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Potters in the Past: Micro Computed Tomography of Archaeological Ceramics

By: Amy St. John, PhD candidate in Anthropology, Western University

A pot in the scanner

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? Read more

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

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Kathleen Kenyon: Archaeologist

Elizabeth McConkey, 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

Image of Archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon

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 profile, such as 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. Read more

Field School Experience – Jeff

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.

Image of Jeff Hardy excavating in a pit during the field school
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.

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Field School Experience – Arlyn

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.

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Lawson Field School Update

The Lawson Site Un-Field School Was a Success!

By Dr. Neal Ferris, Lawson Chair of Canadian Archaeology, Western University.

Students and volunteers at work

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! Read more

The Attawandaron Discoveries

by Marjorie Clark
(Part 3 of a 3 part series)


This article, part 3 of this history series, was previously published in the Puslinch Pioneer, 2015 and re-printed here with permission from the author, Marjorie Clark, and PuslinchToday


The Huron First Nation called their southern neighbours “Attawandaron”, meaning “People of a slightly different language.” The French labelled those same people “Neutrals,” as they remained neutral between the Huron and Iroquois.

The Attawandaron or Neutrals inhabited dozens of villages in Southwestern Ontario, stretching along the north shore of Lake Erie from the Niagara Peninsula to the Detroit River, perhaps as far north as Toronto in the east and Goderich in the west.

A semi-nomadic society, the Neutrals lived in villages, which would usually be abandoned after about twenty years. When the game, the soil and the wood in an area became depleted, the area would be left to regenerate and the village would relocate to a new spot. The largest Neutral village site in Wellington County and perhaps in Ontario, covering thirteen acres, was in the Badenoch section of Puslinch, on the east side of Morriston, lot 32, concession 8. The other one situated within the Badenoch area was on lot 28, rear of concession 8, the former McPhee farm.

In 1615-1623, some of Samuel de Champlain’s men travelled south from Midland to meet the Neutrals and in 1625-1626, Etienne Brulé spent the winter among them. A Récollet priest, Father Joseph de la Roche Daillon, described them in a letter dated July 18, 1627. At the time, there were approximately 40,000 Neutrals Read more

Sir William Flinders Petrie

Sir Flinders Petrie, 1903
Sir Flinders Petrie, 1903

Sir William Mathews Flinders Petrie was responsible for making archaeology the scientific discipline it is today.

Archaeology in popular media is frequently portrayed as a treasure hunt. Many popular characters perpetuate this image, perhaps most famously Indiana Jones, a professor of archaeology who travels the globe in search of precious artifacts, which he obtains by any means necessary, and at anyone’s expense, with little regard for context beyond the value of the object. Although this is a misleading image of archaeology today, in its early years the discipline really was more like treasure hunting than science. Sir William Mathews Flinders Petrie was the man responsible for taking the first steps towards making archaeology the scientific discipline it is today. Read more

Ice Patch Archaeology

Many portrayals of archaeology in popular culture include travelling to remote locations in order to recover artifacts regarded as “treasure”, usually under dramatic and somewhat harrowing circumstances. For Greg Hare, the Yukon Territory’s site assessment archaeologist, ice patches are the equivalent of the treasure filled tombs in an Indiana Jones film.

Figure 1. Archaeologists Survey the Friday Ice Patch, Yukon Territory Photo courtesy of Yukon Cultural Services Branch
Figure 1. Archaeologists Survey the Friday Ice Patch, Yukon Territory. Photo courtesy of Yukon Cultural Services Branch

Ice Patch Archaeology began in the late 1990s through the Yukon Ice Patch Project (Hare 2011: 2). Ice patches are accumulated snow and ice from previous winters that does not melt in the summer. They are found in alpine regions around the world, including the southern Yukon. Unlike glaciers, they do not flow downhill or move over time (except for seasonal melting along the perimeter). When the Yukon Ice Patch project began, changing temperatures were resulting in massive melting of these ice patches, which revealed many archaeological artifacts that had previously been encased in the ice. Due to the extremely dry and cold conditions, as well as the sedentary state of the ice, these artifacts are  remarkably well preserved and can include sinew, hide, and feathers on objects up to 9,000 years old (Hare 2011: 22). Read more