 1920s.

Wilf at Fairfield c.1940s
Wilf at Fairfield c.1940s

The Lawson Site was first extensively excavated by professionals in the early 1920s although the site had been discovered in the 1850s. Early discoveries included 10 pipes, 60 bone needles, 100 bone beads, 12 skinning stones, and 150 projectile points.

The importance of the Lawson Site was first realized in the late-nineteenth century by Dr. Solon Woolverton, a geology professor at the University of Western Ontario and a prominent London citizen. He introduced the site in 1894 to Provincial Museum archaeologist, Dr. David Boyle, who undertook excavations from 1895-1920. The first formal description of the site was written by Boyle. His successor at the Museum, Dr. Rowland B. Orr, visited the site in 1917 and subsequently published an article including a sketch map. Dr. William J. Wintemberg of the Victoria Museum in Ottawa (now the Canadian Museum of Civilization) selected the Lawson Site for major fieldwork projects from 1921 to1923.

MOA founder, Wilfrid Jury, met William Wintemburg at the Lawson Site in 1921. Wilfrid continued to excavate the site on his own in the 1930s and 40s.Wilfrid and his wife Elsie operated the very first archaeology field school in Canada, and Western University Field Schools began at the Lawson Site with Wilf in the 1950s. To date MOA and its precursors have excavated 20% of the Lawson Site.

3. “Cold Tea” is a tradition started by Wilfrid Jury.

Jury_Office

Wilfrid Jury used to invite his friends, colleagues, and students to have some cold tea in his office at the University. During the prohibition era, alcohol was not allowed so Wilf enjoyed his hard drinks in dainty tea cups over pleasant conversation and company.

In days of old, demon rum, and in fact alcohol of any kind, (except in the chemistry lab) was regarded as a commodity too dangerous to be consumed on campus. The only exceptions were the Old Hunt Club (now Westminster College) and at time of meetings of the Board of Governors. Members of the teaching faculty should not have been able to afford it and if they could, they would be totally irresponsible about it. Students were expected to confine their activities to the Ceeps

At the end of the fall term the great guru, the irrepressible, the iconoclastic Wilfrid Jury would invite some of the people he found compatible to his office for tea since there was no proscription against it. It must be remembered that Wilfrid, following again the footsteps of his father, who was a personal friend of John A. was by no means an abstainer

No time was ever mentioned because every-one knows that four o’clock is tea time. If you arrived late you were scolded. Tea was served by Wilfrid himself from an old brown betty tea pot, into a collection of mixed pattern tea cups. Some were cracked, some had handles, all were supplied with saucers. The brown liquid which came from the pot was cold, in fact it was Seagram’s 83. The hot water jug and the cream pitcher contained water. No one was so impolite as to complain about the brand of tea. In addition, biscuits (often chocolate chip) were served with the “tea”. Somehow the tea got stronger as the time progressed but it never ran out.

It was a good way to celebrate the end of the term.

4.  The significance of finding mica at the Lawson Site

Mica

The Neutral Attawandaron engaged in trade or other forms of interaction with other cultural groups along the Atlantic Seaboard, Lake Superior, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Mica demonstrates the interaction/trade of the Hopewell culture of Ohio with other cultures to the east. Mica was used for personal adornment, as a type of mirror, and for spiritual purposes.

5.  Why the reconstructed longhouse on the Lawson Site looks different from examples found in the museum’s gallery.
elm bark longhouse
Longhouse

The reconstructed longhouse on the Lawson site is more typical of those found in northern Ontario because of its birch bark covering. In Southwestern Ontario it was more common for longhouses to be covered with Elm bark.

Every five years, the longhouse gets recovered in a new birch bark exterior. Larry McLeod, a Sagamok First Nation member and Ojibway elder from North Bay, completed the most recent repairs in 2013 with a team of eight others. They brought in materials — tamarack poles, birch bark and spruce roots — from northern Ontario.

6.  Games you can play with these bones.

Deerphlanges

These are deer phalanges found on the Lawson Site believed to be for a cup and pin game.

There are two main types of modified deer phalanges:

a) a hole through the distal end with the proximal end broken off for a cup and pin game

b) distal end bead: a bead made from only the distal end of the phalange (quite exclusive to pre-contact Neutral sites in S-W Ontario)

7.  Why archaeologists use water to find tiny artefacts?

The Flotation technique in Archaeology uses water to process soil samples and recover tiny artifacts that would not ordinarily be recovered when screening soil during an archaeological investigation. The reason these artifacts aren’t normally recovered is that they are so tiny that they fall through the ¼” screen typically used by archaeologists to sift the soil.

Flotation 5
Jury_Day_2009 (4)
Flotation 1b


To recover tiny artifacts, a soil sample is placed on a screen and with the addition of water; artifacts are separate from the dirt particles. Light materials (called light fraction) float on top of the water while heaver materials such as bone, pottery, and stone rest on the screen. Light materials include plant remains, seeds, and insects which can reveal information about diet, environment, and climate.

Heavy and light materials are collected separately and placed on a tray to dry. Once the sample has thoroughly dried, the material is placed in archival bags for storage and further research.

8.  People have been living in the London area for over 11,000 years.

People first started living in the London area in 11,000 BCE (before common era) during a time know as the Palaeo-lithic period. People lived in small family groups (3-5) who lived, traveled and hunted together. This is because of the climate at the time. The Palaeo-lithic period began during the end of the last ice age so the climate was much colder than today and it would have been winter all year long. Palaeoindian peoples ate Caribou almost exclusively and as a result adopted a very nomadic lifestyle following the caribou herds. In addition to Caribou, early Palaeoindian people also hunted Mastodon which is similar to a woolly mammoth, but slightly smaller in size.

9.  You can see a 3D animation of the Lawson Site at MOA?

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Students working at Sustainable Archaeology have created a virtual 3D animation of the Lawson Site, the home of 2,000 neutral Iroquois over 500 years ago and have scanned artifacts for virtual 3D access. Sustainable Archaeology is creating new opportunities for archaeologists to examine how people lived in the past. Check out the reconstruction.