Who Cares About the Past?

By Museum of Ontario Archaeology

Willow Plate (18th Century) by Meigh & JohnsonMuseum of Ontario Archaeology

Digging into Ontario Archaeology
Archaeology is happening all around us, every day. Before a highway, pipeline, or a new house is constructed in Ontario, archaeologists make sure that the material cultural heritage is recorded and protected.

This plate was found in Toronto in 2007. The plate is a blue scenic transfer printed ware, with willow pattern, dated from c. 1822-1835. It was manufactured by the company Meigh & Johnson in Shelton, Staffordshire, England. It bears a very common pattern, the willow, inspired by hand-painted ceramics from China.

Ice skate (19th century)Museum of Ontario Archaeology

This artifact was found in Oakville in 2016. It is an ice skate with metal platform and runners that could be fastened to a person’s boot.

Miniature vessel (c. 15th century)Museum of Ontario Archaeology

This artifact was found in Vaughan on a site excavated in 1998, 1999 and 2003. In the middle of the 15th century CE, an indigenous village was standing there.

This miniature pottery is decorated with incised lines and small linear punctuates. Miniature pottery is often present in archaeological context of villages from the Late Woodland period (A.D. 900 to A.D. 1650).

Cat (Felis catus) (19th century)Museum of Ontario Archaeology

A vast array of finds
In late 2019, the Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries reported that over 33,500 archaeological sites had been identified in the province. That number is always increasing; over the last 15 years, an average of 533 sites have been documented each year. Moreover, 80% of the sites reported in the province’s database contain Indigenous archaeological heritage.

These cat bones were recovered from a site excavated in 2007 by Archaeological Services Inc. in Halton Hills. The site corresponds to a mid-nineteenth century domestic occupation.

Scissors (End of the 18th century)Museum of Ontario Archaeology

These scissors were found on a site excavated in 1984 near Dresden, Ontario. Located on the Sydenham River, the site was occupied, circa 1790, by an indigenous village.

Toothbrushes (19th century)Museum of Ontario Archaeology

These toothbrushes were recovered from the block on the northeast corner of Simcoe Street and Adelaide Street West, in Toronto.

Projectile Points (3500 BC - AD 900)Museum of Ontario Archaeology

A wide span of time
Archaeologists have found evidence of people living in the region now
called Ontario over 13,000 years ago, shortly after the last glacier ice started retreating. As the development industry
expands, building houses and linking communities across the province, there is
potential to disturb and destroy the archaeological evidence of the most ancient to the latest human pasts.

This collection of projectile points comes from a series of archaeological sites located near Puslinch Lake in Cambridge. The excavated sites covered a span of 9,000 years of human history in Ontario, from 8500 BC. to 900 AD..

Rexall tin box (mid 20th century) by United Drug Co. LimitedMuseum of Ontario Archaeology

This tin box was found in Vaughan in 2000. The site was identified as a 19th-century farmstead. However, the artifact dates from mid-20th century.

Glass pendant (1830-1860)Museum of Ontario Archaeology

This artifact is a glass pendant found in 1983 near Brantford. The site was identified as an Indigenous village established around 1784 near the Grand River and occupied until the mid 19th century.

The iridescence is due to a weathering crust of the glass that can occur in archaeological contexts.

Light bulb (Early 20th century)Museum of Ontario Archaeology

The artifact is an incandescent light bulb with the base missing. It was recovered in Toronto in 2013. This type of light bulb dates from the early 20th century.

Spade (19th century)Museum of Ontario Archaeology

This artifact is an incomplete iron spade. It was found in Halton Hills in 2007. Between 1836 and 1848, a farm was standing on this land.

However, shovels are not only used for agricultural purposes, but they are also part of the archaeologist tool kit. This shovel was therefore found by… another shovel: history comes full circle!

Credits: Story

Museum of Ontario Archaeology

Marie Hoffmann, Exhibit Content Developer, MOA
Brad Phillips, Photography volunteer, MOA

Nicole Brandon, Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants
Tiziana Gallo, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Toronto
Jessie Garland, Ph.D. Candidate, La Trobe University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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