We encourage the practice of ethical archaeology in the discovery of the early history of Huronia (northern Simcoe County) through archaeological research and discussion of the historic record and oral tradition. Please feel free to comment and or join and post on the blog. Blog contents do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Ontario Archaeological Society or the Huronia chapter.
The Huronia Chapter (OAS) held its Public
Archaeology Day(s) on Saturday and
11 and 12 August. The chosen site sits in the middle of the Tay Peninsula jutting
out into Georgian Bay between Midland and Penetanguishene, in the midst of the
lovely, dark and deep Simcoe County Forest. Designated formally BeGx-76. Wow! This is
cool!. The site awaits its proper name to be chosen
by the Huron/Wendat Nation of Quebec.
The deal was come rain or shine, and ...
well, yes. That does describe it pretty well.
weather was forecast to be rainy, on and off, and things got under way Saturday
morning quite pleasantly, with as many as 25 people coming out loyally,
clutching hot Timmy’s in their mitts, carrying backpacks and foul-weather gear.
As an old motto has it: there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. We kept
that in mind.
John and Marg Raynor had the site-tested RV (Noah’s
Arch?) positioned at the entrance
dig location. On Friday the hard-core faithful with assistance of county forest staff set plastic markers to delineate the path in, as well as tarpaulins to cover
the area of excavation. Dr. Alicia Hawkins determined that our task was to be
limited to the disturbed part of one large midden clinging to the edge of the
ravine. As so many – if not all – Wendat sites seem to appear, this site
followed the characteristic pattern: surrounded on at least three sides by a
declivity, near a reliable source of water, and on sandy – what isn’t in Simcoe
County, other than swamps? – upland soil. Sadly, this location had been looted
previously, probably over a number of years. The midden we were to deal with
had an extensive edge cut away and the spoiled earth piled haphazardly. We set
about taking pails of dirt by trowelling from these piled portions and
screening the soil carefully; guided by the “old hands” – being careful to note
that old hands in archaeology can be quite young and attractive – the duffers
like myself were coached in the fine art of telling charred wood from charred
corn, charred beans from seed pods, fish bones from mammal bones, and told to
keep a wary eye open for pottery sherds, or beads, or any specimens of metal.
When we began, we were told that the site was newly-discovered (credit goes to
Gary Dubeau) and newly-Bordenized by Alicia and that at this point it was not
known if it was a contact-site or not. So ... we were on the leading edge.
The first half of Saturday – for me at least
– entailed learning to recognize what I was
all covered in fine black dirt. The largest concentration of
recovered items would be by far the charred wood, charred corn kernels, and
such unromantic stuff as fish bones; but occasional pottery shards cropped up,
enough to keep the fire in the belly, some quite nicely decorated with notches
and lines. And then one shell bead was discovered. The finds were passed first
to Alicia for her okay, but then our bead-lady, Tonya Kitay, examined them,
singing her praises of each and every recovery. This was Tonya’s first
experience of a dig and she was enjoying each second.
About noon, the heavens opened. Jamie Hunter
had opined to Alicia that it might be a
to water-screen the sample soil and nature appeared to agree. Thunder,
lightning, all the good stuff, but it might not last long and a lunch break was
waiting to be taken. It served as
chance to clean our filthy hands. And to sample Marg Raynor’s excellent soup.
Tonya Kitay (our Bead Lady) is in the
black top, Kristin Thor beside her, back to camera. Sorry, Kristin.
As the rain tapered off, the crew returned to
their posts. So far, we had not
might be a contact-site, and we were back there to dig our heels in and make
something happen – well, we had to, the ground was now slippery as hell. But by
the end of day, all the hard campaigners had not found anything that proved
European influence, beyond what could have been traded inland from the far-off
Atlantic coasts. Although the suspicion was there: we had found a rolled copper
bead and a copper cone, perhaps a decoration from clothing. Sunday was another
And Sunday was a better day. Only spits of rain. The faces had changed somewhat,
people being otherwise committed, but new recruits had signed on and filled the
gaps nicely, and our work resumed. Jamie Hunter arrived and set to work with a
will. He had a happy knack of filling buckets with earth, and setting a lovely
sherd of pottery right on top, dead center, to keep our spirits up. And the
discoveries began. Jamie found a piece of a knife blade – iron – bingo! Certainly a contact site! I found a small,
right-angle folded, piece of copper that I was sure was from Canadian Tire and
not the seventeenth century. But Alicia slapped me around and
corrected the error of my ways. I was working with Gary Dubeau and Paul
Johnston on a standing screen (⅛-inch screen for those technically minded).
Paul, on his first dig, had the uncanny knack of picking out beads. Yes, beads! He found two; we joked that he
had “beady eyes.”
(Left) Paul Johnston and Caitlin, our supervisor,
screening. (Right) Kristin Thor hard at work; “finds” went in the
And Gary Dubeau found a bead – his first ever
bead, and he has been doing this work for years!
The gods were smiling on us at last. Kristin and her husband and sister found a
beautiful red bead with white “bloom” inserts. No doubt now that it was a site
dating after European trade was well established. Being located in the Carhagouha area, this is a very
interesting site indeed.
in an email sent to Jamie Hunter after the weekend, points out: “Blue tube –
Ia19; White football – IIa15; Blue and white tube – closest is Ib18; Red round
with white and blue – IIbb1. According to both Kenyon and Kenyon and to
Fitzgerald, Knight and Bain this should put it into GBPII. What do you think?” Archaeological-speak, but big brains need
their outlets too.
What I think, Alicia, is that I had the time
of my life and I am hooked – real
bad. I think
that the Huronia
Chapter, OAS, will be getting my faithful, volunteer service whenever I can
manage it in the future. And if you, too, have beady eyes, then you are welcome
to join us.
- Peter Davis, 15 August 2012 PS - based on what was found in the screenings of the area that was worked Alicia has a preliminary rough estimate of the occupation of this being 1600 - 1620 and hence I think, a suitable candidate for a Champlain era site. John