Thank You Volunteers and Friends of TPA!

At the conclusion of the 2018 field season at Tay Point, Dr. Bonnie Glencross says thank you to the friends and volunteers of the project.

Our work would not be possible without the work of our dedicated volunteers and friends including but not limited to: Counsellors of Camp Simpresca, Chris Dalton, Graeme Davis, Jordan MacArthur, Don Patrick and Julia Sapiano. Volunteers have helped out in a great many ways and because of this invaluable contribution, we’re eager to say a big public “Thank you! We salute you!”

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Chris Dalton
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Counsellors of Camp Simpresca
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Don Patrick


2018 WLU Archaeology at Ahatsistari by the Numbers

15:   WLU undergraduate students

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2,080:  kilometers travelled to and from Tay Point

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20:  days in the field


582:  shovel test pits dug

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16:   1 x 2 meter units excavated

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600:  square meters of forest metal detected


135:   soil samples collected for chemical analyses

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640+:  17th century artifacts found

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1:  17th century rapier cross-guard uncovered

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A Lesson in the Archaeology of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons

Dr. Glencross here offers a third update of the 2018 Tay Point Field School.

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Left: WLU Archaeology students at the entrance of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons. Right: The greeting board welcoming WLU students.

Our 2018 WLU Archaeology students have been patiently awaiting for the much anticipated visit to Sainte-Marie among the Hurons. On June 6th we set-off on our daylong excursion that included a movie, a guided tour through the reconstructed community and artifact collections, and viewing of exhibits in the on-site museum. What better way to celebrate the story of Sainte-Marie, Francophone and Huron-Wendat cultures, and experience life as it was in early 17th century Ontario.

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Father (Dr.) Dan Travers speaking to WLU students about the archaeology of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons.

This year students were treated to a special guided tour, led by Father (Dr.) Dan Travers that emphasized the archaeology of Sainte-Marie. The original fenced community of Sainte-Marie was the centre of operations for the French Jesuit mission to the Huron-Wendat people. Occupied from 1639 A.D. until abandoned and burned in 1649 A.D., the remnants of Sainte-Marie lay hidden for almost three centuries.

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Enter a capFather Dan Travers exposing a concealed double hearth below the floors of the reconstructed church.

Archaeological investigations mainly conducted during the 20th century and information from historical documents have provided the blueprint for the reconstructed village but, not without some controversy. Archaeological work was conducted in the 1940’s by two archaeologists, Kenneth Kidd and Wilfrid Jury, and the reconstruction began in 1964 under the supervision of Jury. The reconstruction has drawn considerable scholarly criticism for ignoring the work of Kidd which seems to conflict with that of Jury’s on several points including, the remains of a double hearth concealed under the reconstructed 17th century church.

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WLU Archaeology students in the artifact storage at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons.

Sainte-Marie among the Hurons remains an excellent tourist and educational facility. Students were also treated to a behind the scenes look at the archaeological collections held at Sainte-Marie. All had the opportunity to view a rare silver cross, and relics of Saint Gabriel Lalemant who perished in 1649. A big thank you Dr. Dan Travers for an extremely insightful and interesting tour!

The Art of Knapping

Dr. Glencross provides a second update about the 2018 field school at Tay point.

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Examples of stone tools made by Chris Dalton.

Knapping is the age-old art of making sharp-edged stone tools. Practiced by Homo for millions of years, the art persists today through those engaged in traditional hunting exercises, enthusiasts of primitive skills, and experimental archaeologists. For archaeologists replicative knapping can be an important element of interpreting the archaeological record.

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Advertisement Genesee Valley Flint Knappers Association, Inc.’s annual knap-in.

Envision the art of knapping – family and kin sitting together on a warm sunny afternoon or around an early evening fire for warmth, where knowledge of materials, processes, a skill set are passed down from generation to generation as students emulate their teachers. Today, access to information about knapping and how to do it is unlimited, literally at the student’s finger tips with help from YouTube, blogs and websites, and a plethora of books. There are also many destination points across North America that host knapping events.

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Left: François Bordes a pioneer in the study of how ancient man made and used stone tools. Right: Chris Dalton demonstrating his expertise in knapping.

This week the WLU Tay Point Archaeology crew were lucky to have our own François Bordes, Mr. Chris Dalton, (President of the Grand River Chapter Ontario Archaeological Society) demonstrate the art of knapping. Students of the WLU crew were eager to give knapping a try, quick to learn that it actually takes lots of practice, and that you will likely require a nap after knapping for a couple of hours. Thank you Chris Dalton for coming to Tay Point and sharing your knowledge of this ancient art form!

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WLU students from left to right: Alex, Brittany, Emily and Grant honing their knapping skills.

2018 WLU Archaeology on Point

The following post from Dr. Bonnie Glencross provides an update on the 2018 Field School at Tay Point, Ontario.

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WLU Archaeology students are back on Tay Point! The 2018 TPA field School crew includes twelve undergraduate students (from left to right) Alex Vassel, Jason Grigor Salas, Anthony Cerullo, Nekesh Nair, Victoria Mance, Brittany Mitchell, Liam Rowland, Mallory Thompson, Charlotte Kenny, Krista Depaulo, Emily Milne and Rachael Doric.  Also on board veterans of TPA, IA’s Cassandra Brooks, and Laura Inthof. We also welcome our newest addition to the line of IA’s, straight from Jordan, Grant Ginson.

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All are set to investigate the early 17th century Huron-Wendat village site Ahatsistari through a series of shovel test pits and metal detecting surveys, and the hand excavation of several 1 x 2 m units. Our objectives for 2018; determine if the village was encircled by a palisade, and the location of the ever elusive French cabin believed built outside the walls of historic Carhagouha.

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While initially greeted with grey misty skies that did not deter the crew from setting to work. Our first three days on site were spent shovel test pitting the western limits of the village site.  Students Brittany, Emily, Krista and Rachael quickly found themselves in a newly identified midden. These fledgling archaeologists were thrilled to find diagnostic pottery rims and glass trade beads.

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With four more weeks to go, here’s hoping for good weather and another successful season on the Point!

The Chew Site

This month marks the publication of The Chew Site (BeGx-9): A Case Study in the Value of Archived Collections, in Ontario Archaeology (volume 95, 2015) a peer-reviewed journal of the Ontario Archaeological Society.  Wilfrid Laurier University students and faculty of the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies (Waterloo), and Society, Culture, and Environment and Indigenous Studies (Brantford) collaborated in the analysis and reporting of the Chew site collection.  Originally excavated in 1972 and shelved until 2014 when the analysis took place, the collection provides supporting evidence for the provocative idea that the Chew site is the location of the historically important Huron-Wendat village Quieunonascaran.


Quieunonascaran was one of the principle villages of the Attignawantan (Huron-Wendat People of the Bear) from ca. 1620 until 1637.   At the height of occupation, Quieunonascaran was the home of Huron-Wendat headmen who claimed to control the trade route east to Quebec City.  Quieunonascaran is also referenced in historical documents as host to French Recollect priests and traders that had travelled from Quebec to Huronia, and that resided at the village for extended periods of time.

Senior students and team members (from left to right): Katherine Anderson, Samantha Patterson and Shannon Millar, working on the Chew Site collection housed at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons during the 2014 Wilfrid Laurier University field school.

In May and June of 2014, in the context of an archaeological field school, students Katherine Anderson, Stefanie MacKinnon, Shannon Millar, and Samantha Patterson catalogued and examined a total of 4,277 artifacts from the Chew site.  Students and faculty discovered that the Chew site was occupied by the Huron-Wendat during the late 15th and early 17th centuries.  The early 17th century artifacts suggest a date for the Chew site of ca. 1620-1640 (based on trade bead chronology) that is consistent with the recorded occupation of Quieunonascaran, as well as evidence for a strong European presence.

Senior student and team member Stefanie MacKinnon at the 2014 field school.

Most telling is a metal finger ring, found in 1972 and now curated at Sainte Marie among the Hurons.  Iconographic finger rings were distributed by Europeans during the 17th century as trade items, and appear to be restricted to archaeological sites dating to A.D. 1625-1650 in southern Ontario.  This period corresponds with the arrival of French Jesuit priests that established missions and resided amongst the Huron-Wendat.  A recent study by Mercier (2011, Jesuit Rings in Trade Exchanges Between France and New France, Northeast Historical Archaeology, 40:21-42) suggests that most trade rings from this period likely originate from the commercial port of La Rochelle, France, which played a dominant role in transatlantic trade with New France

Trade ring. Photograph courtesy of Stefanie MacKinnon.

About Face: Iroquoian Effigy Pipes in Ontario

Inspiration for this post comes from the “Pinched Face” effigy pipe recovered at the 2016 Tay Point field school by AR219 students Nicholas Pauls and Kathleen Schupp.  The appearance of Iroquoian effigy pipes is a phenomenon that begins around A.D. 1300 and continues throughout the historic period in Ontario.  Made of clay or stone, clay effigy pipes far outnumber their stone counterparts.

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Side view of Pinched Face effigy pipe recovered at Ahatsistari, BeGx-76.  Photograph courtesy of Nicholas Pauls.

Effigy pipes can be divided into three broad design categories, those with zoomorphic or animal characteristics, those with anthropomorphic or human attributes, and pipes that incorporate both animal and human features.  The animals represented in effigy pipes have remained fairly constant through time.  Birds are the most commonly identified animal form with a large number depicting owls.  Other often identified animal forms include: salamanders or lizards, snakes turtles, bears, and dogs or wolves.

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Pinched Face pipe modified from Noble (1979), Ontario Iroquois Effigy Pipes, Canadian Journal of Archaeology (pg. 76).

Effigy pipes showing human forms, far outnumber those with animal features, and show considerable variation and change in design from the 14th through 17th centuries when designs become more uniform.  A small number of human effigies show atypical characteristics i.e. multiple faces.  “Pinched Face” effigy pipes show human attributes i.e. closed eyes, sunken cheeks, with hand(s) raised to mouth.  Thought to originate among the Huron-Wendat, the “Pinched Face” design dates from the late 16th to early 17th century.  Researchers have suggested that these human figures are imbued with curing qualities, and reflect the historical context of illness and sustained European contact in Huronia during the first half of the 17th century.

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Front view of pinched face effigy pipe recovered at Ahatsistari, BeGx-76.  Photograph courtesy of Nicholas Pauls.


Life at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons!

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Entry to Sainte-Marie among the Hurons.

What better way to experience life as it was in Ontario during the early 17th century than to visit the iconic site of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons.  Students of the 2016 Tay Point field school took a break from their trowelling and sifting of sand at Ahatsistari to visit Sainte-Marie and become immersed in period culture.  Our daylong visit included a movie, a guided tour through the reconstructed community, and plenty of time to view the new exhibits in the on-site museum.

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Inside a reconstructed longhouse, Karin Taylor, Curator speaks to the students of the 2016 Tay Point field school about life in the longhouse.

The original fenced community of Sainte-Marie was the centre of operations for the French Jesuit mission to the Huron-Wendat people.  Occupied from 1639 A.D. until abandoned and burned in 1649 A.D., the remnants of Sainte-Marie lay hidden for almost three centuries.  Archaeological investigations during the 20th century (including those conducted by our own Dr. John Triggs!) and information from historical documents have provided the blueprint for the reconstructed village which now celebrates the story of Sainte-Marie, Francophone and Huron-Wendat cultures.

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Dell Taylor, Coordinator of Public and Education Programs describes the complexities of building a bark canoe.

This world-renowned reconstruction features, a church and cemetery, blacksmith and carpentry workshops, Francophone and Huron-Wendat residences complete with period costumed interpreters.  Our WLU Archaeology students having experienced Sainte-Marie are now better able to understand and visualize early pioneer life in Ontario, and exchanges between the French and Huron-Wendat nations.  With the cooperation of the weather a fantastic time was had by all!

The (Ground-) Truth About Metal Detecting!

Metal detectors and their association with artifact hunting and site looting is probably the main reason for metal detector under-utilization by archaeologists.  However, metal detectors are valuable remote sensing tools that are minimally invasive and help to diminish destruction of archaeological remains.  When used systematically and coupled with traditional surface survey, shovel test pitting, and test excavation, metal detectors provide an inexpensive and less time consuming means by which to identify sites and plan excavation strategies.  The detected distribution of metal artifacts across a site can aid in determining artifacts missed when shovel test pitting, site boundaries, the location of midden deposits not visible on the surface, and pre-existing buried structural remains.  Virtually any archaeological site containing metal artifacts can benefit from the use of metal detectors.

Tay Point_3Conrad Gates, senior student of AR452 conducting a metal detector survey at Ahatsistari.

During the 2014 Tay Point field school, metal detector work was undertaken to determine the location and distribution of European contact era metal artifacts in middens.  Finds and metal types were confirmed when a limited number of test units were excavated.  Metal detecting was also applied to a small test area in the middle of the site and our findings and, while not ground-truthed, suggested a pattern in the distribution of iron objects.  We hypothesized that any patterns that were revealed may help to define the internal structure of the site such as, the location of buried middens, and the location and interior of longhouses.  As a result, we proposed a systematic metal detector and shovel test pitting survey of trade period indigenous archaeological sites on Tay Point.

Tay Point_4Senior students, Tamara Graham and Taylor Parliament establishing grid system for the systematic metal detector investigation of Ahatsistari.

Senior students of the 2016 Tay Point field school are currently conducting a test of metal detector use on Ahatsistari, a Huron-Wendat village site dating to the early 17th century.  The students’ main objective is to record the spatial distribution of all detected metal objects within a 10m wide strip that extends across the site from east to west.  Students have created a grid of 10m2 areas that are further divided into 1m wide corridors.  Each area is systematically swept with a metal detector by walking the corridors.  Detected subsurface objects are flagged on the surface with orange straws marking iron, green straws marking copper and white indicating other types of metal objects (i.e. modern composites). Each location is ground-truthed, and all material remains recovered are tagged and bagged.  Locations of all detected objects are being recorded using a total station and the distribution of detected objects mapped.  Friday proved exceptionally exciting with the excavation of a flagged cluster of detected iron objects.  The cluster was comprised of period artifacts including two 17th century trade axes and a trade knife, as well as a clay pipe stem.

Tay Point_5Senior students Conrad Gates and Jordon MacArthur holding a trade axe recovered during the test pit survey.

Hello from Tay Point

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Photo courtesy of Bonnie Glencross

On May 16th fifteen resolute Wilfrid Laurier undergraduate students, three staunch instructional assistants, and one plucky instructor embarked on their long awaited archaeological field research trip to Tay Point.  Tay Point, in Penetaguishene, Ontario is a peninsula roughly 25 km2 that extends into the reaches of Georgian Bay.  It contains the archaeological remains of at least six Huron-Wendat villages that are believed to represent the movements of a single community over a 250 year period (A.D. 1400-A.D. 1650). There is a strong possibility that two of the village sites, Ahatsistari and Chew, are the remains of the historically referenced villages Carhagouha and Quieunonascaran.  Both villages were described in the early 17th century by Samuel de Champlain and Recollect missionary, Gabriel Sagard while residing there.

Field work at Ahatsistari (BeGx-76) began with a flurry of activity and finds!  Students have opened ten units in the hopes of locating the elusive triple palisade thought to bound the east side of the village.  Progress through their units continues but students have already recovered a variety of pipe bowl fragments, glass trade beads and pottery.  Students of the WLU field school were also treated to a trip to the well-known Thompson-Walker site near Cold Water, Ontario where they were hosted by Ontario Heritage Trust Archaeologist, Dena Doroszenko and Dr. Alicia Hawkins of Laurentian University.  The Thompson-Walker site also contains the remains of a Huron-Wendat village dating to A.D. 1625-35, and some archaeologists have suggested that it is the site of French Jesuit Mission, St. Joachim.

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Photo courtesy of Nicholas Pauls.