Ontario

A Day in the Life with TRCA Archaeology

The Archaeology Team at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority is excited to participate in our first Day of Archaeology and share our unique experiences in the daily life of an archaeologist at the TRCA! The TRCA is currently the only Conservation Authority in Ontario to have its own in-house archaeology team, where we provide archaeological assessment services to all of the other business units at the TRCA. We hold an important duty as cultural heritage stewards to ensure that all cultural heritage resources, which includes built heritage, cultural heritage landscapes and archaeological resources, throughout our watersheds’ urban and rural landscapes are being responsibly managed and protected.  Our focus on preservation and avoidance of cultural heritage resources encourages the sustainability of local heritage and maintains past, present and future human connections to the land.

Our days start at the office, the beautiful Swan Lake Outdoor Education Centre and Centre for Innovation in Conservation, which we share with the Outdoor Educators from the York District School Board. Check out that view!

Our field crew will then set out to various parts of the GTA to conduct Stage 2 archaeological assessments for projects like erosion and restoration works or trail and park installations. These projects take us into great urban green spaces like the Don or Humber River Valleys, where it is very easy to forget that you are still in the middle of the City of Toronto and not up north in cottage country.

When we’re not out surveying in the field, our staff are busy processing all of the collected data and recovered artifacts, and maintaining field equipment.

Our Equipment Manager always makes sure we are never unprepared for our surveys and keeps the equipment in tip top shape!

The Geomatics team creates all of our mapping and figures, maintains our GIS database which records all of the projects we have done, and most especially, maintains the archaeological sites data within the TRCA’s jurisdiction.

We are very lucky to have many talented staff with their own specializations, who analyze and catalog each artifact that goes into our collections database.

Sometimes we need some more intensive background research, which means a trip to the Archives of Ontario or a local municipal archive! Here, our research specialist views all sorts of interesting data, such as geneology, census records, historic maps and photographs, and other information related to the past land use and owners of a property.

Our Report Writers then take all of these different components and bring them together to disseminate a clear narrative of our findings. The information must be compiled into a formal report for documentation and filing with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport, who ensures that all of the provincial archaeological licensing requirements have been fulfilled.

During lunch breaks at the office, some of our staff staff volunteer their time to work on our “Historic Garden Project”, a new staff initiative/experiment implemented this year where we put our green thumbs to the test! We are trying to grow the same kind crops that the earliest inhabitants of what is now the GTA once cultivated, such as the “Three Sisters” consisting of corn, beans and squash by early Indigenous groups, and imported crops such as radishes and turnips that were brought over by European settlers when they began to immigrate to the GTA in the 1800s.

In addition to cultural resource management, we also run the Boyd Archaeological Field School, the only credited archaeological field school for high school students in Canada, as well as engage local communities during public outreach events, where we try to connect people to their local environment and the past. This year, the field school is running during the Day of Archaeology! As a bonus, you can read about what a Day in the Life at the Boyd Archaeological Field School is like here!

Want to see even more TRCA Archaeology? Visit our website and Like the TRCA Archaeology Facebook page and Follow us on Twitter and Instagram to see what we’re up to all year long!


Ontario Heritage Work: A Day in the Life of ASI

ASI is the largest archaeological and cultural heritage consulting company in Ontario, Canada, with over 35 years experience in the production & dissemination of knowledge concerning our past. We offer an array of services, including research, planning, design and management of all types of cultural resources.

We put together a photo essay showing the wide variety of work we get up to on a daily basis, and what we love about doing heritage work in Ontario!

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A Day in the Life at Boyd Archaeological Field School

The 40th season of the Boyd Archaeological Field School (BAFS) is almost coming to a close and we wanted to share the experiences of the field school for Day of Archaeology 2017!

BAFS is Canada’s only high school credit course where students have the opportunity to participate in real archaeological fieldwork and earn an Interdisciplinary Studies University Preparatory (IDC4U) credit during this two-week long program, offered by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) in cooperation with the York Region District School Board. Since 1975, more than 1,200 Canadian and international students have experienced archaeology through BAFS.

We have found more than one million artifacts, and documented past settlement and activity patterns at several Ontario archaeological sites over the years. This year, students are investigating the Sebastien site in Pickering, Ontario, which was once occupied by the ancestors of the Huron-Wendat First Nations.

During the field school, the students’ days alternate between excavating at the site and classroom studies. While on site, students are taught basic excavation techniques and fieldwork methodologies by TRCA Archaeology staff members, several of whom are alumni of the BAFS program themselves! Over the course of the two weeks, students are then responsible for the excavation of two one-metre by one-metre square units, where they are able to practice and apply their newfound skills under the (very close) supervision of staff and volunteers. In addition to learning about the practical aspects of “How-to-Do” archaeological fieldwork, they are also taught “How-To-Think” like an archaeologist. Students are encouraged to apply their critical thinking abilities to make inferences and exercise their interpretive skills by thinking about how objects may find their way into the ground, consider the people who left them behind, and how their lives were integrated with the artifacts themselves. This allows students to achieve a holistic perspective and interpretation of the site.

When they aren’t working on site, students engage in experiential learning projects that appeal to both academic and applied learners.  Classroom instruction includes lectures by Indigenous speakers and leading professionals, workshops and seminars, as well as hands-on experience in ancient technologies.  The students gain an understanding of the culture and contributions of Canada’s First Peoples, including current Indigenous issues and concerns.

One of the most popular components of the program are the two days spent practicing Archaic skills. Students try their hand at creating tools with only resources that were available over 5,000 years ago. For example, students can make a hunting spear, which requires them to flintknap a spearhead, cut down a small ash tree and debark it with only a stone scraper. They must also create twine and collect pine pitch for hafting the spearhead. Other fun projects include:

  • Basketry with cattails or grass and basswood
  • Fish traps and weirs
  • Collecting food and medicine
  • Fire starting kits
  • Bolas

Students who loved the course and are interested in pursuing archaeology as a career are invited to come back for a second year at BAFS as volunteers, where they have the opportunity to further their archaeological skills, continue gaining valuable field experience, and advance their cultural material education. In addition to participating in the excavation, volunteers help the staff check students’ screens to ensure no artifacts are missed, and assist students in mapping and documenting their units. On classroom days, the volunteers get to work in the lab and process the recovered artifacts. Here, they can then examine artifacts more closely and prepare them for final analysis by the staff.

BAFS has had an invaluable impact on archaeology in Ontario. Over the years, many BAFS alumni have gone on to pursue post-secondary studies, advanced degrees, and careers in archaeology, anthropology, and related fields. In 2005, BAFS was the proud recipient of the Peggi Armstrong Public Archaeology Award from the Ontario Archaeological Society.

Thanks for stopping by! If you, a friend, or know anyone who may be interested in participating in this amazing program,  Like the Boyd Archaeological Field School Facebook page and Follow us on Twitter and Instagram so you don’t miss out on registration for the 2018 session!

Curious to know what A Day in the Life is like for a TRCA Archaeologist? Read all about it here as we celebrate a Day of Archaeology!

A Day of Virtual Archaeology!

Hi, my name is Michael and I’m a Salvage Archaeologist who became a Computer Animator 20 years ago and now I’m using both my archaeology and computer animation skills to reimagine archaeological landscapes in virtual reality! Most of my days are now spent in front of a computer working in Autodesk Maya, Unity or Unreal game engines, but today we are with our friends at ASI | Archaeological and Cultural Heritage Services to see what archaeologists think about our recent virtual reality (VR) (re)imagination of a 16th century Wendat (Iroquoian) Longhouse.

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Pills and Potions at the Niagara Apothecary

Over several weeks in June, Archaeology staff at the Ontario Heritage Trust, an agency of the Government of Ontario, excavated a remarkable site in the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake: the Niagara Apothecary. Niagara-on-the-Lake played an important role in Canada’s early history as a center for economic, political, and military activity with notable events during the War of 1812. Today, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a popular tourist destination in the summer due to its proximity to Niagara Falls, its picturesque downtown core, and it’s placement in the heart of Ontario’s wine country.

The Niagara Apothecary was one of the earliest pharmacies established in the area and served the citizens of Niagara-on-the-Lake under various owners from approximately 1820-1964. However, the business was originally located on a different property, and moved to its current location in 1869. During the 19th century, pharmacies – or apothecaries- satisfied many of the needs of the local community. Not only a place where prescriptions were mixed and distributed, apothecaries also carried various merchandise items such as paints, candy, cleaning supplies, fabric dyes, soft drinks, train tickets and much more. Today, the Niagara Apothecary building maintains many of its original interior attributes, and while owned by the Trust, operates as a Museum by the Ontario College of Pharmacy.

This year’s archaeological excavations took place in the rear yard of the property, behind the apothecary building. Due to the location of the site, just off the main street of a flourishing tourist town in the height of summer, we had over 700 visitors stop by as excavations were being conducted. While a previous dig in 1988 yielded some excellent discoveries, nothing could have prepared this year’s crew for the incredible finds that were to come.

The first discovery this year was the remnant of a building foundation. From previous investigations and background research, it was known that several buildings on the property were constructed, demolished, and renovated before the Apothecary business moved into the building that still stands today. The brick foundation that we uncovered in our excavations may have originally been part of the existing building (similar to a semi-detached structure), as architectural evidence indicates that the rear portion of the building may have been larger at one point than it is presently. Built by 1834, it is possible that the building was altered to be a more reasonable size when it transitioned from a law office to an apothecary in 1869. Another possibility is that the foundation is the remaining evidence of a domestic structure that was once located in the center of the lot and was likely removed sometime in the 1860s. This possibility is based upon a map from 1857 that describes two residences on the property in addition to the building that remains today.

Photo: Excavating the brick foundation wall

Photo: Excavating the brick foundation wall

The second main area of note that was uncovered was a spectacular refuse pit which contained 60  intact glass pharmaceutical bottles, as well as thousands of additional fragments of broken glass containers.  The extremely high yield of complete bottles was thrilling to excavate, as it allowed a look into the operation and procedures of the apothecary over the past 125 years. The bottles reflected many of the common items that would have been sold in the apothecary, such as Vaseline, Rose water, glycerine, Bromo Seltzer, malted milk, and Florida water. Also present were numerous containers for chemicals as well as prescription bottles. Another particularly exciting trait of many of the artifacts was that residue from unknown medicines were still preserved in the interior of approximately 12 bottles. Perhaps the most intriguing of these was a small glass phial, filled with dozens of pills! Residue analysis will be performed on these items by colleagues at the University of Idaho, and may yield interesting information about the ingredients used in the creation of medicines during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Excavating the refuse pit. Many glass vessels and fragments can be seen emerging.

Excavating the refuse pit. Many glass vessels and fragments can be seen emerging.

A few of the complete bottles shortly after being removed from the ground. The white plaster appears to be part of a sales display for Wampole’s Cod Liver Oil.

A few of the complete bottles shortly after being removed from the ground. The white plaster appears to be part of a sales display for Wampole’s Cod Liver Oil.

Today, the Ontario Heritage Trust archaeology team is working to wash, sort, label, and analyze the thousands of artifacts unearthed during the Niagara Apothecary excavation. In addition to glass fragments, other types of artifacts such as nails, ceramics, pipe stems, faunal material, and a coin from 1820 were unearthed. As for the complete bottles, investigations are under way to learn as much as we can from these spectacular artifacts. Many of them are embossed which indicates where they were made and by whom, and their contents. Another interesting question is to determine why these bottles were discarded; particularly those that still contained drugs. We hypothesize that the refuse pit may be associated with a changeover in pharmacists that occurred in the early 20th century. As we analyze further, we are excited to see what other surprises the Niagara Apothecary has in store for us.

Washing the Niagara Apothecary Artifacts.

Washing the Niagara Apothecary Artifacts.

 

Analyzing the artifacts in the lab

Analyzing the artifacts in the lab

 

 

 

 

135 Years in the Life of Ontario Archaeology

There is a long history of digging the past. Farmers who have made accidental finds whilst plowing their fields, builders cutting through historical remains as they dig foundations, cellars, privies or basements. There are private collectors and looters who seek out sites to dig. At the same time, many First Nations communities protested this looting and robbing of sites of heritage and burial. And entangled in these histories of digging, the profession of archaeology developed.

At Sustainable Archaeology, we are dealing with all of these histories of digging, but also innovations in storage, preservation and access to build a better future for collections that were assembled through these various acts of digging. Ontario, like many parts of the world, has been feeling increasing pressure from the ever growing archaeological collections amassed through development, research, and donations from private collectors. It takes a lot of time, money and training to care for these collections, not to mention make them accessible to the public.

Last year we narrated a Day in the Life of An Archaeological Repository, detailing how collections are processed, conserved and accessed in our repository and how research is undertaken in our labs. This year we have decided to be even more ambitious, and narrate 135 years in the life of Ontario Archaeology, to capture how the practice of digging and collecting objects from the past has changed over time and how this impacts facilities like Sustainable Archaeology: McMaster.

Explore our Timeline: 135 Years in the Life of Ontario Archaeology below:

For more information on the history of Ontario Archaeology, visit our blog and follow our progress at Sustainable Archaeology.

You can also follow us on Twitter (SustArchMIP) and on Facebook!

 

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Sustainable Archaeology McMaster: a day in the life of an archaeological repository

The field season is over, the excavation is complete, the artifacts have been analyzed and the report has been all nicely written up. Now what? What are you supposed to do with all the stuff? This is a problem that has just about come to its breaking point in Ontario. Here, legislation dictates that the licensed archaeologist responsible for collecting the artifacts is also responsible for keeping the artifacts. Forever.

This in itself is no bad thing – it ensures that collections are not simply discarded after excavation, in theory preserving them for the benefit of future generations. However, there are no rules or systems in place for ensuring that these collections are kept in appropriate storage conditions along with all of the accompanying information necessary for understanding what the artifacts are and where they came from. Unfortunately, it takes money, time, and training to ensure that a collection is properly cared for and made accessible to the public. As a result, due to the significant financial burden that securing decent storage space often requires, many collections are kept in poor conditions, are separated from their provenience information, and are completely inaccessible to the public and researchers.

Sustainable Archaeology is an initiative aimed at responding to this issue. With two locations (one at the University of Western Ontario and one at McMaster University), Sustainable Archaeology is an archaeological repository and research facility which specializes in the storage, preservation, and accessibility of Ontario’s archaeological collections. Here at the McMaster facility we have both a dry and wet lab available for use by researchers in addition to our collection storage space. Unlike many archaeologists, our “raison d’etre” is not to conduct our own research, but rather to make it possible for others to do so.

Movable shelving allows for more compact storage meaning that we can really make the most of our space. All artifacts are stored in the archival quality green boxes visible here and are labelled using an RFID tagging system to track their location.

Movable shelving allows for more compact storage meaning that we can really make the most of our space. All artifacts are stored in the archival quality green boxes visible here and are labelled using an RFID tagging system to track their location.

Sustainable Archaeology McMaster's polarizing microscope

Sustainable Archaeology McMaster’s polarizing microscope

The wet lab portion of the SA McMaster facility is where the production of thin sections takes place. This area can also be used to clean artifacts.

The wet lab portion of the SA McMaster facility is where the production of thin sections takes place. This area can also be used to clean artifacts.

These sinks and drying racks can be used to clean and dry artifacts

These sinks and drying racks can be used to clean and dry artifacts

The dry lab portion of our facility is used to work with any materials which could be harmed through exposure to moisture. This is where we do all our cataloguing and preventive conservation work.

The dry lab portion of our facility is used to work with any materials which could be harmed through exposure to moisture. This is where we do all our cataloguing and preventive conservation work.

Most of our time is spent ensuring that collections are kept in good condition, and that material can be easily found and accessed within the collection. Typically this involves researching the background of the collections in our care, assessing their condition, and repackaging them when necessary. Many of the collections we’re currently working with were excavated in the early- to mid-twentieth century, and have been separated from their contextual information over time. This means that sometimes we open a box to find a bunch of mysteriously labelled artifact bags without any clues as to where they came from or what the labels mean. This is where the detective work begins, as we use whatever information we do have left to track down the rest of the collection’s context. Sometimes we are lucky and the archaeologist will have published a paper or left us a catalogue which clarifies everything — then again, sometimes we’re unlucky and those hopeful looking blank fields in our collection catalogue must remain empty for the time being.

Collections Management Assistant, Emily Meikle working on a stemmed projectile point found at the Sealey Site near Brantford, Ontario

Collections Management Assistant, Emily Meikle working on a stemmed projectile point found at the Sealey Site near Brantford, Ontario

Each archaeologist has their own way of packaging artifacts. In this unique example dating from 1937-1940, a cardboard ammunition box was used to package a number of small potsherds.

Each archaeologist has their own way of packaging artifacts. In this unique example dating from 1937-1940, a cardboard ammunition box was used to package a number of small potsherds.

While the this site did need to be repackaged in acid free polypropylene bags, it was conveniently well labeled, including an individual label for each artifact

While the this site did need to be repackaged in acid free polypropylene bags, it was conveniently well labeled, including an individual label for each artifact

Just as packaging standards vary, so do labeling methods. Shown here are a number of potsherds all from the same site, but labeled using a number of different systems. Some of them aren't labeled at all.

Just as packaging standards vary, so do labeling methods. Shown here are a number of potsherds all from the same site, but labeled using a number of different systems. Some of them aren’t labeled at all.

Often beads are strung on wire susceptible to corrosion and must be removed and restrung using acid free thread. This process is also a good opportunity to inspect glass beads for glass disease -- a degradation which affects unstable glass and can spread between artifacts through contact.

Often beads are strung on wire susceptible to corrosion and must be removed and restrung using acid free thread. This process is also a good opportunity to inspect glass beads for glass disease — a degradation which affects unstable glass and can spread between artifacts through contact.

Frank Wood was an active collector of archaeological material in the early part of the 20th century. Much of the material in our care was included at one point in Wood's personal collection. As a result, his catalogue of artifacts is often a valuable resource in recovering the context of orphaned artifacts. As pictured above, we keep a photocopied version of the original in the lab for ready use.

Frank Wood was an active collector of archaeological material in the early part of the 20th century. Much of the material in our care was included at one point in Wood’s personal collection. As a result, his catalogue of artifacts is often a valuable resource in recovering the context of orphaned artifacts. As pictured above, we keep a photocopied version of the original in the lab for ready use.

Complementing our collections work, lab technician Samantha Atkins is also hard at work pioneering a thin sectioning protocol for use with our polarizing microscope. Slicing archaeological material (such as stone, ceramic, and teeth) into thin sections and viewing them under the polarizing microscope, it is often possible to determine from where a natural material was sourced, or the season during which an animal was killed. This information can be extremely valuable to an archaeologist, and as such Sustainable Archaeology has put an emphasis on creating thin sectioning protocols that can help provide archaeologists with as much information as possible. In order to do all of this, Sam’s days typically consist of a mix of research and experimentation. Because archaeological studies using thin sectioning rarely describe the process of creating thin sections, Sam has had to draw upon other fields (such as geology) to inform her techniques, and is also beginning to assemble a network of archaeological thin sectioning experts. In between bouts of research and experimentation, Sam is also responsible for photographing artifacts and editing images to be featured in our digital resources.

Lab Technician, Samantha Atkins working away at her deer teeth thin sections

Lab Technician, Samantha Atkins working away at her deer teeth thin sections

Samples to be thin sectioned are first impregnated with an epoxy formula.

Samples to be thin sectioned are first impregnated with an epoxy formula.

Thin section samples are taken only from material that does not have any accompanying contextual information. Once the epoxy pucks have solidified, the samples will be cut into slices and ground and polished down to the necessary thickness of 30 microns.

Thin section samples are taken only from material that does not have any accompanying contextual information. Once the epoxy pucks have solidified, the samples will be cut into slices and ground and polished down to the necessary thickness of 30 microns.

Thin sectioning test samples in various states of progression

Thin sectioning test samples in various states of progression

These mandibles from a recently deceased white-tailed deer were de-fleshed and sectioned in order to produce a tooth thin section with a positively dated season of death. Good archaeology doesn't always smell nice.

These mandibles from a recently deceased white-tailed deer were de-fleshed and sectioned in order to produce a tooth thin section with a positively dated season of death. Good archaeology doesn’t always smell nice.

To learn even more about what we do or to explore our collection online, check out our website or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

Uncovering Ontario’s History since 1972

Archaeological Research Associates Ltd. (ARA) is Ontario’s oldest archaeological and heritage consulting firm, uncovering Ontario’s history since 1972.

Over the past 43 years, ARA has completed hundreds of contracts for clients in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors across Ontario. With strong ties to Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) in Waterloo, Ontario, ARA has consistently been staffed with the best and brightest archaeologists and heritage specialists in Ontario.

Stage 4

At ARA, we approach the landscape in a holistic way, offering services in both Archaeology and  Heritage. We have a strong commitment and Education and Outreach, sharing our knowledge with the public and engaging them in learning about their local and greater community.


Archaeology

ARA’s Archaeology Department is responsible for conducting all 4 Stages of archaeological assessments as regulated by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS).

Stage 1 investigations consist of an archival search of any known historical, environmental and archaeological data for the study area. The information obtained in this search may be used to determine the archaeological potential of the study area. Sources in Stage 1 investigations may include, but are not limited to, historical maps and archives, oral histories, geophysical mapping, and Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport site records.

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During Stage 2 assessments, field crews are dispatched to the study area to examine it directly for the presence of archaeological and heritage resources. Visual inspection or subsurface-testing techniques are employed depending on field conditions. Significant archaeological finds are noted on large-scale field maps, and diagnostic artifacts (i.e. buttons, coins, pottery, bone, stone tools) are retained for analysis. At this point, MTCS guidelines are employed to determine whether or not a site requires further investigation.

In this photo our Field Technicians are completing a Test Pit survey to identify any new archaeological resources in the study area. This particular survey required some creative transportation in the middle of the assessment!

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Peter and Crew 2

We always gain permission to enter the property where we are working, here Field Director Sarah has made a new friend in this pygmy goat while checking in with some property owners before beginning their assessment.

Sarah and Goat

After Stage 2, our crews may continue to excavate an archaeological site at the Stage 3 level. A Stage 3 assessment is conducted if a potentially culturally-significant deposit is encountered during Stage 2 investigation. The site is subject to a controlled surface pickup (CSP) in which all artifacts visible on the surface are individually plotted using a Global Positioning System (GPS) device. All of our surface artifacts here are marked by red and white straws.

Rock GPS

In Stage 3, a series of 1×1 m test excavation units are placed in a grid formation, and the resulting artifacts and soil features are used to determine age, cultural affiliation, density, and extent. A determination is made, in consultation with the MTCS, regarding the need for further investigation in the form of full (Stage 4) excavation.

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Filling a Unit

Being responsible archaeologists means back-filling all of the units that we excavate…but sometimes the soil just doesn’t want to fit back in the same space! Here we see crew member Owen doing his best high-jumps to pack the soil back in!

In the below photo we are excavating a Euro-Canadian site at the Stage 4 level. In this final phase of the process, a site which is endangered and cannot be preserved is subjected to excavation. Stage 4 excavations are carried out according to MTCS guidelines and industry-accepted standards and practices. At ARA, we endeavour to collect research-grade data. Our collections are effectively curated and are made available to qualified scholars and researchers.

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Pam HiVis

Field work can be dirty but we do have fun! We rock the most enviable styles… #fashion

Mikes Goodbye

And sometimes you just want to rule from a throne of dirt! Did we mention our Game of Thrones obsession might have run a little wild? #MustLoveDirt

Unlike archaeology in the movies, the work is seldom glamorous. Archaeological work is physically demanding. Working out-of-doors means exposure to the elements and biting insects; frequently in isolated and sometimes challenging conditions.

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#NotTodayTicks

At the same time the archaeologist occasionally has an opportunity unavailable to others – to be the first to discover and retrieve artifacts last used by people that came before us hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. It is through these artifacts and other evidence preserved in the record of the past, that their experiences come to life once again.

FridayFun


Heritage

In addition to looking at cultural heritage resources below the ground in the archaeology department, ARA’s Heritage Department also looks at built heritage resources and cultural heritage landscapes. Our job is to help piece together the history of individual properties and landscapes.

Most of our jobs start in the field doing site visits (rain, shine, sleet or snow!). We get to get up close and personal with lots of different types of buildings and structures. We document their layout, location and condition through floor plans, photographs and even measured drawings.

Kayla and Sarah - Tower in Kingston

These investigations can take you to some very interesting places, like this former military tower!

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Here we are taking a close look at some wood flooring to determine if it is original to the structure

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We’re testing the pH level of a gravestone to assist with a condition assessment.

Research at local archives is like a treasure hunt. One newspaper clipping may make the whole history of a building fall into place. We find all kinds of interesting articles, from an ad in a 1820s newspaper for a circus held behind a subject building advertising “Grand Entrée by six horses which will go through many pleasing maneuvers” or a fur company catalogue showing stylish men and women. By reading through a record of land transactions we can determine who owned the land and how long they lived there. By examining historic photos or maps we can see the progression of a building over time.

Map 15 Building Footprints

Our work helps to tell the stories of the buildings that were witness to incredible moments in history, ordinary lives lived, and the growth of our cities and towns. We dig deep to describe the people who once lived, worked and played in these buildings, and their importance to the community both past and present.


Outreach and Education

ARA is also very involved in numerous Outreach and Education initiatives. Our Heritage Department recently worked with the City of Burlington and Heritage Burlington to draft stories for 30 themes and 30 properties in the City for their new website (www.heritageburlington.ca). The research for this involved detailed investigations of many interesting local legends. This website’s goal is to engage the community in learning about their history, and sharing their own stories.

Heritage Burlington WebsiteIn honour of Aboriginal Month (June) in Canada, our Heritage Cartographer worked on a joint project with the Kitchener Public Library to produce the “Local Aboriginal History and Culture Bike Tour”. The Library made this guide available online and in it’s main branch, and held guided tours through out the month.

Large Map Design May 26 2015 v2To view and print the brochure:
http://www.kpl.org/_docs/gsr/AboriginalHistory/TourMap.pdf

We also speak and lecture at various venues. From opening the Mississauga’s of the New Credit First Nation Annual Gathering, to jetting off to Alberta to talk about social media, we are always excited to talk about our passions!

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Our Heritage Manager talking about “Heritage is #trending” at the Municipal Heritage Forum in Alberta, Canada.

Speaking of social media, for more behind-the-scenes photos, interesting cultural heritage news, and all things ARA please check out our Facebook Page (ArchaeologicalResearchAssociates); Twitter profiles @ArchResearch and @ARAHeritage and to further fuel your Pinterest obsession you can find us at www.pinterest.com/araarchaeology and www.pinterest.com/araheritage.

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Day of Archaeology at Ontario Heritage Trust 2015

Last week marked the completion of the 2015 archaeology day camp called Adventures in Archaeology at the Spadina Museum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, operated by the Ontario Heritage Trust’s archaeology staff. Archaeology began in the 1980s at the Spadina Museum and this is the 13th public archaeology camp taken place on this site as of 2015. The continuous public archaeology program conducted by the Ontario Heritage Trust and the City of Toronto at Spadina received the Peggi Armstrong Public Archaeology Award from the Ontario Archaeological Society in 2004 for providing opportunities for public participation in archaeology.

Adventure in Archaeology campers digging at the Spadina Museum 2015
Adventure in Archaeology campers digging at the Spadina Museum 2015

The Spadina Museum is a site rich in history and archaeology. It was originally built by Dr. William Warren Baldwin in 1818, who named it “Spadina” originated from the aboriginal word ‘Ishaspadeena’ meaning “a hill or sudden rise in the Land”. This original house was destroyed by a fire in 1835 and a second house was constructed on the site on the original foundations. Spadina was owned by the Baldwins for three generations.

Upon Dr. William Warren Baldwin’s death, Robert Baldwin took over Spadina in 1844. Then it was inherited by his son William Willcocks Baldwin in 1858, who sold the property to James Austin in 1865. James Austin demolished the house and rebuilt it on its original foundations. Spadina was then passed down to Albert Austin in 1897 where further work was done to the building such as the two storey extension on the northern side. The third storey addition and numerous renovations were constructed in the early 20th century.

Various archaeological excavations were done to further our understanding of Spadina. Most of the initial excavations occurred in the basement, across the property and near the house. Recent archaeology camp excavations yielded memorable artifacts such as a sleeve cufflink inlaid with turquoise, lapis lazuli, and mother of pearl found in the year 2010, a pre-contact Nettling projectile point uncovered during the 2011 excavation, and this year a Union Jack pin was recovered during camp. The recent focus of the study has shifted to locating the surrounding outbuildings originally present around the first Spadina house built during the Baldwin occupation.

Union Jack pin found at Spadina site in 2015

Union Jack pin found at Spadina site in 2015

Adventures in Archaeology is a summer camp giving children between the ages 10 to 14 a chance to learn and experience archaeology for two weeks. The children were not only taught how to dig, identify, and wash artifacts, but they were given the opportunity to understand what being an archaeologist is all about and how to learn from an archaeological site.

Campers participating in an artifact analysis workshop

Campers participating in an artifact analysis workshop

Though the Adventures in Archaeology summer camp came to a close for this year, archaeology does not end at Spadina. Any unfinished units dug by the children at the Spadina camp have to be excavated and completed according to the standards and guidelines established by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport. These were completed by Trusts staff late last week.

Staff completing the excavation
Staff completing the excavation

Any of the excavated artifacts left unprocessed from the camp are currently being washed and sorted by the archaeology staff at the Trust’s archaeology lab in downtown Toronto. Washing entails the removal of soil from the artifacts to prevent further destructive effects of the natural acids within the soil. This ensures that the artifacts can be kept in the optimal condition to be preserved for research and future generations.

Staff washing artefacts

Staff washing artefacts

Staff reviewing field records

Staff reviewing field records

On this 2015 Day of Archaeology, archaeology staff is completing the washing, sorting, labelling and re-housing of the artifacts recovered this year as well as reviewing the field records in order to begin writing the report. In August, cataloguing these artifacts will further our understanding of Spadina through time and link our finds this year to the archaeology done in the past field seasons.

A Day of Archaeology at Ontario Heritage Trust

During the past week, the Trust’s archaeology crew has been running an archaeology day camp called “Adventures in Archaeology” at the Spadina Museum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The archaeology at this site has been ongoing since the early 1980s, and is in its thirteenth year of a public archaeology camp program.  In 2004, The Ontario Heritage Trust and the City of Toronto were awarded the Peggi Armstrong Public Archaeology Award for providing opportunities for community involvement at the Spadina Museum by the Ontario Archaeological Society.

Spadina House (Built 1866)

Spadina House (Built 1866)

The Spadina Museum is a site that is ripe for archaeological investigation. The first house on this property was built by Dr. William Warren Baldwin in 1818. Baldwin named his new home “Spadina” after the aboriginal term “Ishaspadeena”, which means “a hill or sudden rise in the land.  This first house burnt down in 1835 for reasons unknown and was rebuilt on the foundations of the first Spadina. The Baldwins held Spadina for three generations, being passed to Robert Baldwin in 1844, then to his son, William Willcocks Baldwin in 1858. In 1865, however, William Willcocks Baldwin decided to sell Spadina to James Austin, who in turn tore down and rebuilt Spadina  using the existing foundations for his new house. Spadina was inherited by Albert Austin in 1897, and it was that year that a two-storey addition added to the rear of Spadina. The early twentieth century saw additional construction projects by the Austins including the addition of a third storey.

Earlier archaeological projects at Spadina Museum were performed within the basement and around the existing structure. Recently, the archaeology conducted at this site has been focused around locating the outbuildings and structures which surrounded Spadina during the Baldwin family’s occupation. Some of the more memorable finds include silver inlaid cufflinks made with turquoise, lapis lazuli and mother-of-pearl found in 2010, as well as a pre-contact Nettling point found during the 2011 season.

The kids enrolled in this camp are aged 10-14 years old. They are given instruction on how to dig carefully, analyze, and record in an archaeological fashion.

 

Spadina Archaeology camper digging in the field

Spadina Archaeology camper digging in the field

The day begins by greeting the kids in the morning. The children are separated into two groups who rotate being on the field and in the lab. The names of the groups they are separated into have to do with the occupational history of the site – as one team are the “Baldwins,” the founders of the property and original occupants of the site. The second team are referred to as the “Austins,” after the builder and occupants of the structure which still stands today.

Two Spadina Archaeology campers working in their unit

Two Spadina Archaeology campers working in their unit

The children participate in digging in one by one units with a partner. They are thrilled at every find, and it is not uncommon to have more rocks than real artifacts bagged on site. When they are not digging they are actively involved in artifact processing- learning how to wash, sort, and organize artifacts that they themselves found. Earlier in the camp, the children additionally learnt how to record and map in the field: their agility with the tape-measure and Munsell over time has much improved! The assistant archaeologists who supervise them have been taking detailed notes to supplement anything the children may have missed or failed to record.

Spadina Archaeology campers washing artifacts in lab

Spadina Archaeology campers washing artifacts in lab

 

Camp participant measuring or determining Munsell soil color

Camp participant measuring or determining Munsell soil color

Field notes

Field notes

The children also participate in archaeological activities and workshops. Today on Archaeology Day, the children leave an artifact assemblage for future archaeologists by making a time capsule that will be buried at the end of the dig. Of course, the children have dug up quite the appetite by this point in the camp and are rewarded with dirt (Chocolate) and Gummy worm cupcakes as their final reward at the end of the dig.

Spadina Archaeology campers participating in artifact reconstruction workshop

Spadina Archaeology campers participating in artifact reconstruction workshop

This was the final day of the “Adventures in Archaeology,” camp in 2014. What the kids couldn’t finish, the field crew will finish next week.