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.
Archaeologists can encounter a lot of problems when looking at the archeology of maple sugar. Since archaeologists study material remains from human activity, logically there needs to be material remaining to study. Unfortunately, the seasonal and temporary nature of sugaring activities leaves often leaves little for archaeologists to analyze.
That is why archaeologists can find themselves categorizing a site based on what isn’t there instead of what is. For example let’s look at a site that was excavated in the 1960’s in Glencarry County which was dubbed a pre-historic Iroquoian sugar bush site. This wasn’t done because there was a wealth of information pointing towards the camp being used as such, but because of the lack of post-European contact trade materials, or really any materials for that matter. The absence of artifacts led the archaeologists to think that it was used seasonally instead of continuously. Also, large deposits of ash were thought to indicate the extensive use of hearths in the area.
Both Indigenous traditional knowledge and historical accounts attest to the existence of maple sap harvesting in the past. As there is no certainty about when and where it started, it can be said to have been done since time immemorial. The sap would have been collected in birch bark containers and then been processed into syrup or sugar by constant heating to evaporate the water in sap. Kettles and other technologies were adopted once they became more accessible through trade with European settlers.
This cultural exchange allowed for new innovations in processing to be developed, and these can be more easily identified in the archaeological record. In Michigan and Wisconsin, archaeologists have excavated the remains of ‘boiling arches’ at some indigenous sites from the early 20th century. These are ‘u’ shaped structures of stones packed with earth, with one open end to allow a fire tender entry into the fire box. These “arches” were an efficient replacement for kettles, as they permitted a more even distribution of a greater amount of heat (that was also better controlled), and for more steam to be allowed to escape during the boiling process. Instead of using a series of small kettles, people processed maple in a large rectangular metal pan held over the arch. This technology left behind a lot of archaeological evidence. This includes the unnatural arrangement of soil and stone, called the “borrow pit,” where the builders took the dirt they used to reinforce the arch, charcoal and ash deposits found near the opening of the arch from intermittent cleaning of the fire box, and various other materials, such as smoke stacks and support rods for the boiling box.
The history of the maple harvest is almost as rich as the delicious snacks we get from it. While we know that Indigenous people have always been central to this story, it can be difficult for archaeologists to identify cultural activities surrounding harvesting maple. To learn more about what archaeologist can say about prehistoric sugaring activities, visit the Museum of Ontario Archaeology’s temporary exhibit, “A Sweet Excavation”.
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.
Located along the southern shore of Christian Island, Ste. Marie II was the last Jesuit Mission to the Huron-Wendat Nation in what is now southern Ontario and was a central place in one of the most significant stories in early Canadian history. It is one of struggle, sacrifice and change, all of which left both the Wendat and Jesuits with unexpected consequences.
We begin in the early seventeenth century when the French and Wendat thrived alongside one another. By far the most comprehensive records of Wendat life are the annual accounts of the Jesuit priests who lived among the Wendat from 1634 until 1650. These regular reports by those Jesuits who lived among the Wendat are filled with descriptions of Wendat life and society. Jesuit missions in North America began early in the seventeenth century. Christian proselytization was an important component of the Christian church at this time around the world. All of these sources must be employed with caution, however, as they were written by outsiders with their own agendas. Read more
There’s a spirit on the river, there’s a ghost upon the shore,
And they sing of love and loving through the starlight evermore,
As they steal amid the silence,
And the shadows of the shore.
Pauline Johnson (1861-1913) was the best known female Canadian poet of her time. Born on the Six Nations Reserve in Brantford, Ontario, she learned Mohawk stories and traditions from her father, Chief George Johnson. Her mother, an English immigrant, taught her British literature. As an adult, Pauline Johnson drew on both sides of her heritage for her poetry, often writing on indigenous themes within the European poetic style. While many people enjoyed reading her work, Johnson became famous for her public appearances in which she performed in both a “Mohawk princess” costume and in a Victorian evening gown.
These costume changes have fascinated scholars for years. Some believe that Johnson acted as a “cultural mediator,” conveying indigenous culture and concerns such as land rights to her white audiences. Others criticise her praise of British colonial rule, or question whether she played into the common Euro-Canadian opinion that Native culture was on the path to extinction. Johnson’s “Mohawk princess” costume, they argue, was only meant to add exotic appeal.
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.
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. Read more
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
Imagine that you are an archaeologist working shortly after the First World War. It’s your first excavation, and you have found small fragment of pottery. What questions would you ask?
Was one of your questions “how old is it”? This is a core question that can be tricky to answer. From 1914 to 1940, archaeologists refined stratigraphy, seriation, and typology in an effort to better understand the age of an object, and of the site as a whole. Read more