Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dr. Marti Latta gives talk about 1976 archaeological dig in Beeton

April 24, 2014   ·   0 Comments
Photo by Jeff Doner
The Tec We Gwill Historical Society hears a special presentation from Professor/archaeologist Marti Latta from the University of Toronto at their recent AGM.
The Tec We Gwill Historical Society held their annual general meeting and were treated to a special presentation by Professor/archaeologist Marti Latta from the University of Toronto.
To a nearly full room at the Tec We Gwill Women’s Institute, Dr. Latta spoke about an archaeological dig in Beeton in 1976. During the dig, Dr. Latta and her team found remnants of a permanent village of about 300 – 500 people, including about 10 to 12 permanent houses made of wood that was situated just south of Beeton on the 10th side road between the 6th and 7th concessions.
“Unfortunately they came and went before there were any Europeans here to write about them, so we had to figure them out for ourselves,” Dr. Latta told the room. “These people were farmers. They raised a number of crops and you’ll see that they raised corn, beans, pumpkins and squash and probably tobacco.”
The village was thought to be an independent city state that was situated and protected at the top of a hill and looked to be a rather rich village that traded the sought after flint stone that they brought up themselves in canoes from Hamilton or Grimsby.
“They were middlemen with a lovely location to control a very important and profitable trade.”
The dig uncovered plenty of tools, pottery, woodworking tools, axes, hoes, hunting tools, needles carved of bone, games and lots of smoking pipes. Dr. Latta said the location itself was ideal for a village, situated at the top of a hill, with a permanent spring (that still runs to this day) and connected to rivers leading to all of the major water sources in the area.
The site itself was found just about 20 centimetres below the top soil of a corn field and also turned up some things that stumped the team.
“One of the things that we did find that we found very interesting, was some little bits and pieces of brass,” Dr. Latta said. “They were tested with neutron activation and are definitely sixteenth century brass. That gives us the next question of what was the date for the site.”
The brass would have been there much longer before the first arrival of Europeans in the area, which suggested it was traded “hand to hand” all the way from the east coast.
“They might have been getting some of this European brass from much farther east and then passing it along and it would have been incredibly rare,” she said. “We tend to think copper isn’t very important, but these were people for whom copper was more excited than we would feel about gold today.”
Dr. Latta explained that everything seemed great for the village and then eventually it was abandoned after what looks like an attack from neighbours that burned most of the site.
As for the remaining artifacts of the site, Dr. Latta delivered some sad news that much of what was uncovered was lost in an accidental “spring cleaning” at the University of Toronto. “It’s appalling and part of the reason I am here is to convey apologies,” she said. “It was just one of those horrible human mistakes that people make.”
There hasn’t been any excavation at the site since 1976, but much of the site is still protected by the Town of Beeton and Dr. Latta hopes it is explored again someday. “It’s a lovely site and really deserves some more attention.”
By Jeff Doner


Patricia said...

Holaaaayyyy, how could the university just toss out "plenty of tools, pottery, woodworking tools, axes, hoes, hunting tools, needles carved of bone, games and lots of smoking pipes." ?????? That's terrible!! :(

John Raynor said...

It's a long story Pat - the collection wa quite extensive and ended up in a Michigan landfill.