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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.  Up to 2000 people lived in the Lawson Village during the 16th century.

Lawson Village, Ontario Canada

The Lawson Village, a 16th century ancestral village, is one of only a few sites in Southern Ontario where earthworks are preserved. Outside the palisade walls that protected the site, fields containing the Three Sisters extended out over four kilometers to the Masonville area in London. The site was believed to be 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 potentially home to over 2000 people. It was occupied year round, but many of its inhabitants left the village from April to December to engage in hunting, fishing, gathering, and the cultivation of the fields.

2. Despite being “discovered” in the 1850s, the first scientific 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 archaeologist William Wintemberg in the early 1920s, although the site had been known to locals since the 1850s. Some of the earliest recorded discoveries included 10 pipes, 60 bone needles, 100 bone beads, 12 abraders, 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. In 1894, Solon introduced the site to the Provincial Museum archaeologist, Dr. David Boyle, who undertook excavations from 1895-1920 and produced the first formal description of the site. His successor, Dr. Rowland B. Orr, visited the site in 1917 and subsequently published an article including a sketched map. Dr. William J. Wintemberg of the Victoria Museum in Ottawa (now the Canadian Museum of History) selected the Lawson Site for major fieldwork projects from 1921 to 1923.

MOA’s 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. In total, less than 20% of the site has been excavated.

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

Wilifrid Jury Office

During the prohibition era alcohol was not allowed, so Wilfrid Jury discreetly enjoyed his scotch in dainty tea cups over pleasant conversation and company of his friends, collegues, and students in his office at the University.

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 meetings of the Board of Governors. Members of the teaching faculty should not have been able to afford it and even if they could, they would be totally irresponsible about it. Students were expected to confine their activities to the local bar, The Ceeps.

At the end of the fall term the irrepressible and 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 the footsteps of his father, who was a personal friend of Sir John A. Macdonald, was by no means an abstainer

No time was ever mentioned because everyone knew that four o’clock is tea time. If you arrived late, you were scolded. Tea was served 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, because it was, in fact, 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.

4.  The significance of finding mica at the Lawson Site

Mica

The Haudenosaunee and Anishinabe communities of this area 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 and trade of the Hopewell culture of Ohio with other cultures to the east. Mica was used for personal adornment, temper in pottery, 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.

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 possibly have been used 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 phalanges (quite exclusive to pre-contact sites in Southwestern Ontario)

7.  Why archaeologists use water to find tiny artifacts.

The Flotation technique in archaeology uses water to process soil samples and recover small 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 known as the Paleo-lithic Period. People lived in small family groups (3-5) who travelled 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. Paleo communities ate Caribou almost exclusively, and as a result adopted a very nomadic lifestyle following the caribou herds. In addition to Caribou, early Paleo communities may have also hunted the Mastodon, which is similar to a woolly mammoth, but slightly smaller in size.

9.  You can experience Virtual Reality at MOA.

Developed by Western University PhD candidate Michael Carter as an aspect of his dissertation research, the exhibit combines the interpretation of archaeological evidence and ethno-historic records with modern methods of CGI and virtual reality production. Take a virtual walk through a 16th century Iroquoian longhouse wearing HTC Vive virtual reality goggles and explore life in a longhouse with a blazing cooking fire, sleeping bunks strewn with furs, and stored foods hanging from the rafters.

 

 

The Making of a Model Dig

Anna Johnstone

This week, we are featuring a story from a local Grade 11 student Anna Johnstone who is taking her passion in archaeology and sharing it with the community.

Hello, my name is Anna and I am a grade 11 student. For my Ancient Civilizations class I had to make what my teacher calls a ‘Passion Project’, which means that each student got to make any kind of project that they wanted as long as the subject related to the curriculum and we could, to quote my teacher, “get it out to the world”. I love to make models and dioramas so as soon as we started brainstorming our projects my mind jumped to a model of a dig site and artifacts that could be found at it. Since it was an Ancient Civilizations class, I decided that a site in Rome would be cool but the model looks as if it could be anywhere, even here in Ontario.

For the research part of the project I learned what kind of tools and equipment are used during an archaeological excavation and for the set-up of a site. I looked at photos of sites from all over the world, trying to decide which one I should base my model off of, but I decided that instead of trying to re-create a dig that already exists, it would be more fun to make a completely new site.

My project, inspired by archaeology in Rome.

Then began the planning and creation of the diorama, I made a few rough sketches (although I didn’t follow them too closely!) and got out a bunch of old shoe boxes and a hot glue gun. I started by making the trenches and the shallows around the artifacts.  Once I had the five trenches, I made the ground and box by cutting and gluing shoe boxes, the amount of hot glue that I used for this project was nuts! I then stuffed the box with crumpled paper so that it would be sturdier, glued the ground (with the trenches attached) to it and painted it to be more aesthetically pleasing. I covered the ground with white glue and poured sand over it to give it a nice texture (although I got so much sand on the floor I was sent outside by an irate mother to finish my task!).

The tools, trowels, brushes and pick axes, all started out as toothpicks, tinfoil, wooden skewers and bristles from a toothbrush. I made the tables and tents next, as well as a sifting tray and jewelry for one of the tables. When I had finished it seemed like something was missing, so I added small pegs and string around each trench to mark them off. When I had finally completed this part of the project, it seemed like it had taken forever! In reality it took me about a week to make, I have to admit that I largely ignored my other schoolwork and stayed up way too late every night! It was worth it! I then made the artifacts, a ring, a bracelet, a die, a clay doll, a dagger and a couple bones, and a display case to put them it.

Some of the ‘artifacts’ I made from scratch inspired by my studies in ancient civilizations.

I “got my project out to the world” by putting it on display in my school’s library and the libraries of the school where my mom teaches and my elementary school. I should also add that anyone visiting the MOA should keep an eye out for the diorama! By the time that I had completed the project, most people in my class hadn’t decided what they were going to do for their projects yet; I guess I had gotten a bit inspired!

I’m thrilled that my history teacher gave me the opportunity to do this project and many more as the class went on, she’s a great person with unique assignments that make her classes so much more fun! I loved making this project so much, it gave me the opportunity to learn more about archaeology, which I find fascinating, and make something that I am very proud of.

-Anna Johnstone-

Conservation vs. Preservation: What’s the Difference?

One of the most important roles museums have is to care and maintain artworks and artifacts in their collections. Museums all over the world abide by this to extend the objects life for future education and for general public enjoyment for generations to come. Although museums strive to protect every single object, environmental conditions, storage control, and individual handling all influence the longevity of the artworks and artifacts.

Conservation and preservation are two methods which are used to maintain the state of the object. Conservation is the hands-on act of working directly with the object to preserve its current condition. Such method can be invasive, for example, conservators use restoration treatments to enhance the object to its original state or appearance by removing accumulated layers of dirt and/or adding necessary components that have gone missing.

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

Preservation is the non-invasive act of minimizing deterioration and preventing future damage of the object. Some examples are outlined below:

  1. Housing the objects in an environmentally controlled storage facility (i.e., being aware of possible humidity, light damage, etc.)
  2. Monitoring the collections space bi-weekly and monthly for possible pests
  3. Practising appropriate artifact/artwork handling
  4. Storing the objects in archival boxes with archival materials (materials that preserve the quality and longevity of the object, such as acid-free tissue)
Photo of the boxes that hold the ethnographic collection!

 

Here at the MOA, our collections primarily consist of ethnographic (historical documentation) and archaeological materials. The archaeological material is typically made from organic or inorganic materials. Organic materials are made from living organisms, such as animal, plant, bone, wood and inorganic materials are made from non-living organisms, such as stone, metal, ceramic, glass. Organic materials are preserved more closely as they deteriorate at a faster rate. Although conservation of objects is executed when mandatory, preservation of the objects is our main goal.

 

References

MOA Blog Post. “A Journey in Conservation: Basketry.” Accessed April 11th, 2018. http://archaeologymuseum.ca/journey-conservation-basketry/

Texas Historical Commission. “Basic Guidelines for the Preservation of Historic Artifacts.”Accessed April 11th, 2018. http://www.thc.texas.gov/public/upload/publications/Basic%20Guidelines%20for%20the%20Preservation%20of%20historic%20artifacts%202013.pdf

Conserve O Gran: National Park Service. “Conservation of Museum Collections.” Accessed April 11th, 2018. https://www.nps.gov/museum/publications/conserveogram/01-01.pdf

 

What is Thin Sectioning?

Thin-sectioning (also known as, thin-section analysis) is an important technique used in Archaeology for the examination of the composition of various materials. Typically, such materials include ceramics or stone.

Thin-sectioning is the removal of a very thin piece (roughly 0.03 mm) of material from the object in order to be observed under a microscope. The sample needs to be so thin that the details of the material (small internal structures, and crystals) are readily displayed in the microscope in order to undergo proper analysis. This method is crucial in determining the raw material used for the specific object, or in the case of faunal remains, determining how the animal was killed. While we are able to obtain crucial information from thin-sectioning, it has some limitations. For instance, thin-sectioning is an abrasive method which doesn’t align with the archaeological view of limiting destructive analysis techniques on artifacts.

 

Thin sectioning is only done on samples with no accompanying context. Here samples are first coated with epoxy to create pucks that are later cut to a thickness of 30 microns.

 

Thin-sectioning is a core method in petrology, or petrographic analysis, which is the identification of mineral composition and texture of the material, such as rocks and ceramics. Such technique is not limited solely to ceramics or stone, but applied to soil, plant, or bone remains. Petrographic analysis can be used in many diverse areas of study. For example, Gregory V. Braun from the Department of Anthropology in the University of Toronto, used petrography to investigate Iroquoian ceramic production and smoking rituals in a middle Ontario Iroquoian village near southern Ontario. For those interested, the link to his publication is in the reference section below.

 

Thin-section samples from Sustainable Archaeology: McMaster in varying states of progression.

Both images are sourced from Sustainable Archaeology: McMaster. July 29th, 2015. http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/sustainable-archaeology-mcmaster/

References

Biittner, Katie M. and Susan M. Jamieson. Chert Raw Material Utilization at the Bark Site (BbGp-12), Peterborough County, Southern Ontario (2006). Ontario Archaeology 81/82.

Braun, Gregory V. Petrography as a technique for investigating Iroquoian ceramic production and smoking rituals (2002). Journal of Archaeological Science 39, 1-10.

Day of Archaeology. “Sustainable Archaeology McMaster: A Day in the Life of an Archaeological Repository.” Published July 29th, 2015. http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/sustainable-archaeology-mcmaster/

Archaeology Wordsmith. “Thin-Sectioning.”Accessed April 4th, 2018. http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/sustainable-archaeology-mcmaster/

ROM Collections and Research. “Ceramic Petrology Laboratory.” Accessed April 4th, 2018. https://www.rom.on.ca/en/collections-research/research/world-culture/ceramic-petrology-facility

A Look Back: An Unusual Holcombe Point in the Vogt Collection

Originally from the Palisade Post, 1987 Vol 9 no.1

The museum received a donation of artifacts from the Vogt family, obtained from Lambton County. One of the artifacts in this collection is an unusual “Holcombe” point.

Drawing made for the museum by artist Catherine Comrie.

The Holcombe point type was first defined on the basis of specimens recovered on Holcombe Beach in Macomb County Michigan. Often made from Onondaga or Bayport Chert, this lanceolate point with a concave base and fine parallel flaking is confined to the later part of the Paleo Period ca.8000 BCE.

Holcombe points are always quite thin, have lateral edge grinding, and are rarely fluted. Although rare in Southern Ontario, at least one site with predominantly Holcombe points has been documented in the area.

This point classified as Holcombe is made from Flint Ridge Chert, which outcrops in Ohio. According to knowledgeable researchers, very few Holcombe points are made of this material.

At first glance, this point appears to be uni-facially fluted (ie. similar to fluted points). Close examination reveals that a large flake was removed during the preform stage, and that it is not a flute but rather a scar from a large flake removed from the tip. The concave base has been heavily retouched but is not ground.

Based on size alone, this point is much larger than typical Holcombe points measuring at 5.7cm in length. As with the specimens found at Holcombe beach, it is possible this point finished it’s life as a hafted knife.

A Look Back to the Lawson Site Pot

Reconstructed pottery front face.
Front face of the reconstructed Lawson Site pot.

During the 1982 excavations on the Lawson Site, museum archaeologists discovered on of the more interesting deposits of pottery fragments yet encountered on the site. The pot sherds were interesting not only because we have been able to reconstruct them into a very large pot but especially because of the location of the fragments and what they were found with.

The pottery fragments were in the bottom of a large pit found inside the largest house yet uncovered on the site. This pit was located under the south bench row near the east end of the house. In shape, the pit was a flat-bottomed cylinder. During excavation, it was first though that this feature was a deep basin-shaped pit, but it was discovered to have a false bottom like a previous feature uncovered.

Recosntruction of the large Lawson vessel
The pot takes shape, showing temporary supports.

The overall pit contents include ceramics, chipped lithics, a hammerstone, modified bone, bone fragments, and carbonized plant remains. There was a small pottery concentration in the upper portion of the pit, but the most productive part of the feature was the lower portion. The bottom of the pit was lined with many pottery fragments. The sherds had been purposefully placed around the edges and bottom of the pit in the same way that one would use the tile fragments to line the bottom of a flower pot.

Resting above the main sherd concentration were the articulated radius and ulna of a black bear showing cutting and chewing marks on the bone. Below the main pottery concentration was a complete upper carapace of a turtle, unfortunately warped from resting upside down on a fist sized rock.

The pot fragments found lining the bottom of the pit were glued together to form almost two thirds of the large pottery vessel depicted in the above photo. The rim of the pot had multiple castellation’s but was completely undecorated (Niagara collared type), a common style of pottery on the Lawson Site.

Update: New digital technology allows us to reconstruct these pottery pieces virtually as opposed to physically which promotes the conservation and longevity of the original artifacts.

Originally featured in Palisade Post 1988 Vol.8 no.3

by Dave Smith

 

Four Gift Ideas for an Archaeology Friend

Gift #1: Customized Trowel

Every archaeologist knows that when you have a trowel you must hang on to it, because you never know when it will get mixed up with someone else’s onsite. We often mark our trowels with a symbol or name to break the cycle of confusion, but alas, trowels still go missing. Developed as a hobby by an archaeologist for other archaeologists, Hermit Woodworking designs custom trowels that you can buy online or custom order with specific colours or inlays (Harry Potter theme anyone?!)

Image of trowels arranged in a crescent shape with multiple coloured handles made of wood
From Hermit Woodworking Facebook Page

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Processual Archaeology

Archaeologists working in the 1960s, such as Lewis Binford, developed the theory of New Archaeology, which tries to understand the forces that cause cultural change. New Archaeology is also known as Processual Archaeology.

Lewis Binford and archaeologists like him realized that archaeology had unused resources. These new archaeologists argued that they should look at the populations of today to understand more about the populations of the past.

For example, Binford conducted an ethnographic study among the Nunamiut of Alaska. He lived with, ate with, and learned about the Nunamiut to better understand how hunter-gatherers lived in ancient France. Binford observed the waste materials created by knapping stone for tools, and found similar waste materials in the archaeological record. By linking modern understandings with archaeology, Binford learned more about past technologies and learned why stone fragments appear the way they do in the archaeological record.

Archaeologists now answer questions by combining understandings of many disciplines. Before this change, archaeologists could only describe sites, or ask questions about what the artifact was and how old it was. To understand the ‘why’, archaeologists take an inter-disciplinary approach by working with people such as sociologists, chemists, biologists, and geophysicists, just to name a few. Sharing knowledge between these disciplines allows archaeologists to develop their understanding of material culture better than ever before.

Bibliography

Binford, L. (1972). An Archaeological Perspective. New York: Seminar Press.

Renfrew, C., & Bahn, P. (2008). Archaeology: Theories, Methods, and Practice (5 ed.). London: Thames & Hudson.

Willey, G., & Sabloff, J. (1974). A History of American Archaeology. London: Thames and Hudson.

Copper Manufacturing of the Archaic

By: Ira Lehtovaara

Out of the known materials that were made by the First Nations, the copper materials that have been unearthed over the years are indeed fascinating. But where did these materials originate? How were these objects created? And what were copper objects used for? When journeying through the archaeology of these copper materials, even professionals in modern blacksmithing and Indiana Jones himself can only marvel at the brilliant copper manufacturing skills of the First Nations.

Archaic copper axe, MOA Permanent Gallery

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International Archaeology Day: What You Need to Know

On October 21st, hundreds of organizations across the world will be holding workshops, fairs, and lectures for International Archaeology Day.

“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

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