Session Abstracts

Boreal Forest Archaeology: Projects and Innovations in Ontario and Adjacent Areas

Chair: Jill Taylor-Hollings

Six Seasons of the AsiniskawĪthiniwak Project: Community-engaged Archaeological Research to Support Cultural Reclamation

Jill Taylor-Hollings, Scott Hamilton, Clarence Surette, Chris McEvoy and Laura Gosse, Department of Anthropology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ON

Kevin Brownlee, The Manitoba Museum, Winnipeg, MN

AsiniskawĪthiniwak (Rocky Cree) Knowledge Keepers, academics and research partners are developing historical picture books that depict life during the early 1600s in northern Manitoba. Authored by William Dumas, each story is set during one of six seasons in the annual cycle and revolves around children’s coming of age experiences. These books will be accompanied by teacher’s guides, digital apps, and curriculum materials. Historical, ethnographic and archaeological information support the central narrative in sidebar text and illustrations. The project seeks to improve AsiniskawĪthiniwak language literacy, reinforce traditional cultural values, and provide a sense of precontact Indigenous life.

The archaeological research is designed to serve educational and cultural reclamation processes of AsiniskawĪthiniwak communities. This challenges academics to think about archaeology through different interpretative lenses framed and directed by Knowledge Keepers as we all explore diverse ways of knowing. New research at Lakehead University is also focused upon material culture, on loan from the Manitoba Museum, and replicated using 3D scanning, modelling and printing technologies. Scans of reconstructed pottery are enabling virtual and textile replication of poorly understood weaving technologies. Extraction of organic pottery residues, to generate potential micro-botanical samples or radiocarbon dates, has also begun.

Boreal Bison: Insights from Buffalo Art

 Elizabeth Carpenter and Jessica Z. Metcalfe, Department of Anthropology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ON

Bison roamed North America for thousands of years, profoundly influencing the cultural and ecological history of the continent before their near eradication in the 1880s due to European settlement. Plains bison (Bison bison bison) are well known for their historic abundance on the Great Plains of central North America and were procured in spectacular fashion by Indigenous hunters at communal hunting sites such as Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Alberta, and in many other locations. The lesser-known wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) historically occupied boreal forest environments of Canada and Alaska. The historic wood bison range is commonly depicted as extending from north-central Saskatchewan to northeastern British Columbia in the south and from the central Northwest Territories to interior Alaska in the north. However, multiple lines of evidence, including various forms of art, suggest that the wood bison range may have extended significantly outside of these boundaries, including into the boreal forests of Ontario. This presentation will examine selected examples of bison art, including rock art/pictographs and effigies, as evidence for bison dispersion and human-bison relations in northern environments.

What the Heck is Blackduck?

Bradley G. Hyslop,  Vesselquest, Sioux Lookout, ON

Archaeologically, the term Blackduck was initially used by Lloyd Wilford in 1950 to denote a collection of pottery sherds recovered near the town of Blackduck, Minnesota.  Since then, the term Blackduck has become synonymous with all globular shaped, Late Woodland pottery decorated with Cord Wrapped Object Impressions (CWOI) found within an area designated as Minontoba (northern Minnesota, northwestern Ontario and southeastern Manitoba).  However, the high degree of variation in exterior decorative motif along with some vessel attribute variation observed on much of these globular shaped pots suggests that an alternate taxonomic structure to the idea that “everything is Blackduck” is required.  Although in 1990 the Rainy River Composite (RRC) model was proposed Brian Lenius and Dave Olinyk to address this concern, certain aspects of the RRC model are problematic.  This paper outlines some of the variability seen on pottery previously regarded as Blackduck recovered from the Lac Seul area of northwestern Ontario and presents an alternative taxonomic model referred to as the Minontoba Composite to counter the RRC model as well as the idea that all CWOI decorated Late Woodland pottery is Blackduck.

Subsistence Strategies in the Woodland Period Southern Boreal Forest: Microbotanical Analysis from Lake Sediment Cores

Shane Teesdale, Department of Anthropology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ON

The Woodland period in the southern boreal forest corresponds with shift in subsistence strategies for inhabitants of the region, including the exploitation of wild rice and the consumption of maize. Over the past several decades, research using microbotanical evidence has pushed the temporal and geographic extents of these two dietary staples. As part of my master’s research, I intend to examine similar microbotanical lines of evidence – particularly pollen grains and phytoliths – recovered from lake sediment cores in Northwest Ontario and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in hopes of tracing these shifts in subsistence strategies during the Woodland period in this region. This presentation will review some of the prior research done in the southern boreal forest in order to contextualize my proposed work, while also outlining the study area and core sites.

Magnetic Susceptibility: A New Key for Unlocking the Boreal Forest’s Invisible Past

Jamie Steinberg and Scott Hamilton, Department of Anthropology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ON

Archaeological surveying in the boreal forest ecozone of Northwestern Ontario is challenging at the best of times because of high densities of vegetation, logistical issues, and complex physiographic conditions. Also, archaeologists working there have not been able to experiment with modern remote sensing methods as much as in other areas of the world. Although this is changing, archaeogeophysical methods have been one of the last remote sensing techniques tested within Northwestern Ontario, due to the challenges posed by the Canadian Shield and boreal forest combined.

The Terraplus KT-10 magnetic susceptibility meter is a handheld device that can measure individual points or take larger scans of a location. While magnetic susceptibility has been used by archaeologists for decades in other areas, it has not been tested very often in Northwestern Ontario. The typically acidic soils destroy most of the organic archaeological evidence left behind by First Peoples but magnetic susceptibility may be the key to unlocking this invisible evidence. We will review preliminary results from a series of these experiments that have been conducted recently near Thunder Bay and future plans with data collected in Red Lake, Ontario.


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