Ontario

Another year and still no dinsoaurs, gold, etc…

Archaeological Services Inc. (ASI) is a Canadian-owned company that was founded in 1980 in response to increasing public awareness of the importance of Ontario’s heritage. With offices in Toronto and Burlington, we are the largest archaeological consulting firm in Ontario. Archaeological Services Inc. provides a variety of services including both archaeological and built heritage resource/cultural landscape pre-development assessments, large-scale heritage planning studies for municipalities, as well as Stage 4 salvage excavation of archaeological sites.

Below you’ll find a photo essay showing what we are up to on this Day of Archaeology 2014. Enjoy, and from all of us at ASI, happy digging!

IMG_2244

It’s a beautiful FRIDAY, JULY 11, 2014 at Archaeological Services Inc. in Toronto and Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

IMG_2181

One of the ASI Partners, Robert Pihl, examining some incredible pipes from the famous Charles Garrad collection (from sites near Collingwood, Ontario).

20140709_100344

Great work on that unit, Sarah! It’s a beauty!

Indy

It’s hard for Dr. Katie Hull (Manager of Historical Archaeology) to keep her adorable Irish Wolfhound puppy – appropriately named “Indy” –  out of the artifact box.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here is a photo taken by one of the crane operators of part of the New Fort site at Exhibition Place, which an ASI crew is currently working on. The foundations are of the northern half of the East Enlisted Men’s Barracks – a mid-nineteenth-century barracks built by the British to compliment the garrison at Old Fort York Garrison Common. What you are seeing in this photo will eventually be covered in a glass floor leading up to the front entrance of a brand new hotel: guests of the hotel will be able to see the original foundations of the barracks!

The crane was about 80-100 feet high when the photo was taken, and the foundations shown are approximately 110 feet (30 metres) by 40 feet (12 metres). For a scale you can see the ASI crew in the lower right corner!

The foundations of the northern half of the building (far right of the photo) are quite intact: the brick walled room (left of centre) is a coal cellar and the brick structures just above and below the foundations are what is left of two brick-lined box drains. There is also a remnant brick pipe drain (immediate right of the stone foundations), however, it is currently underneath a nice thick layer of mud.

If you want to read more information on the New Fort site, which has been actively excavated by ASI for the last 6 years, visit the Featured Project section of our website: http://ow.ly/z0szT

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wes’ downtown Toronto crew hard at work excavating the New Fort site!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nobody puts Wes’ crew in a corner… unless of course they are profiling the barracks’ walls.

IMG_1151

Manager of Stage 1 and 2 Planning Division Projects, Bev Garner, on the phone with one of her many clients…

IMG_1152

Senior Archaeologist and Manager of Western Environmental Assessment Projects, Dr. Andrew Riddle, answering emails on his phone. He is also the Manager of IT, so we suppose it’s quite fitting for him to be surrounded by two computers and a smartphone.

IMG_1153

Here is our British star, Greg Pugh, working on a report when he is not out in the field on one of the richest properties we have ever worked on.

IMG_2189

ASI’s Built Heritage and Cultural Heritage Landscape Planning Division (phew!) work so well as a team that they find it hard to do anything without one another. They all wear glasses and read historical architecture books. It’s their thing.

IMG_2194

The perfect juxtaposition of old & new on analyst Miranda’s desk. What a tea-riffic combination!

IMG_2207

We are pleased to announce we have hired a new faunal analyst! Jackson also takes a lot of pride when selecting his office wear.

IMG_2211

The lab was busy today sorting through a new historical site — looks like they’ve “nailed” it.

Wendat

Here are Huron-Wendat representatives Melanie Vincent and Louis Lesage examining their material culture heritage at our offices in Toronto today.

IMG_2191

Senior Archaeologist, Dr. Bruce Welsh, can’t get enough of history. He spends his lunch hour buried in a book.

DSC_0341 copy

ASI often has the privilege of working on a single site for multiple decades, such as the one pictured here. A quick glance through our records of this site produced this gem of a photo of Martin Cooper test-pitting the site in 1989. Years later, following in his footsteps, are Andrea Carnevale and Zeeshan Abedin, directing the salvage excavation of the site along with David Robertson and Robert Pihl. Stefan Jovanovich and Andreas Vatistas, pictured here, rounded off the rest of their team. Artifact analysis and the final report for the recent work are now in the process of being completed.

This is a great, albeit humorous, example of the roles and opportunities women have in the world of archaeology– not only to learn from but to also work alongside their mentors.

Ladies, keep digging!

IMG_2233

Cleo LOVES maps just as much as her owner, Jonas; an ASI Geomatics Specialist.

IMG_2242

Staff archaeologist Jenna hit the 3 pm wall. Thank goodness for her comically large Toblerone. Must. Have. Chocolate. Now!

IMG_2255

Assistant Manager of Urban Archaeology, Thanos Webb, often spends his day on the bike surveying sites downtown. He’s gotten so good at it that he can bike, review maps, make notes and drink coffee all at the same time!

photo 1

It’s a home office day for Staff Archaeologist Caitlin! Great slippers.

photo 2

Our crews have a good time together. It’s pretty obvious.

 photo 3 - Copy

A pretty great panoramic view of Amy and Erika’s historic site excavation.

Sorting

Lithic Specialist Doug Todd’s sorting table. He’s got a primitive process.

Lithics

Middle Archaic points that Doug has recently photographed. A lot of the material he has been looking at as of late comes from sites in Southwestern Ontario.

flake

Check out that detail!

IMG_2235

Chief Archaeologist and Managing Partner, Dr. Ron Williamson, examining an amputation from our excavations of the early nineteenth-century site of the first Toronto General Hospital.

Well, that was a busy day! Thanks for dropping by to see what we’ve been up to!

 

Day of Archaeology at Dundurn Castle National Historic Site in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

During the Day of Archaeology, our crew was carrying out a Stage 4 consulting excavation at Dundurn Castle National Historic Site in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The manor house was the 19th century home of politician and railway magnate Sir Alan MacNab, and the entire parkland surrounding the manor is a registered archaeological site, representing almost 9,000 years of human occupation. The site is also part of Burlington Heights, defended by the British military during the War of 1812. Our work is part of the ongoing management of this important archaeological and historical resource.DSC00636DSC00629DSC00631DSC00626DSC00637

A Day in the Life of Archaeological Services Inc. (Ontario, Canada)

Archaeological Services Inc. (ASI) is one of the largest archaeological consulting firms in Canada with over thirty years experience in the production and dissemination of knowledge concerning our past. We have over 100 full-time and seasonal staff members and three offices – two in Toronto and one in Burlington. Our company is divided into separate divisions and here you will find little snapshots about what each field director or division at ASI is doing at the moment. Enjoy!

From Field Director Robb B:

Today I was stripping on site. Now that’s not what you think it means. We began stripping/removing the topsoil from our site today in hopes to uncover settlement patterns. We started roughly 20m away from outside the limit of the previously mapped extent of artifacts (as determined by surface artifact scatter or test unit artifact drop-off). As we move northward and closer to the main concentration of artifacts, hopefully we’ll find some sort of settlement pattern!

photo

The Gradall machine stripping the topsoil off Robb’s site.

From the Built Heritage and Cultural Heritage Landscape Planning Division:

Built Heritage and Cultural Heritage Landscapes is busy this week with projects that are taking place in Downtown Toronto, in the farming communities near Toronto and in a very old and historic area near Niagara Falls.  The cultural heritage assessments that we do are a form of archaeology that takes place ‘above ground’. Right now, one staff member is working on cultural heritage evaluation of bridges in Eastern Ontario and even managed to find an old bridge in the middle of the bush! Another member of the team is developing a plan for salvaging architectural material from nineteenth-century properties that are slated for removal. Meanwhile, the team near Niagara Falls is exploring ways in which modern  infrastructure projects can fit into a landscape that is associated with Canadian heroine Laura Secord and which still contains a number of important historic sites. And, in downtown Toronto a team is looking at how the built heritage of the city can be best preserved; their work will contribute to the establishment of three new heritage conservation districts in the city.

_MG_8686 - Copy

The incredibly talented (and good-looking) Built Heritage team.

From The Geomatics Team:

Today Blake is overlaying historical maps of Fort York dating back to 1815 and digitizing the buildings and features in Geographic Information System (GIS). This will allow researchers to examine the changes that have occurred at the Fort overtime. It will also aid officials to better protect their hidden archaeological resources should improvements within the fort be planned.  Shady is working with CAD files provided by clients in GIS and he is mapping built heritage features and areas that have archaeological potential that could be impacted by different alternates of transit projects. The clients can take Shady’s graphics and avoid archaeologically sensitive areas and they can try to ensure that built heritage features are not negatively impacted by future development.

From Field Director Jes:

My crew and I are currently working on a stage three historic site being impacted by a service line associated with a wind turbine. The view is quite nice, with 7 foot corn on one side and a farm with animals on the other. Unfortunately, excavating here is like trying to dig through a rubber tire, but my team is tough and knows how to get things done! Below is a a shot of the crew as well as our monitors from Caldwell, Walpole Island, and Chippewas of the Thames First Nation.

20130717_083337

Jes’s crew on site beside the cornfields.

From the Special Projects Division:

ASI is also conducting excavations at Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto at the site of the East Enlisted Men’s Barracks of the New Fort York. Eventually, the exposed foundation of the barracks will be placed under glass and featured in an entranceway to a new hotel.

In south-western Ontario, ASI is investigating dozens of new sites dating to between six and three thousand years ago in cooperation with Six Nations of the Grand.  ASI is also currently documenting the artifact assemblages recovered over the last century from a number of Huron-Wendat ossuaries prior to their return to the earth as part of a large repatriation project planned for later this fall. The Huron-Wendat Nation, the University of Toronto, the Toronto Region Conservation Authority and the Ontario Heritage Trust are jointly participating in the project.

From Field Director Wes:

Our crew (Wes, Nina, Chris, and Kristen) have been excavating the remains of three outbuildings located behind the East Enlisted Mens Barracks at the New Fort Site in Toronto. The foundations of the buildings are partially intact, as are numerous brick and clay drains associated with the buildings. The first photo shows the remains of a brick and limestone structure built overtop of an earlier limestone privy building. It also shows that we are constantly having to battle ground and rain water! The second photo shows the remains of a brick sewer drain later replaced by a clay drain, both of which are beneath the limestone foundation of what was known as a Cleaning Shed.

Print

The foundations and drain from Wes’s site.

From one of the Material Culture Analysts:

I come into our box filled office that I share with two other historic analysts and pull out the collection that I’m currently working on. Each bag full of artifacts is labelled according to its provenience and I work provenience by provenience to lay out each bag’s contents and assign a catalogue number to every artifact, and slowly my database grows!

Untitled

Typical desk of an ASI material culture analyst.

From Field Director Stacey:

We have been working on a stage three pre-contact settlement. So we have been digging a 1x1m unit every 10m in order to determine how large the site is and create a grid of units across the site.  When we find a unit with over 100 artifacts we will dig four more units one on each side, 5m away from it. So far we have found lots of pottery, fragments of chert (flint) and animal bone. We have also found evidence of the walls of the houses in the site from post moulds in the ground. Once we finish determining how large the site is, we will begin stage four, block excavation.

photo

Stacey resting in one of her (very deep) 1×1 units!

From the Environmental Assessment Division:

Work continues along the expansion corridor of a major east-west highway north-east of the City of Toronto. Five separate crews are working on everything from test-pitting tree-covered and bug-infested lots to preliminary excavation of pre-contact villages.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of five crews working on the transportation project east of Toronto.

Environmental Assessment teams are completing work on the sites of future wind turbines. First archaeology, then clean energy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the crews excavating an area for the wind turbine project.

We are also currently excavating a portion of a fourteenth century ancestral Huron-Wendat village north of Toronto. Previously disturbed by road construction, ASI crews will be on site this summer salvaging data resulting from proposed road improvements.

From the TPOK Organizers:

On Thursday, July 25th, ASI hosted its bi-monthly lecture series, Two Pints of Knowledge (TPOK).  TPOK started at ASI two years ago and has been a resounding success in drawing large groups of ASI employees out to its bi-monthly lectures.  By covering a broad range of topics from lithics and pre-contact ceramics to present-day garbology and historic beer tasting, in an informal, company-sanctioned space, and often lubricated by a beer (or two), TPOK has created a space of learning and socialization within a corporate, CRM environment.

Untitled

ASI staff and TPOK regulars listening to one of the Thursday evening talks.

The existence of such spaces is paramount to the well-being and sustained ethicacy of the CRM industry at a time when the deadlines placed upon the industry by their clients are making the existence of such events harder and harder to host.  As the last line of defense in the daily battle to preserve cultural heritage, it is critical for contract archaeologists to keep up with the developing methodological and theoretical trends happening within the discipline.  While life and bills and a full work schedule get in the way with much of the reading that goes along with the work conducted by our colleagues in university and public sector-based academia, facilitating a lecture series like TPOK allows contract archaeologists to spread much of the research work along them while bringing fellow-minded archaeologists together for open discussion.  Thus, not only does TPOK allow for training and education in a socially-friendly format, it creates an open environment so that new conceptions on how best to approach cultural heritage management can emerge.  It is our hope that TPOK continues to be a thriving success and that similar venues spring up in other CRM companies to advance the cause of heritage conservation around the world.

From Laboratory Services:

The lab is the entry point for all artifacts that are coming in from the field.  We wash, sort, organize and keep track of all the artifacts excavated by ASI crews.  Every day is different since we receive such a wide range of artifacts, everything from precontact lithic scatters to nineteenth century urban sites.  Being in the lab we have the privilege of seeing the best finds come in from the field as well as discover the secrets of seemingly mundane artifacts. Today we received four bags of artifacts from the New Fort site, more specifically from privies associated with the enlisted men’s barracks (see Wes above).

We also worked on washing, sorting, and cataloguing some artifacts that came from various sites associated with a major east-west highway northeast of the city of Toronto.  Two of these sites are villages from the pre-contact era, which include beautiful decorated pottery, pipes and stone tools.  We also washed a small 19th century historic surface collection which had some nice decorated ceramics, a pipe stem, some bottle finishes and machine made nails.  This surface collection will be analysed and catalogued in the lab, to determine if this site needs to be excavated further.

In order to keep up with all the artifacts that arrive from our 10 field crews we have a partnership with the University of Toronto’s Archaeology Centre where we rent a space in their building as well as hire archaeology students to wash artifacts. Right now they’re washing a collection from a redware pottery. Because the site includes all the refuse, misfires, and other cast-offs there’s a lot to wash!

Print

A collection of pictures taken yesterday in the ASI lab and the U of T lab.

From the Toronto Survey Division:

The Toronto Survey division has recently completed the assessment of a project at the crossroads of two former concession roads in the Region of Peel. The subject property was comprised of a portion of a former landfill site and recently ploughed lands adjacent to a water course along the west perimeter. The former landfill portion of the site was deemed to have no remaining archaeological potential, while the ploughed lands were subject to a pedestrian survey at five metre intervals.  Despite careful scrutiny no archaeological finds were discovered.

From Field Director Rob W:

Today our group is focusing on some rolling landscape. We were all thankful for the break in the heat and the rise in the windspeed as we searched for artifacts on the hills and valleys of our long-standing project. More field crews working on site together meant time for catching up on projects from across Ontario. Nothing improves the work day like running into old friends in a familiar place.

20130722_105736

Rob W’s crew, Kiara’s crew and Jes’ crew working together on a slope!

If you would like to learn more about our most famous projects and artifacts, visit our website here.

If you would like to learn more about us on a daily basis, follow us on Facebook, Twitter @ArchaeologyTO, and LinkedIn.

Thanks for stopping by!

In Small Things Remembered

Among other things, I chose archaeology for one primary reason – I did not want to be stuck in an office working nine to five.  Inundated with commercial television, I assumed, as many, that archaeology was all about traveling to exotic places to solve ancient mysteries of long-lost civilizations.  Archaeology, not dissimilar to the adventures of a certain Dr. Jones, was about adventure and big, spectacular discoveries.  My 18-year-old self would probably be horrified to learn that I do, in fact, work nine to five and much of the discoveries I deal with are neither ancient nor big.  In fact, now, I commute on a bicycle, work in an air conditioned Toronto office, and get to sleep in my own bed every night.  I work in commercial (aka CRM) archaeology as a report writer and a material culture analyst and I get REALLY excited if my Euro-Canadian site pre-dates 1800 AD.  Despite all this, I am happier and much more self-fulfilled than my 18-year-old self ever imagined myself being.

Today, I spent my day analyzing artifacts from a survey of an 1830s to 1850s Euro-Canadian farmhouse located about an hour’s drive north of Toronto and as far as big ancient mysteries were concerned, it was neither big nor ancient nor particularly mysterious.  In fact, it was a scatter of early-to-mid nineteenth century artifacts that was sparce by any standards.  The occupants of the site, tenants who were among the earliest settlers in the area, lived a frugal existance in a sparcely occupied landscape that did not warrant a large accumulation of material goods.  The number of tenants that occupied the site is unknown and the site’s name comes from an individual who is listed on the property only once in an 1837 directory for the area.  This is no grand Egyptian temple.

Ceramics, a bottle base, buttons, a pipe, and some nails:  A small sample of the artifacts from an early nineteenth-century Ontario farmstead.

Yet, this small site is an excellent example why archaeology, especially historical archaeology, is important.  Much of all written history was written by the privileged elites who, through their perceptions of what is significant and fundamental left to us a written record that has narrowed our vision of the past by reproducing in us what they considered important.  Archaeology challenges the bias of written history since the disposal of refuse is a universal activity done by everyone within any given society.  While the archaeological record can be obscured, manipulated, and altered, the traces of past human activities remain to be discovered and interpreted.  By that fact, the study of that refuse, archaeology, is an increadibly democratic process.

Nowhere is this more true in historical archaeology than the excavation of lowly log cabins of early European settlers.  From politics, economics, cultural norms, and the geography of the land itself, the work and social interactions of countless of individuals in the recent centuries has transformed the economic and social landscape into what is recognizeable today.  Over the years, historical archaeology has contributed to the understanding of a variety of topics including the development of modern foodways, the growth of industrial capitalism, and the institutionalization of present day socio-economic hierarchies.  Yet, these studies have started through the analysis of simple sparce farmsteads occupied by more-or-less nameless individuals such as the one I’m working on.  The lives of the people that discarded these ceramic sherds and pieces of bottle glass had a lasting effect on the sorts of lives we experience today.  These people have lived as long and as complex lives as we have and yet we do not know who these people are and have only vague ideas about their daily lives.  Their non-degradable material on farmstead and concrete-covered urban lots is the only record they left behind for archaeologists to study.  It is through this record we can know something about them and thus know something about ourselves.  Every day, the work of contract archaeologists continues to discover and document humble homes of lowly individuals and it is up to us to tell their stories and interpret our findings, we owe them that much for all the world they have created.

Pen, paper, and plastic bags in front of a computer: The necessities for analyzing artifacts.

Anatolijs Venovcevs
Historical Archaeologist
Toronto, Ontario

Field Walking in Binbrook, Ontario, Canada.

Field survey is not the most exciting thing to do in archaeology. It’s often hot or muddy or exhausting or all of the above. Sometimes you walk for eight hours and find absolutely nothing. Sometimes you find really cool things.

Today, we took a break from our excavation of a large lithic site to check out a field.

Fieldwalking in archaeology is pretty much exactly how it sounds. You get assigned a field, you drive over to it and walk a lot. The field has usually been ploughed a few weeks before and we wait for a few good rains to settle the dust. Canada does not have a significant period of architectural development, so the vast majority of our archaeology can be found less a metre below the surface. Ploughing brings artifacts up to the surface and rain washes away excess dirt, leaving them ready for us to find.

Walking along, looking for cool stuff.

We do it systematically. Standing five metres apart from each other, we walk in straight lines in a grid pattern, staring at the ground in front of us. Most of us have been doing this for so many years that artifacts seem to leap up from the ground and we spot them as easily as if they were glowing pink. When we find something culturally modified (a flake, an arrowhead, etc), we put a bright orange flag next to it.

Walking, looking at the dirt in front of me.

When we find something, we reduce our survey to a smaller scale. Instead of being five metres apart, we stand shoulder to shoulder and walk more slowly, doing an intensive survey of the area for roughly 15m square. If we find more artifacts, we flag them as well and expand our area until we have a significant buffer zone of no artifacts. If we find enough artifacts and place enough flags, it is declared a site. And thus, most of the archaeological sites in Canada are found.

We did well today. Our site was a field within a sod farm. The sod had been harvested a while back and the land had been ploughed for us. We had a few decent rain storms over the past few days, so the weathering was decent. We started out and almost immediately found a few flakes. Intensive survey didn’t reveal much else, so they were declared to be “IF’s” (Isolated Finds) and we moved on.

First flake of the day!

It was pouring when we got up in the morning but by the time we actually started working, it was nice outside. We’ve been having a really hot and dry summer so far, so the cool breeze and overcast sky was appreciated. And since it was a sod farm, the land was mercifully flat. Sometimes, we have to survey giant hills with badly ploughed fields, where each step is both exhausting and dangerous, not knowing where your feet will land. This was a walk in the park in comparison.

Around 11am, we found our first arrowhead. Not the prettiest specimen ever made, but hey, it made us happy. Looking around the point revealed tons of other lithics and we declared our first site. Half an hour later, we found a decent biface and some more flakes, leading to our second site.

Arrowhead.

 

Yay, biface.

 

Yep, this is what an archaeological site looks like in Canada before excavation.

After lunch, we finished walking the property with time to spare. We finish up the intensive survey and start cataloguing our finds. Each IF is noted on a map. Each “diagnostic” (an artifact, usually a tool, that can be used for dating methods) is automatically recorded as a site, regardless of whether we find much much else around it. Anything with seven or more finds on the surface is also declared a site. We record what we find, where we found it and we get a GPS reading of the location on the property. When the time comes for us to return to dig it all up, we’ll look over it again and map out the exact location of all the finds before we start digging.

Steve collects all the lithics.

After the day’s work, we come out with two sites that will require further excavation, two tools and tons of isolated finds. And, best of all, we finish an hour early on the Friday of a long weekend and we head home happy.

Peter Ramsden’s Day of Archaeology

Today I am engaged in analysis and writing of some Late Woodland / Huron materials that I excavated in the Balsam Lake area of southern Ontario a few decades ago.  I was investigating social, economic and political process among a group of early to late 16th century Huron communities that were undergoing quite a bit of disruption as a result of both in- and out-migrations and early interaction with Europeans in the St. Lawrence valley.  That interaction apparently caused some dissension within and between the communities, resulting in village fission and fusion, and the frequent formation and dissolution of alliances.  At the end of the 16th century, these communities finally united into a single large town, which then picked up and moved some 50 km westward to join other groups of Hurons in what would become the Huron confederacy.  Within the confederacy, these particular people became known to history as the Rock Nation, with whom the French soldier and explorer Champlain formed an alliance on behalf of the French crown in the early 17th century.

 

Today, specifically, I am re-examining and recording some of the artifacts from the Coulter site, the large cosmopolitan community mentioned above, into which the smaller Balsam Lake villages coalesced.  This is part of my long-overdue preparation for writing a book on the archaeological history of the Hurons of Balsam Lake, and their role in the formation of the Huron confederacy and its eventual downfall at the hands of the 5 Nations Iroquois.

Section through a defensive earthwork and ditch,at the early 16th C Jamieson site

Peter Ramsden looking at a rim section of a Huron pot, Coulter Site

Bone bead with carved human face on each side

Human effigy pipe bowl (ceramic); Kirche Site (ca AD 1550)