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Simcoe’s Boat found in Thames

For Immediate Release                                                                                                                                                 April 1, 2014

Simcoe’s Boat Found  in Thames River

Local archaeologists have discovered a remnant of an ancient boat found in the Thames River. It is believed to have belonged to Simcoe on his voyage here in the late 1700s. Last summer’s low river levels presented archaeologists with an opportunity to investigate the soil beneath the bed of the Thames River, revealing a historically significant piece of wood.  Professor Anaidni Senoj was leading his team’s excavation and recounts his discovery:  “When I came across the piece of wood, I knew immediately that I’d hit historical gold. I chuckled to myself, tipped my fedora, and said my favourite Indiana Jones quote from The Last Crusade: ‘This should be in a Museum!'”

Wood sample from Simcoe's boat
Wood sample from Simcoe’s boat

Senoj and his team found a 25 meter long, 7 meter wide piece of a boat’s awning and recovered two pieces of wood from it for testing at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. Over the course of a few months, archaeologists used carbon dating, dendrochronology, and historical research reports to decipher whether this was indeed a piece of Simcoe’s vessel. Historical records have uncovered a close match to accounts made by Simcoe and his expedition team in the late 1700s. John Graves Simcoe was the first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada. By studying numerous maps, he concluded that London would be the ideal site for the capital. February 1793, he started out on an expedition from Niagara on a bateau, a flat bottomed oared boat with an awning and lateen sail. Simcoe and his team (Major Edward Littlehales and Lieutenant Thomas Talbot) arrived at the Forks of the Thames on March 2nd. The awning of the boat had broken and was discarded, as mentioned in historical records and travel journals. Later in the week, Simcoe and his team continued their journey to Detroit without protection from the sun. Dendrochonology, the process of counting tree rings on wood artifacts, has given an exact date of April 1st, 1783 when the tree that became the awning had been cut down. This date was supported by carbon dating results. One of the archaeology students responsible for dating the artifact described the meticulous process, “At first, I only counted 221 rings on the wood but then I flipped it over and found an additional 10 rings, bringing the date up to 1783 which totally makes sense for this artifact.” The Museum of Ontario Archaeology will be holding this artifact in storage as research continues. If you would like to learn more about the progress of this local historical artifact, please visit

Original image courtesy of Toronto Public Library
Original image courtesy of Toronto Public Library


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