Mary has some facts about Peterborough to share in her blog post. — Kate
The site our field school has been excavating is so conveniently on the south of the Trent Campus, that most people wouldn’t realize that back when the house was built, this site was considered pretty close to nowhere. At that time it was built, Peterborough itself would have been a fairly young community, though the city does have a some interesting history from the 1800s and even earlier. Here are four facts about the early city of Peterborough and its history in industry!
1) Peterborough’s location was chosen because of war.
The first European settlers arrived in what would become Peterborough on 1818. A larger group ended up following in 1925. Prior to these waves of settlers, the area was well known among Indigenous populations, especially those of the Mohawk and Ojibway tribes. At that time, the region would have been known as Nogojiwanong, the place where rapids end. The specific area appears to have originally been relatively unpopulated, and was probably chosen because the War of 1812 encouraged people to settle on waterways, simply to block off American invasions. Whatever the reason, a city soon began to form. The Europeans later named where they were living after the city of Peterborough in England. Early European immigrants were almost never creative when it came to naming cities, it seems.
2) Peterborough was considered Ontario’s best lumber producer
By 1870, Peterborough was known as being the greatest producer of lumber in all of Ontario. By the point in time, the Red Mill built by Charles Perry was up and running and most of the surrounding land was well on its way to being clear cut. The house being excavated by the field school was likely inhabited by someone who worked in the mills at this time. There was a budding clump of buildings were many mill workers and needed trades and facilities for them at this time too, all associated with the running saw mill.
3) Peterborough has a place in Canada’s history of electricity
If you were to look into the history of electricity in Canada, you’d see a lot of developments dating to the 1890s and early 1900s, and often you’d come back to Niagara Falls. As it turns out, Niagara Falls generating electricity occurred well after electricity had been brought to Peterborough. At one point in time, Peterborough was known as ‘the electric city’ because it was the first Canadian city to have electric street lights. This early development occurred because the Trent-Sevren waterway easily opened the way for generating hydro electric power.
4) Along with lumber exports, Peterborough made a lot of canoes
If anyone ever plans to go to Peterborough for a trip, or lives in the area, they’ve probably heard of the Canadian Canoe Museum. One might then wonder, perhaps, why canoes get their own museum. As it turns out, making them was quite a business in the area! While the Peterborough Canoe Company wasn’t founded until 1893, making canoes began in the 1850s. A factory was later built on of the same location as the Adam Scott mill had been. If one takes a look even further forward in time, it turns out a by the 1930s a quarter of Canada’s boat making industry was located in Peterborough. Peterborough may only be ever known for a few different professions, but when it does get known, it really does go all out!
Here’s Danny’s post tying together some of the things he learned during the field school and potential avenues to pursue in the future. — Kate
When asked why I pursued archaeology drawing maps is not the first thing I would normally think to answer, but after about a month of experience in the 2018 Nassau Mills field school I have truly begun to appreciate the practice of map making.
It is important to understand that the excavation of a site, in turn, destroys a site. More significantly excavation can destroy context. Every artifact possesses context. Context refers to where an artifact was found in relation to the layout of the site and in relation to other artifacts. Let’s say archaeologists find 1960’s material in a layer made up of rubble and 1850’s material in a layer of sandy soil. Without context this information, despite being accurate and true, is not very useful. The relationship between the two separate layers tells you much more than the layers themselves. But at the end of the day all the artifacts are sitting in the lab because of course the first layer had to be removed to gain access to the second so how can we preserve these relationships? Mapping of course!
Every time a context is determined it is recorded and mapped before being excavated. There are many methods of doing this including using a total station, triangulation, baseline measuring, etc. At first this felt tedious but after Brooke and I completed an aerial map of context 19 and I went to submit it, Prof. Connolly showed me dozens and dozens of maps and contexts forms that had been previously completed for operation area 1. It was then that I understood the importance of mapping. In one folder he possessed a plethora of information such as construction methods, occupation, chronological order of construction, material densities, cultural depth, etc. the list truly goes on and on. It was clear to me that while artifacts tell you much about who were there, understanding their contexts tells about what they did.
Mapping becomes even more necessary when conducting landscape archaeology. When trying to understand a bigger picture about a site such as land use, trade routes, movement, etc. maps allow us to see patterns that would otherwise be impossible to see.
I gained an appreciation for landscape archaeology on Big Island when the team mapped out 40 Cairns and we were able to see their positions on a Google map of the island. I realized how much one could learn from spatial patterns such as why and how they were they made. We can learn so much without ever getting our trowels dirty.
I’m excited for the future of archaeology because of the advancements in mapping technology. Technologies like photogrammetry or VR site recreations will help us gain more information about sites as well as preserve that knowledge and make it easily accessible.
The 2018 field school has allowed me to get my hands dirty but I think the most important thing I have learned is what makes an archaeologist an archaeologist. That is the ability to make sense of it all and to preserve that information. The best part is these skills are highly transferable to many occupations. It is something I appreciate now and something I can see myself doing. Now when I’m asked why I pursue archaeology I tell them because I’m piecing together the story of humanity and then I ask them if they want to see my maps!
For every day in the field excavating, you can estimate about 3 days in the lab to deal with the material recovered…Stephanie shines a light on some of the more hidden aspects of archaeology. — Kate
Throughout the 2018 field school we have been steadily accumulating artifacts from the days we have been on the Nassau Mill site, BcGn-23. By Thursday May 17, we had finished collecting most of this year’s artifacts [ Although a big whack just came in on the 28th! — Kate ] and have over 6000 artifacts from 12 new contexts plus the previous 34 contexts of which we continued excavating about 15 of these.
When you think archaeology, I would assume you picture Indiana Jones or Lara Croft, people whose main job is in the field gathering artifacts and avoiding explosions. And while these media perfectly show the destruction of sites that comes from archaeology, though in a slightly different manner, these media do not show what takes the most time and is one of the larger parts of archaeological work…Lab work!
I know I’ve enthralled you in what I’m about to describe to you, but it is not dull like you may have been led to believe. Lab work consists of cleaning artifacts, letting them dry, cataloguing, recording the information in a database, and finally storing or displaying the artifacts. This is the time when artifacts are categorized, identified, and historically placed to date the site. This part is not shown in media; and the real-world issues come from those last two processes. This issue is called backlogging; and occurs when artifacts are either not recorded or left without a proper storage facility. This has become an increasing problem in the discipline and in particular North American archaeology.
Recording and storage or displaying artifacts is a problem not just faced in general North American archaeology but also on our site. Last year’s field school had numerous artifacts, over 12000, that were not all recorded by the end of the course and had to be continuously recorded by volunteers during the fall semester. Even during this year’s first lab day we were recording catalogued artifacts from last year’s final excavation days, and we may not have everything recorded digitally by the end of this year’s field school.
It is not yet clear on how to tackle backlogging issues besides working through the artifacts, but then the issue of new sites and their artifacts becoming backlogged and so on becomes the main problem. It seems like a never-ending process that will keep people in the labs forever, but it also gives archaeologists jobs that are not directly out in the field. That may sound strange to you…“an archaeologist that doesn’t work in the field?!” But if we look at it percentage wise with field work and excavation being around let’s say 30%, that still leaves 70% of archaeological work left to do. That is lab work and writing papers and articles about the site to give to in some cases both the public and other archaeologists interested in the site and what it tells us.
Therefore, hearing that I am partial to lab work and don’t fancy myself an outdoorsman doesn’t mean I would be less of an archaeologist, what it means is I have a different part to play in an archaeological excavation that is no more or less important than those out on site digging up the past.
When I think of Lab days, I think of inside jokes, insane laughter, and soundtrack music played in the background. It sounds silly but honestly our lab days are some of my best memories, as it holds a day when everyone is together, and laughter is never short; and that may be the one thing I miss the most when June rolls around.
Today’s artifact of the day is quite interesting, I think, and provides opportunity for all sorts of musings. It’s part of a black glass button that was found beside the north wall of the structure in a layer that had other domestic refuse. We’re still trying to sort out how that layer of material got there, and how it relates to the structure, the basement addition, and the midden, but hold that thought and let’s dive into what this particular artifact can tell us.
Glass is an amazing substance that is worthy of many posts itself, but in a nutshell:
Glass is made from a mixture of silica sand, soda, and limestone.
By heating and mixing these materials together, you end up with a smooth paste that can be molded and shaped into a variety of forms.
The natural colour of glass is a pale aqua colour. By adding metal oxides, the glassmaker can change the colour of glass.
While one goal was to develop a recipe that was truly colourless, another goal was the development of colour recipes that resulted in glass that could be cut to resemble gemstones.
One gemstone in particular that was much copied was Jet. Jet is the fossilised remains of a certain kind of pine tree that lived 150 to 180 million years ago in areas that are now Spain and the coast of England. These two coastlines used to be much closer together, separated only by a narrow band of water. Over time, trees were washed out to sea and were buried in iron-rich muck at the bottom of the ocean. The iron went into the wood, and eventually pressure and time compressed these layers of iron-soaked wood into a mineral known as Jet.
English Jet is prized as the best kind of Jet, and it is also known as Whitby Jet, as it is mined near Whitby, UK. Monks at the Whitby Abbey adorned their crosses and rosaries with carved Jet. Commercial mining of jet from the cliffs began in the early 19th century, and it became very popular with fashionable women for jewelry and fashion.
Another little tangent here, for backstory. Men’s clothing changed fits in the 19th century. Instead of the earlier looser, heavily embroidered or woven jackets or coats with large buttons, tailors performed their magic in shaping woolen cloth to closely conform to the body. Buttons became much smaller and were usually made of gilded metal.
Women’s clothing follows another pattern. Pre-1820, most fashionable women’s dresses didn’t have buttons. Think of Regency fashions and Jane Austen films. The waist was just under the bosom (Empire waist) and the dress fell straight to the ground. This form changed to a lower waist closer to the natural waist, and a much more constricted body. A fashionable woman would employ a lady’s maid to do up the dozens of tiny hook-and-eye fastenings of these dresses.
Post 1840, Queen Victoria set a new fashion in the adoption of more sombre colours like dark blue, black, brown, and green. She also popularised high-necked dresses, and two-piece dress sets where there was a bodice and separate jacket, and a long, wide, skirt. These bodices and jackets were fastened with tiny buttons.
How does Jet enter into this fashion? Well, I mentioned above that Jet had been prized since medieval times as decoration and ornaments.
Intricate mourning customs and symbology meant black was a very popular colour.
The new fashion for buttoned dresses was another factor, and finally, Queen Victoria’s adoption of lavish jet mourning jewelry and jet beaded embroidered clothing, and carved jet buttons after the death of her beloved Prince Albert in 1861 catapulted jet into the stratosphere of fashion.
It was obligatory in court circles to wear black gem/Jet buttons, and as court set the fashions of the day, the masses would follow suit. Jet was very expensive, but some enterprising glassmakers tinkered with various black glass recipes floating around and developed something that looked quite a lot like Jet, but cost a fraction of the price. Even better, items could be industrially produced by moulding or casting, instead of laboriously hand-carving each individual piece of Jet, or making each individual glass button using lampwork techniques.
So now we know why Jet buttons and black glass buttons were fashionable, let’s turn to what is on the button. Picture buttons date to approximately the 1860s onwards. Our button has what appears to be a cockatrice, and indeed, some judicious internet browsing meant I was able to find a match.
What is a cockatrice? Well, it’s a kind of dragon-like monster that hatched out of a seven-year-old rooster’s egg that had been hatched by a toad. This beast had the head, chest and legs of a rooster, a serpent tail with a poisoned barb and wings. It is usually represented as being covered in feathers or scales.
I did a little browsing and there are three main interpretations of this beast. One is that it represents the infidelity of Pride, and another possibility is to avert the evil eye. The heraldic interpretation means “terror to beholders”, which kind of parallels the evil-eye aversion meaning.
So by wearing buttons with the image of the cockatrice, was this chosen to remind a woman about the evils of Pride? Or was it a bit of a talisman, where the dress will avert the evil eye?
Who knows, but it is fun to think about! I also looked to see in slang if cockatrice meant anything, and in a 1905 book A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English which is abridged from a seven-volume(!) work by John S. Farmer and W.E. Henley, I found that cockatrice had this meaning: 1. A common prostitute ; also a mistress or ‘keep ‘ (1600). 2. A baby.
Unless there was some sort of secret uniform to denote prostitutes or a mistress, I find it unlikely that this meaning was secretly encoded into these buttons!
As I mentioned above, the peak production of black glass buttons came after the death of Prince Albert in 1861 and lasted until the end of the Edwardian era (c. 1910). By the 1880s, the market was completely saturated with black glass buttons, and people began to get tired of the sombre dark colours and crave the new brightly coloured textiles available. As a result, brightly coloured glass buttons became increasingly popular, and black glass buttons steeply declined in production post-1910. So likely our button comes somewhere between 1860 and the early 1900s.
As a final note of interest, I am sure that our cockatrice image is referencing some famous painting or sculpture as I have found several other versions made of different materials. It’s as if it is a meme of the time. Anyone know what it is referencing?
Today as we were washing more artifacts from that area, we did find at least three other black glass buttons, but none of them were picture buttons like this one, they just had faceted designs on them to catch the light and sparkle like real Jet.
Emma shares her experiences at the Hope Mill and Lang Pioneer Village, and demonstrates the importance of comparative materials in reconstructing the past. — Kate
On one rainy day we decided to go to Hope Mill and Lang Pioneer Village in order to see what a water powered lumber mill, and a pioneer village looked like. This was important to our learning experience, as we are excavating a building that belonged to the mill workers, and shared a date with some of the buildings located at the village.
Thanks to the excellent preservation/restoration of both the mill and the village, we were able to see how things were in the past. We saw a house that would have been constructed in a similar size to the one we were excavating, and how it might have looked had the walls still been there.
It was extremely beneficial to see how the different rooms of the houses were constructed and positioned, as well as where certain objects would be located. It was clear that there were not a ton of windows on these types of buildings, and the amount of window glass that we are finding on site line up with this fact.
It was also helpful to see some still intact artifacts, such as a draw knife, which we found a piece of. Seeing some artifacts in their stage of functionality made it easier to identify pieces that we had found on site. Kate has the ability to look at odd pieces of metal and identify them as their respected artifact. Finally being able to see the whole of these artifacts was nice, and seeing the small piece that Kate was able to identify it with, is also interesting.
Being able to see how the old mill would have functioned in the old days was also neat, although the magnitude of the mill that was on Trent property was lost, since I believe, Hope Mill only has one saw, whereas Red Mill (at Trent) had 136. So just trying to imagine that amount of activity and noise multiplied by 136 was a little bit daunting.
It is really important to accurately represent history and not fabricate any information. An accurate and true representation of history is hard to come by, but so much can be learned from it.
Here’s Brooke’s account of our whirlwind interlude on Big Island. — Kate
We worked at Big Island for two days, heading there by boat, covered in bug spray and sunscreen. Our first day was spent attempting to find areas of archaeological potential by transecting the island to start a cultural landscape survey. It was a lot harder than we thought it would be to walk in a straight line across the island! The hiking was amazing, though, and the different ecological areas kept us distracted from how tired we were from hiking through the bush. Some of us even managed to reach the other end of the island and dip our feet into the water before heading back.
Our second day was a bit more successful. We split into three groups with one continuing the transects from the day before and the other two getting coordinates for the cairns (rock piles) and white pine stumps in the alvar at the centre of the island. We used total stations and theodolites to measure the distances from the datum points to the cairns, then measured their diameters and heights. We later used this data to map these cairns as points on a map of the island.
The time is slipping away, we can’t believe we are almost to the last week! Lots of split groups today, as we tackle the to-do list of things to wrap up before the end of field school.
Anthony and Joel were conscripted to help with Jolyane’s crew, and at the Arch Centre we broke into washing groups and cataloguing groups. It was mayhem for a bit as we discovered and fixed some procedural errors, but we got everything sorted out and are on track to finish everything by the end of next week.
Here’s a super-size I-Spy to take us into the last week of this year’s field school.
This blog post from Charlotte gives some good insight into the experience of doing archaeology, and how persistence and care pays off! — Kate
Archaeology is hard work. I realized this within the first few days at the site, when we began shovelling piles of dirt, scraping rocks out of units, and carrying buckets of that dirt and rock around the site. There have been days when the shovel seems to be continually bouncing off rocks and getting stuck on roots, and sometimes the unit being excavated does not seem to be getting any deeper no matter how many buckets of dirt we take out of it. This is not to mention all the work of mapping the site and locations within the site (which is a breeze for people with good math skills but can be a nightmare for those, like myself, who don’t like math and haven’t practiced it since high school). All in all, it is exhausting work.
However, the rewards for this work are great. For me, it was an extraordinary experience when my group was able to find several pieces of a ceramic maker’s mark and fit them back together into one piece. It was so exciting to be able to find those pieces scattered in the dirt and put them back together in their original form. It made me feel like I was piecing history back together, a history that no one else knew about because we were uncovering it for the first time.
Though the work is not always that exciting and we can spend all day digging and by the end find that we did not uncover anything new, when we process the artifacts in the lab we are able to see all the interesting bits and pieces others have uncovered throughout the week. Seeing the artifacts displayed in the lab shows how much we really are uncovering from the site, even when it does not feel like it or when I don’t personally find the artifacts. For me, this makes the work exciting. Being able to help uncover, even in a small way, the history of this site is a great experience, and I am excited to be a part of it.
Tuesday ended up rainy, so we went to visit the Hope Mill and Lang Pioneer Village. I think it was really useful and interesting for our field school students to see how a water-powered sawmill works, and also to see the houses and material culture of people who were contemporaneous to the people who lived at our site.
Wednesday and today we took a little field trip to Pigeon Lake, and started a cultural landscape survey of one of the islands. We’ve been here excavating in a past field school but this time we were interested in combing the landscape looking for non-buried cultural features such as stumps with axe marks, rock cairns, certain cultivars of trees, etc.
Wednesday we formed a line and spaced ourselves about 15 metres apart and started at the south and went as far north as we could before turning back. Today we focused on the alvar, and documenting some large clusters of cultural features such as white pine tree stumps that had been logged, and piles of rock in open fields, which are cairns.
I was too busy to grab many photos, but here are a few from today (and I hope some of the students write about their experiences for their blog posts!).
I think everyone had fun, and got much more comfortable with using the totalstation and theodolite for mapping! We are back in the lab tomorrow, to catch up on the artifact washing and catalogue backlog.
I hope most of us escaped getting poison ivy, but I think I have succumbed, alas…
The field school students are enjoying a well-deserved extra-long weekend. James and I have taken today to sort out some logistical issues for our proposed field school visit to Big Island on Pigeon Lake to perform a Cultural Landscape Survey for the Kawartha Land Trust.
I will be enjoying the long weekend as well, but before I do, here is a funny little random find from this week. Marit was excavating in the midden, and I was checking in on my rounds to see how it was going. While we were discussing what was happening, I happened to see a piece of bone sticking up from the surface beside the midden cut.
Now since the site has been walked on, plus rain, plus frost, plus other bioturbation, we have noticed a bunch of new artifacts popping out on the surface of the site this field season. In most cases we leave them, but important or interesting ones get tagged as a surface find.
I picked up this piece of bone and noticed it was worked. Someone had taken the bone and smoothed it and shaped it to a rounded end. It is quite pale, which means it was either bleached by a treatment, or from being exposed to the sun for a while. Since it was light on both sides, that suggests it was intentionally bleached.
I thought that was a bit curious, and suggested it wasn’t just part of someone’s supper like most of the bone pieces we have found on site! As I was walking over to get a surface finds bag, I suddenly noticed two small holes at one end of the artifact.
It’s another toothbrush! This one, however, looks much more rustic and home-made compared to the other one we found. It evidently broke at the head (no surprise as all those little holes for the bristles would have weakened the structural integrity). It’s still a fun find!