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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

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