Penultimate Day!

It’s hard to believe that today was the second last day of the 2023 field school. The time truly has flown by, and I know that James, Michael, and I will miss seeing everyone’s faces next week!

Today was the last full day of excavation and we had several goals to accomplish.

At the Indigenous site, open units in the butterfly monitoring area needed to be finished and backfilled, and some new units were opened and finished in another part of the site outside the butterfly area. These have told us that the site is quite extensive and we look forward to working there in upcoming seasons (despite the horrendous poison ivy).

We had several visitors today, Tom Meulendyk from University of Toronto Scarborough came with some GPR equipment to see if we could determine the extent of the drain and maybe get a sense where a possible structure is located in the unexcavated areas of our site!

Dr Lisa Janz (UTSC) came to site with one of her PhD students Adiyasuren Molor (McMaster). Chief Mowat from Alderville First Nation visited our sites today as well as gave a presentation to the Archaeological Liaison trainees on wampum belts. Dr Laure Dubreuil from Trent’s Department of Anthropology came (bearing cake!) with Yumi Pedoe, our Trent Anthropology Graduate Program Academic Administrative Assistant.

Tom explaining how the GPR unit works. Note the unit he is standing on is the one we opened this morning!

Our big goal at BcGn-17 was to finish the open units and get the new 2×2 completed in one day. It was a bit challenging at first but then everything started to come together and we had a nice system in place to deal with screening the excavated material.

Like a well-oiled machine we had the coordination of shovellers, bucket transport and screeners!

By the end of the day we had finished the open units (apart from some paperwork), and confirmed that the rock pile did extend into the new unit, and not only that, it still continued to widen. Sheet metal, ceramic, animal bone, glass, nails, charcoal, bricks, and mortar are all pushed onto and into these rocks, which is maybe answering one question but posing several more!

We even managed to get to the point where we could do some trowelling back to expose the rock feature.

How many archaeologists can a 2×2 hold?

We didn’t quite finish it completely, but I am so proud of the crew today, they really came together and had a chance to demonstrate everything they have learned over the last four weeks.

Tomorrow morning we will focus on tidying any loose ends and then it will be time to close up the sites for the season!

Student Blog — Field School Reflections

Here are some words from Tim, who has been on a few of our past projects! — Kate

The past three weeks have been packed full of learning and experience from the Trent University archaeological field school, and it’s been great. All course participants seem to be enthusiastic about participating which makes the experience enjoyable for all. The field school has taught me a lot about the standards and guidelines for archaeology in Ontario as well as refreshed some of the knowledge I had already gained through other archaeological excavations.

The field school provides experience and the required knowledge to partake in archaeological excavation. For the most part, the course has been excavating site BcGn-17, an historic settler site, which is now known to contain an historic drain feature in addition to a well. Site BcGn-17 is situated alongside Pioneer Road, Peterborough, east of Trent University, Symons Campus. The site is on fertile land that had been clearcut, allowing for expansive farming opportunities. A new Indigenous archaeology site BcGn-28 has been opened as part of the field course, located on Trent University property on the Lakefield Road, on the northwest side of the Otonabee River. Both sites reveal evidence of past habitation and the habitability of the region. There was access to water, lumber, and fertile soils.

Excavating the units at these sites has been time consuming but enjoyable. Excavation is not for the faint-hearted nor the weak-limbed. Shovels are our best friends. The field we are working in on BcGn-17 contains, at least, 30-40 cm of fill soil. The top 10 cm of topsoil is outright disposed of before we reach a level at which the soil begins to be screened for artifacts. The number of artifacts which show up is high, especially since there is still not any clear idea of what the area might have been historically. The site continues to produce brick and mortar as well as what looks like planked cedar, but no foundations have been found.

The features that prove there was once construction on the site are the drain, the well on the edge of the farm field, and a post hole for a telephone pole installation. The drain itself is known to stretch on for quite a distance under the field, but what it was draining is unknown. Comprised of fieldstone, the drain also seems to have a segment in which brick and mortar is appearing. For the most part though, the drain is just stacked field rocks that have been reburied. It was most likely built to drain some form of building or cellar.

The smaller artifacts that have turned up are various objects that could be found in a garbage dumping zone and on a working farm. Various nails and spikes have been uncovered, including horseshoe nails which suggest the site made use of horses at some point. Glass, ceramics including large sherds of transferwear from dishes, pipe stems and bowls, and buttons have been unearthed.

As the field school draws to its inevitable close, I am still looking forwards to finishing as much work that we have planned as possible, including opening up a new unit. The drain continues to be a puzzle, although perhaps the planned new unit will answer most of the remaining questions. Otherwise, I think I need to come back and audit more field courses next summer.

— Tim Stumpf

Student Blog — Relationships with responsibilities: the role of the political in archaeological practice.

Teika introduces an important concept of responsibility that we must keep in mind as archaeologists. — Kate

Archaeology is a relationship between the present and the past; we are given a responsibility when we excavate, to tell the story of the material we discover honestly and completely. Archaeologists have and continue to betray this relationship often in CRM (Cultural Resource Management, ie. commercial archaeology) when the desires are to cut costs and approve development activities. As such, it has become clear that in the presence of a profit motive at least some archaeologists cannot be trusted to uphold their professional responsibility. Indigenous monitoring is the framework under which we attempt to keep the CRM industry honest.

At BcGn-28 we have been working alongside monitoring students from Curve Lake, Hiawatha, and Scugog Island First Nations. These students have been diligent, curious, and clearly well suited to the roles that they will take on after they graduate from this course. I will be incredibly lucky when in the future I get to work alongside them again. I came to field school on a leave from my commercial archaeology job; the goal simply to acquire my last half credit and get graduated. The relationships I can cultivate allow me to be both a better archaeologist and a better colleague.

We all have a role to play in the betterment of archaeological practice: as archaeologists by speaking up when we see dishonest activity by our colleagues or bosses, and as the public by making it clear to our politicians that changing the laws to permit the damage of sensitive material or sites are unacceptable. Archaeological material are a non- renewable resource and anti-indigenous political forces benefit from the destruction of this record. We must remember that when you are in conversation with a grandmother it is transformative to have a conversation with her granddaughter. Archaeology is political and must be viewed through this lens else we will as archaeologists perpetuate the systems who desire to harm both the decedents of and those we are in active conversation with.

— Teika Viducis