Thursday, March 29, 2012

Another Ossuary Unearthed in Huronia

Despite the best efforts of CRM companies and the field crews working on their behalf, ossuaries often escape detection until the first bulldozers pulls back the topsoil in preparation for an approved development to proceed.
Such was the case in December of 2011 when an ossuary was uncapped in the Sugarbush subdivision in Oro-Medonte. Should this have been a surprise? No, it should have been expected. The lot on which this accidental discovery was made contains numerous archaeological resources including at least one village site first noted by A F Hunter in his 1903 report on villages in Oro Township as the Walker site on the east 1/2 of lot 3 con 7. He also notes (see #24 of the Oro report) that a looted ossuary exists in the southwest 1/4 of this same lot. In 1969 F Ridley comments on Hunter's site # 24 and the site appears in Ridley's work as the McCarthy site under which name it was subsequently Bordenized. Ridley however makes no mention of the ossuary to the west noted by Hunter some 65 years earlier.



The next reference to the Hunter ossuary that I can find appears in a stage 1-2 archaeological assessment completed by a CRM in 1994 when this subdivision was in it early stage of approval. This report indicates difficulty in verifying the Hunter ossuary but recommends that "that any landscape modifications on or near the possible ossurary situated near the boundary of the subdivision lots...... should be monitored by an archaeologist in order to make every reasonable effort to confirm the location of the "bone pit" feature previously reported to have been entirely looted during the mid-1800s." The lots referenced in the 1994 report are about 400 meters from the lot where the ossuary was disturbed this past December and now as of its unearthing the township planning staff have recommended that they "require the owner of the lot to retain the services of a consulting archaeologist for their on site presence and monitoring of any grading or ground alterations within 50 metres of a potential ossuary." Will this prevent further destruction of sacred sites or other archaeological resources? Perhaps, but I would think that by now the monitoring of all surface disturbance in an area of such high archaeological resource potential would be the norm if not the law in this province.

2 comments:

William Gibson said...

having read the post here I decided to search Google inmages for huron ossuary and found no images of an ossuary which was a slight surprise....I did find numerous photos from various posts and the chapter's websites likely from article talking about Huron sites. One wikipedia article on the Radcliff site showed up, which might be of interest to readers of this post. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratcliff_Site,_Wendat_%28Huron%29_Ancestral_Village

John Raynor said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratcliff_Site,_Wendat_(Huron)_Ancestral_Village
The above link will take you to an artists rendering of an ossuary at the time of internment during the Feast of the Dead.
Today one might find a depression in the ground were the bone pit has settled over the years.
In some circumstances, like in Little Lake Park Midland, you find and ossuary that has been embellished to further honour the ancestors whose remains have been buried there.
The ossuary that was found in the subdivision in Oro-Medonte in December or the one at Cumberland beach will be dealt with in accordance with the wishes of the Wendat and protected under the Cemeteries Act of Ontario, they may or may not be embellished like the one in Midland and might just be grassed over and set aside as a protected area without marker. In ancient times Sagard mentions that the ossuary was surrounded by some cedar posts.
The ossuary noted in this post is now surrounded by an eight foot high screened fence with a locked gate. We will see how this is dealt with once the archaeology is complete probably later this summer.