For our last post of Black History Month 2021, we are highlighting an upcoming project planned by Dr. Charles Orser, with Western University Anthropology department and Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants, Inc. The project, entitled “Landscapes of Freedom: Tangible African Canadian Heritage in Southern Ontario,” is explicitly aimed at identifying and examining Ontario’s Black heritage.
The pilot project will focus on the Wilberforce Settlement in what is now Lucan, Ontario, Northwest of London, Ontario. In addition to archaeological excavation, the project will use documentary research, interviews with residents, cartographic research, and other sources that may reveal information about the settlers’ daily lives.
The Wilberforce settlement was founded in 1829 by six free Black families who had left the United States and wanted to live in a society of their own making where they could experience greater social equality and civil rights, away from systemic oppression and violence. A number of factors contributed to the decline of the settlement by the end of its first decade, including the difficulty of making a life in the area, changing values and concepts of freedom, and internal conflicts. By the 1840s, most settlers had dispersed, and the local area became dominated by Irish immigrants fleeing the Great Famine of 1845-1849. In some cases, the new settlers even directly occupied the homes left behind by the original Black occupants.
Short and well-defined occupations are ideal of archaeological investigations of daily life. This makes the Wilberforce colony an excellent opportunity to investigate the experiences of these early Black settlers. Also, the introduction of Irish immigrants into the area as the Black population was dispersing provides an equally excellent opportunity to compare these two communities and to observe how they interacted.
While the pilot for the project is focused on the Wilberforce settlement, longer term plans involve identifying and investigating sites of Black heritage in Middlesex, Elgin, Oxford, Kent, and Essex counties. Community engagement is very important, and the project plans include several platforms for disseminating information about the project and its findings, and to encourage discussion and other forms of participation. The project will provide material for honours projects, theses and dissertations, but will also engage younger public school students and community volunteers. Work on the Landscapes of Freedom project had been planned for 2020, but like many things, plans were delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This blog was prepared from materials shared by Dr. Charles Orser.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a heritage site operated by the Ontario Heritage Trust. It takes its name from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel. The cabin once belonged to Reverend Josiah Henson, on whose life Beecher Stowe loosely based the events of her novel. It stands on land that was once the Dawn Settlement – a self-sufficient Black community in part founded and financed by Henson that was intended to give Blacks who escaped to Canada a new life with opportunities to prosper. You can learn more on the OHT’s site.
Part of the settlement included the Henson Family cemetery, which includes a memorial stone to Josiah Henson, and which is still in use for family members. As part of its site management, the OHT wanted to investigate the possibility that there were unmarked graves on the cemetery lot. In 2011, they approached the University of Western Ontario to come and survey the lot with the ground penetrating radar (GPR) equipment acquired for the Sustainable Archaeology: Western facility. This was a follow up to a survey performed in 2008 by UWO using a different kind of geophysical imaging technique called Magnetic Gradiometry. This survey, conducted through a partnership between the OHT and Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants (TMHC), was inconclusive, and it was hoped that the radar would prove more effective.
GPR works by sending radar waves from an antenna into the ground. These reflect off of buried objects, but also changes in the soil distribution. This can detect areas that have been disturbed – for example by digging a grave. These reflections are captured by software, which indicates areas where the waves have reflected. In order to cover an area, the machine is wheeled in parallel lines inside a predetermined grid. Trained operators can interpret these data and images and get a sense of what the reflections mean throughout the survey area.
In the above image, we can see the original radar image superimposed on a map of the cemetery. Below, we see the ‘translation’ of that radar image into the location of unmarked graves. The survey uncovered upwards of 300 unmarked graves on the site, and one clear area in the north that could be used for future internments.
Prof. Andrew Nelson of Western University’s Anthropology Department is the primary user of Western’s micro-CT Imaging System that’s housed in the Collections and Research wing of the MOA. Recently, Prof. Nelson has been working on a new research collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Greene from the Department of Classics. Dr. Greene has been excavating at the ancient Roman fort of Vindolanda in northern England for many years. Excavations at the site have uncovered a wealth of well-preserved organic deposits, including leather sandals. Discussions between Greene and Nelson led them to wonder what might be learned about these ancient shoes, and their wearers, through non-destructive analyses like micro-CT imaging? The MOA offered footwear from the Jury ethnographic collections as a test to see what kinds of details the scanner could pick up – and the preliminary results are promising!
We don’t know very much about the footwear from the MOA collection, other than the sole is recorded to have been made of walrus hide and may have been an outer layer of Inuit-style footwear called Mukluks or Kamiks, as seen in this exhibit from the Bata Shoe Museum, hosted by the Virtual Museum of Canada.
The micro-CT images show some interesting characteristics of
the materials, and what may be signs of wear.
Not bad for a quick pilot project, although it is hoped that further
tests may demonstrate that the technique can also illuminate how the shoes were
constructed. We look forward to seeing what scans of a Vindolanda shoe might
tell us about how Roman footwear was crafted and worn!
If you’re looking to introduce a young archaeologist
to some of the principles of archaeology, try this fun (and delicious!)
activity for #InternationalChocolateChipDay! This cookie excavation will help
children understand how important it is to be careful while excavating fragile
artifacts. They will also learn how an archaeological excavation destroys a
site, and why recording the location of artifacts is crucial to preserving
archaeological knowledge. In this activity, the chocolate chips serve as the
artifacts while the cookie serves as the archaeological site.
For this activity, you will need: – Toothpicks – Chocolate chip cookies – Activity Sheet
Give each child a cookie,
activity sheet, and two toothpicks.
Before starting the excavation,
children should place their cookie on Grid A. Then draw the cookie, with all
the visible artifacts (chocolate chips) included. This will be their record of
the archaeological site.
Excavate the cookies with the
toothpicks, by carefully chipping away at the dirt (cookie) to slowly reveal
any hidden artifacts (chocolate chips). Be careful not to damage the artifacts
while excavating! For an added challenge, remind them that they should not pick
up their cookies because archaeologists cannot pick up sites.
For each “artifact” found add
it to the drawing on grid B.
At the end each child should
have a pile of back dirt (cookie crumbs) and artifacts (chocolate chips), and
their drawing of what they looked like before.
Count artifacts; who has
excavated the most?
Eat the destroyed cookie!
What does this activity teach us about archaeology?
Archaeological excavations are a destructive process.
When archaeologists have finished with a site, they have largely taken it apart
piece by piece to discover its secrets. Unfortunately, this means a site, once
excavated, can’t be excavated again. To fix this problem, archaeologists take
lots of notes, drawings, photographs, and soil samples, and they write detailed
reports so archaeologists in the future can come back to their excavations and
learn even more.
Last December we announced that the MOA was taking over the
8000 square foot repository formerly operated by Western University. As part of this transfer, the museum has also
taken responsibility for the care of the objects, introducing millions of new
artifacts to the museum’s collections.
These include collections from UWO’s Anthropology department, as well as
hundreds of boxes from cultural resource management firms including ASI, TMHC,
Dr. Poulton, Golder, AECOM, and Amec Foster Wheeler. The museum has also taken
over the responsibility of caring for over 2000 boxes of archaeological
materials for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport that were transferred
to the repository in September 2017. These materials are now accessible to Indigenous
communities, and to support interpretation and research taking place at the
Work is underway by collections staff and volunteers to
integrate these with existing collections, and bring all materials up to the
standards of packaging and care for long term storage in the repository. This involves repackaging of collections,
moving archaeological collections from the museum’s storage area into the new
repository, and completing data entry of artifact and inventory information.
Dr. Holly Martelle has had a wide and varied career in
archaeology. She worked as a Heritage Planner with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture
and Sport, has taught in universities across Ontario, and served as President
of the Ontario Archaeological Society. Dr. Martelle co-founded Timmins Martelle
Heritage Consultants Inc. with Dr. Peter Timmins in 2003, which won the Ontario
Archaeological Society’s award for Excellence in Cultural Resource Management
in 2013. Dr. Martelle kindly agreed to share her knowledge and experiences in
Ontario archaeology with us for this special International Women’s Day MOA Blog
How long have you worked in archaeology and how has the field changed over that time?
I started my undergraduate degree over 30 years ago. At that
time, students were encouraged to go all the way through graduate school and
complete a Ph.D. The push was that the first generation of professionally
trained Ontario archaeologists would be retiring and there would be positions
to fill! That never turned out to be the case. I only had a small cohort of
archaeology majors and most of those were women! I was fortunate to have gone
to Wilfrid Laurier University and to have been taught and mentored by an
inspiring group of both male and female faculty, in archaeology, anthropology
and biology. My grandfather owned a road construction company and I grew up in
it. Coming from that background where there was a clear gender-divide in roles
and less involvement of women directly, gender discrepancies in archaeology
were not visible to me. When I started
in archaeology it was still very much research-based. As I sit here today, most
archaeology done in Canada is cultural resource management and driven by land
development. University archaeological courses are much larger than they were
and departments much bigger. There are far more opportunities for people in
archaeology today and folks make a decent living at it. Back in my early days
you were just lucky to get a job in archaeology and you were usually paid
minimum wage or less to do it.
What are your research interests? Why are you passionate about that particular topic?
My passion drives everything I do as an archaeologist. Since
before I began my Master’s research on “other ways of knowing and
understanding,” I have been very much interested in the power of archaeology to
tell the stories of people who are often written out of traditional historical
narratives. This has generated my interest in the archaeology of women, of the
working class, of African-Canadians and immigrants to Canada generally. I spent
much of my career advocating for the inclusion of the voices of Indigenous and
Descent community voices in archaeology and our shared responsibilities in
managing, describing and interpreting archaeological sites.
My dissertation work and early cultural resource management
experience also developed my interest in ceramics and ceramic technology, from
Iroquoian pottery to the 19th century. I’m interested not just in how ceramics
were made or used, but how they were perceived by their makers and users and
integrated into all facets of daily life.
What significant projects/publications have you worked on and what impact do you hope they will have on the field?
There are many. Some of my biggest learning moments came during contentious projects where I was working directly with or for Indigenous communities. My experiences working with Indigenous communities have shaped my entire approach to doing archaeology and talking about our findings. Our recent work in downtown Toronto on St. John’s Ward, a multi-ethnic working class district, resulted in the book The Ward Uncovered: The Archaeology of Everyday Life. It is the publication of which I am most proud because it incorporated stories from authors of many disciplinary and ethnic backgrounds and was not about an archaeologist only telling their version of the past. I hope that it will encourage archaeologists to be more considerate and inclusive of multiple perspectives on the past.
What advice do you have for young archaeologists looking to break into the field?
I would say the best thing they can do is continue to learn.
Every moment is a learning moment. Be receptive to multiple perspectives. Take
every opportunity you can to listen to and spend time with the elders of
Ontario archaeology. They have much to offer and provide the best perspective
on how Ontario archaeology (and its issues) have evolved over time.
“Cleveland” was the affectionate name by which researchers at
McMaster University came to refer to a dog in their archaeological collections.
(Bathurst and Barta, 2004). Originally discovered on the Cleveland
archaeological site near Brantford, Ontario, the dog was an unusual find – a
complete burial recovered within what remained of a large ceramic pot. From the
robust markings on the skull and a distinctive bone called a baculum, or “penis
bone”, found among the remains, there was no doubt that Cleveland had been a
male. Minimal dental wear and almost no deterioration in the joints indicated
that he was likely no older than three or four years old at the time of his
death. Measurements of his limbs determined that he had likely once stood about
knee-height to an adult human.
Dogs are humanity’s oldest domestic companions, and recent research
confirms that they were present in North America over 10,000 years ago. (Perri
et al, 2018) Archaeological evidence of dog remains suggest that the
agricultural communities living in the Brantford area 450 years ago had complex
relationships with their dogs. While some were carefully buried whole and
undisturbed, as Cleveland was, other remains have been found burnt, broken, sometimes
polished around the edges from bouncing around in a boiling pot, scarred by
cuts or gnaw-marks, and scattered among the garbage heaps – or middens – within
the same communities. Some dogs, it seems, were invited to dinner, whereas
others were dinner.
There are things we can presume about ancient dogs that we cannot
see or confirm from archaeological evidence. We know from our relationships
with them today, as well as from historic accounts and traditional knowledge,
that dogs would have served many purposes in a community, from labourers to
companions. They would have been helpful on a hunt, and loyal guardians within
a village. They would have eaten scraps and garbage, controlling waste, and
driven away predators around a village or pests within the fields of crops. They
may even have helped as pack animals, prior to the arrival of the horse,
bearing burdens from one community to the next. Dogs feature in many
traditional narratives as loyal and helpful companions to humans in both life –
and in death.
Cleveland’s remains show that he suffered from a condition called
hypertrophic osteopathy, or HPO, a painful and obvious bone condition that may
have been caused by a reaction to lung-related infections such as pneumonia,
cancer, or tuberculosis. Thanks to modern veterinary medicine, HPO is condition
that is not seen often today and can be readily cured when it is. The
archaeologists were particularly interested in knowing whether Cleveland’s
condition was caused by tuberculosis, because TB is a zoonotic disease – that is, an infection that can be shared between
animals and humans. Therefore, they tested Cleveland’s bones for evidence of
tuberculosis DNA – and they found it. This told them two interesting things
about the relationship between humans and dogs in this ancient community.
First, Cleveland was cared for. With HPO and tuberculosis, he would have looked and acted very sick, with symptoms of TB such as weight loss, cough, and vomiting. The HPO would have swollen his paws and lower limbs, making them thick and painful and difficult to move. He likely would have required assistance eating and drinking and would not have been able to defend himself. The advanced state of the condition suggested that he’d lived with the condition for some time. His remains showed no evidence of cut marks, gnawing, nor any other indication of violence or abuse. This suggested to the archaeologists that Cleveland was able to rely on his human companions for food, protection, and care as his illness progressed. People in this ancient village cared for this dog in much the same way we do with our pets today.
Second, Cleveland’s condition potentially posed a great and unexpected danger to those who were caring for him. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that the World Health Organization still considers one of the top 10 causes of death, worldwide. (World Health Organization, 2018) Just as it can be passed from person to person, it can also be passed between humans and animals. Tragically, those who had cared so tenderly for this dog, may have become infected themselves, and in turn may have passed this deadly condition along to others in the community – human and canine, alike.
Despite his short and difficult life, Cleveland appears to have been tenderly cared for by his human companions. Almost 500 years later, his discovery has sparked over 20 years of research – from his archaeological recovery to historic, pathological, etiological, DNA, microscopic, and microCT research that has served to teach us all more about the conditions he and his human companions once lived in and the relationship that they once shared.
Dr. Rhonda Bathurst is the lead author on the research paper that this story is drawn from (you can read this article in full at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305440303001985). Dr. Bathurst wrote it during her PhD at McMaster University after her (re)discovery of the Cleveland dog remains in a locked cabinet in a basement archaeology lab. She collaborated with a fellow PhD candidate at the time, Jodi Barta, who was working in the newly built McMaster Ancient DNA Centre. Barta helped her to confirm the hunch she had about the dog’s primary condition – tuberculosis. Today Dr. Bathurst is the Executive Director of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, and is delighted to share this story about her favourite dog.
To read more about Cleveland, other research involving
this dog includes:
James A. Burns.
“The Dog Who Couldn’t Be.” Arch Notes,
73 (1973): 3–5. Print.
Hunnius, T. Von. “Using Microscopy to Improve a Diagnosis: an Isolated
Case of Tuberculosis-Induced Hypertrophic Osteopathy in Archaeological Dog
Remains.” International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, vol. 19, no.
3, 2009, pp. 397–405., onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/oa.989.
Victoria recently completed a high school co-op placement at MOA. Here’s what she had to say about her experience!
My name is
Victoria Wilson, and I am currently in grade 12 and in my final year of high
school before I go to university. As my career choice, I want to be a forensic
anthropologist and have archaeology as a major. I started my co-op in the fall
of 2018 and am ending February 2019. I chose to do my co-op at the Museum of
Ontario Archaeology because of the learning environment. Each day I have
learned something new from how the programs run with each grade to taking
people through the Virtual Reality tour. I grew up always interested in the
history behind people and artifacts. When I first started at the museum, my
knowledge was limited to what I have learned in school and read about in books
or the news. Planning out courses in high school that were related to ancient
history and anthropology helped direct me to my career choice as well as this
Being a part
of the museum has helped me be more confident in the tasks I am given as well
as helping me come out of my shell. Since I want to major in archaeology, the
museum gives me insight on what this career path will look like and what it
entails as well as the many people willing to help me reach my goals. Joining the staff and assisting with the
school programs has taught me a lot about the history of the Indigenous peoples
as well as teaching me about myself and what I am capable of. When I first
started, I would help make sure the students had the material they needed for
the activity they were working on. Now I am able to teach students from other
schools or even universities. I have learned through my experience here that
there are many possibilities following this path. I found that working in an
environment that helps you grow while teaching others and building up your own
strengths gives you a boost to your personal goals and to achieving them.
interested in volunteering or completing a placement at MOA? Every day is
something new that you learn and see, whether it be from staff, students or
even just looking around. The staff members are always welcoming and make sure
you are comfortable in the task you are doing. You will get to experience a
broad range of activities and sights that you are able to participate in
throughout the year and will learn many things throughout your time here just
like I have.
This artifact is a single-handed hatchet from North America.
General-purpose tools, they were often employed as a hand-to-hand or a thrown weapon. There is a pipe-bowl opposite to the cutting blade and a hole drilled down the center of the shaft (for smoking tobacco). A decorative soapstone bead, group of feathers, and an orange pom-pom are held together with green yarn and attached to the stem with leather lace. Furthermore there is a band embellishment of brass tacks (metal studs) around the diameter of the haft.
In general the iron axe-head was rusted, the brass areas, decorative string, and pom-pom were soiled, and the feather embellishments were damaged.
Above top: tomahawk before treatment; encircled were the main treatment areas.
Above below: tomahawk after treatment.
Importantly, the rachis of one feather had split apart, and the feather was held together only by the integrity of the barbs. Therefore the main conservation technique involved a modified form of the veterinary treatment imping: implanting a splint inside the rachis of the feather to repair it.
Above: anatomy of a feather showing the rachis and barbs. Image courtesy of The Cornell Lab, Bird Academy.
Above left: decorative detail before treatment; encircled were the main treatment areas.
Above right: decorative detail after treatment.
This treatment, along with careful, specialized cleaning revitalized the tomahawk and revealed some unique characteristics. For instance, an unusual pattern of circles was uncovered on the axe head which was previously obscured by rust and a possible maker’s mark was uncovered on the pipe bowl which could provide more diagnostic information in the future.
Aside: Fleming College conservation intern Jazmin Beddard performing controlled cleaning. Image courtesy of Marie Hoffmann.
A year a bit now intermittently throughout the summer and university year. I have been a volunteer, a work study student, a volunteer again, and I am currently a summer employee.
What is your job title and what do you do?
Front Desk is my job title, and I do a plethora of various things, and while the title may tell you an idea what I do, just sitting at the front desk is far from all of it. I open and close the museum, greet and guide visitors as they enter, make sure the gift shop and gallery are tidy. I answer the phone; run the gift-shop, operate the Virtual Reality and inform customers about the history of the museum and its programs. If you call the phone on certain days of the week, I will be the one that answers. If you’re buying things from the gift shop, I help you. Above everything else, I am happy to be the first face you see when you enter the museum, and I will help you as best I can. Read more