The Lawson Site

An Ontario Historic Place

The Lawson Site has been a focus of archaeological activity for over 125 years.

It was the first archaeological site to be listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places in 2004 and was one of the first sites to be provincially designated under the Archaeological and Historic Sites Protection Act of Ontario (Ontario Heritage Act). A blue Ontario Heritage Foundation plaque commemorates the location. The residents of this community are a vital part of the deep human history of this part of the world – a history that extends back millennia to time immemorial and across the waterways and territory of what we refer to today as southwestern Ontario. The Lawson site predates the 1840 incorporation of the town of London by over three centuries.

History of the Lawson Site

Known to settlers in the late 1800s as the “Old Fort” on Shaw-Wood farm and later registered under the Canadian Borden system as AgHh-1, the Lawson archaeological site encompasses over 20,000 square meters/5 acres. It is located east of the museum building, on a plateau overlooking Medway and Snake Creeks, tributaries that connect with the Thames River and the Great Lakes waterways. The location was recognized as significant by settlers because of its association with Indigenous occupancy and, as such, it was continuously investigated for over a century, often excluding the participation of Indigenous peoples, themselves.

Map of the Lawson Village site excavations by W.J. Wintemberg, 1921, 1922, 1923.

Archaeology on the Lawson Site

The first detailed scientific excavations of the Lawson Site began in 1921, 1922 and 1923 under William J. Wintemberg of the Victoria Memorial Museum (now the Canadian Museum of Nature), and continued under various researchers, including the museum’s founders, Amos and Wilfrid Jury in the 1930s and 1940s. By the mid-1970s, William D. Finlayson started an archaeological field school for the University of Western Ontario on the grounds which continued annually, led by researchers such as David Smith and Robert Pearce up until 2011, when excavations ceased and the focus shifted towards stewardship and conservation.

The Lawson Site Name

In 1969 Wilfrid Jury convinced Col. Tom Lawson, who owned the property, to donate the area encompassing the Indigenous village to The University of Western Ontario (Western University) to ensure that it remained preserved as an archaeological site and available for study. The “Lawson Site” name commemorates and acknowledges the Lawson family’s significant donation.

Lawson site drone photograph by Colin Creamer.

Google Arts & Culture Exhibit

Lifeways and Landscape of the Lawson Site.

Augment your on-site visit to this Lawson Site with this virtual exhibit, which highlights some of the objections that have been found on the grounds and what they tell us about life at this Ancestral Indigenous village during the 1500s.


From Hobby to Archaeology

The Lawson Site 1890-2017

This virtual exhibit examines the history and people behind the Lawson Site.