summer camp

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.

Kids Explore Archaeology at Summer Camp

College for Kids is a summer camp program offered by the Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois. The program this year included a camp titled Can You Dig It? Adventures in Dirt, which was held at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary in West Alton, Missouri. This camp was designed to teach children about careers like archaeology that involve outdoor adventures and getting dirty. Riverlands staff partnered with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Meeting of the Rivers Foundation, Center for American Archaeology, Principia College, and Cahokia Mounds to provide this year’s participants with a fun and educational experience.

Fourteen children attended camp this year from July 7th to the 10th. Each day they learned about different dirty jobs by playing games and completing fun, yet challenging activities led by Riverlands Park Rangers and guest archaeologists. On the first day they tested their knowledge of pre-history with a game of Jeopardy, searched for artifacts in the strata of a layer cake, and made pottery using Native American techniques.

The following day began with a lesson on the Piasa Bird, a creature depicted in a local Native American rock painting. Afterward the campers traveled to Principia College for a lesson in paleontology. There they had the opportunity to learn about the mammoth dig site and visit the paleontology laboratory. To end the second day, the campers returned to Riverlands for an adventure in geocaching.

On day three, the campers learned about mending pottery by piecing together broken fragments (i.e., sherds) of ceramic plates like jigsaw puzzles. After stretching their legs on a nature hike with a Riverlands Park Ranger, they reviewed archaeology vocabulary terms and raced to find them all in a word search puzzle. The campers also practiced analyzing artifacts and inferring when, where, why, and by whom they were used. To end the day, they played Native American games with representatives from Cahokia Mounds.

On the fourth and final day of camp, the children stayed active with a canoeing trip to Ellis Island where they explored hiking trails and completed a mock excavation. Campers learned about the tools and methods archaeologists use for digging, and then practiced uncovering and recording information about modern, historic, and prehistoric artifacts. Before departing Ellis Island in their canoes, campers shared their findings and discussed archaeological ethics (e.g., what to do when you discover a new archaeological site at a national park or historic site).

Overall, the campers enjoyed their four days of adventure in the dirt. The wide range of activities ensured that there was something for everyone to enjoy, and some activities (e.g., pottery making and plate mending) even provided souvenirs for the campers to bring home and share with family and friends. At the end of camp, the children evaluated their experience to provide feedback for the rangers and guests, which will help to make camp even more successful in the following years. Perhaps a great experience at camp will inspire some participants to become archaeologists, paleontologists, or even park rangers in the future!

To learn more about the programs offered by College for Kids, visit http://www.lc.edu/c4k/.

To learn more about the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary and partner organizations, visit the following links:

Making Pottery

Exploring the Outdoors

Excavating Layer Cake