Archaeology at work in 2012 Discovering, Protecting and Educating
Ontario archaeologists have an important role in protecting and promoting the cultural history and heritage of Ontario. Toronto and Region Conservation is the only Conservation Authority in Ontario with our own Archaeology Resource Management Services Department. To date, approximately 1.2 million artifacts have been uncovered by the department’s archaeologists from sites dating as far back as 10,000 years ago.
“Preserving our cultural heritage is an important aspect of TRCA’s vision for The Living City,” says Brian Denney, CEO, Toronto and Region Conservation. “The history of the Toronto region is, in many ways, defined by the relationship early residents had with the land and the water that was the lifeblood of the communities they developed. To understand our present issues of conservation and resource management, we need to look to the past and see how early settlers used the lands before the use of fossil fuels or how they used water. We need to look beyond the walls in order to rediscover the way we lived with the land.”
A number of exciting developments took place for TRCA’s Archaeology Unit in 2012. We strengthened our relationship with Aboriginal communities, investigated dozens of new sites, and encouraged youth and adults alike to take an active interest in local and regional history.
Uncovering the ‘Lost Brant Site’
Each archaeological site provides a unique glimpse into the past, engages residents in their shared heritage, and helps establish a firmer ‘sense of place’ for the local community. The investigations by our archaeology unit detail these sites’ inherent value as educational and experiential places.
Identification of these sites is the first step in their protection. In 2012, more than 100 assessment projects were completed by TRCA’s archaeology department. Analysis of the material remains from sites can help us understand the movements of past people, as well as past subsistence and settlement strategies within the GTA. One particularly revealing site excavated in 2012 was “the Lost Brant Site.”
Public education is a big part of what we do,” says TRCA archaeologist, Janice Teichrob. “Many people are surprised to learn that recovered artifacts can be 10,000 years old. While the artifacts are important, the story they tell us about the people who lived here, their lives, their relationships within and between communities, and their relationship with the natural environment is the benefit of archaeological research. This is what we share with our local communities.
Janice Teichrob, TRCA archaeologist
The layers of the Lost Brant Site show evidence of its use as early as the Late Paleo-Indian Period (approximately 10,000 years ago), through Archaic and Woodland Periods (between 8,500 and 1,000 years ago), to the Early Iroquois Period (from 1,000 to 700 years ago). Of significant cultural heritage value and interest, the Lost Brant site is located between two kettle lakes and served as ‘nature’s grocery store’ for indigenous groups for many thousands of years before European settlers were attracted to the area.
The archaeological site has produced thousands of artifacts and new data on the inhabitants. First identified in 1989 and partially excavated in the 1990s, a second excavation was conducted in 2012 in order to mitigate a portion of the site scheduled to be impacted by realignment of the nearby street. The remainder of the site will remain protected and monitored on TRCA lands.
The shores of the kettle lake would have been an excellent location for seasonal camps, and evidence shows that people returned annually for thousands of years. Small overlapping campsites indicate a variety of activity areas and a wide range of occupation dates. During the 2012 excavation, archaeology staff were on-site for 37 days of field work and recovered more than 2,900 artifacts, including ceramic pot sherds, stone tools and tool making debris, and faunal items. Currently, the artifacts and related documents have been relocated to TRCA facilities and are undergoing analysis.
Lost Brant offers a unique opportunity to explore changes in peoples lifeway’s over thousands of years, and provides a wonderful teaching site for archaeological theory, methods, and First Nations History.
Learning to appreciate the past
“Typically, when people think of Toronto, they picture skyscrapers, subways and asphalt. However, the GTA has a very rich history, as seen through the archaeological record,” says Cathy Crinnion, lead archaeologist for Toronto and Region Conservation. “By conducting these educational excavations, we are not only discovering more about our past, but also reminding people that our city has very deep roots. Students learn to envision past peoples, past environments and how their neighbourhood has changed through time, and to appreciate the amazing array of natural resources that have attracted people to the area for millennia.”
For 35 years, the Boyd Archaeological Field School has welcomed high school students each August to the Claremont Field Centre in Durham Region for two weeks of study and fieldwork. Completion of the course also earns the participants a full grade 12 credit. The course schedule was updated for 2012 with a comprehensive introduction to consulting archaeological techniques for finding new sites, as well as the research and excavation of a known site.
One of the most enjoyable experiences I ever had; presents a fun, engaging, learning environment while having fun in the outdoors in nature and gives you a true appreciation for not only yourself but all the elements around you.
Student, Boyd Field School
We were very impressed with the people at Boyd and the spark they have for their field of archaeology. It is no doubt in my mind that our daughter cherished her time at Boyd. It was a memorable time for our daughter and a definite career moving choice for her. I thank all the people at Boyd for this dedication.
Parent of Boyd Field School participant
In 2012, the students were immersed in hands-on experimental archaeology working on the 14th century Sebastien site, a First Nation settlement ancestral to the Huron-Wendat peoples. The field and course work, developed in consultation with the Huron-Wendat Nation, provided an engaging and challenging learning environment. More than 2,500 artifacts were uncovered on the site.
“The field school is a rare opportunity for high school students to participate in archeological field work, to learn how science is conducted both in the field and the laboratory, and to experience both individually and through team effort the joy of discovering new knowledge,” explains Dr. Peter Storck, and curator emeritus from the Royal Ontario Museum and an honoured guest lecturer at the course.
In 2012, TRCA also partnered for the first time with the Durham Catholic Board of Education to bring archaeology education to students aged 11 to 17. More than 150 students took part in this ‘classroom without walls,’ which included such activities as finding artifacts and mapping evidence of ancient activity areas at the site. Each student experienced a day of fieldwork on the site, which gave them a taste for the TRCA’s Boyd Archaeological Field School.
Working with Aboriginal Communities
Engaging Aboriginal communities helps to proactively involve them in TRCA projects through notification of interests or concerns, identification of areas of significance related to a project area, and participation in the decision-making process. At TRCA, some projects that included engagement are projects involving provincial approvals (e.g. Environmental Assessments), property master plans, and archaeological investigations.
In 2012, TRCA established a process to engage with Aboriginal communities prior to archaeological excavations. Contacted communities had asserted or established treaty or Aboriginal rights, or interests, associated with the land on which the archaeological sites were located. Engagement activities in 2012 included on-site Aboriginal monitors and site visits by community elders.