The Ontario Heritage Trust

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.