TAY POINT 2014 FIELD SCHOOL

On May 20th a total of twenty-four intrepid undergraduate students, 2 equally brave instructional assistants, and two fearless instructors from the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies set out, trowel in hand, to battle bush, bugs and blisters at the Tay Point 2014 Field School.  Their hard work, perseverance, and careful attention to detail in the field produced some surprising results about the Allen Tract (BeGx-76) and Chew (BeGx-9) sites, two early 17th century Huron-Wendat villages.

Field work began with a flurry of activity and then kept students and instructors running at a steady pace throughout the six week period.  At Allen Tract (BeGx76), geophysical survey took place throughout the first week with the hopes of securing the boundaries of the site and the locations of long houses.  Students conducted a pedestrian survey for the purpose of identifying the location of village middens.  The use of a metal detector combined with the excavation of thirteen one-meter squares in several middens allowed collection of artifact and ecological data.  By the end of the field school we had established site size, approximately 2.0 ha with at least 15 middens.  The artifact density at the site is very high, particularly in glass beads securing a date of Glass Bead Period II circa A.D. 1600-A.D. 1630.  The geographical location of Allen Tract, date and material culture all point towards the possibility that Allen Tract is the historically referenced Carhagouha.

The Chew site (BeGx-9), located a short distance from Allen Tract is thought to be the next village in the sequence and possibly Quienunonascaran.  Chew site was investigated in 1972 by a local high school producing the only known artifact collection.  The collection, housed at Ste. Marie-among-the-Hurons, had not been documented except for site registration purposes.  Advanced field course (AR452) students; Katie Anderson, Stefanie MacKinnon, Shannon Miller, and Samantha Patterson examined and reported on the collection for course credit.  Students discovered that the Chew site collection contains artifacts relating to early 15th century and early 17th century Huron-Wendat village occupations, as well as 19th century use.  Glass beads date the 17th century occupation to Glass Bead Period III circa A.D. 1625-A.D. 1650.

Over the course of the field school many seasoned archaeological leaders and even some new supporters came to visit the field.  Of special note, our own Dr. John Triggs, Jonathan Haxell and Pam Schaus (Geography) braved bush and bugs at Allen Tract to learn about the yet, elusive Recollect cabins associated with both villages.  Students were also championed by Dr. Conrad Heidenreich one of the foremost experts on the Huron-Wendat and Champlain’s exploits in Huronia, and Dr. Ron Williamson of “Curse of the Axe” fame.  Students of the Tay Point 2014 Field School will soon experience their own 15 minutes of fame with the field school being featured in a new video developed for the Faculty of Arts promoting archaeology at WLU.  

All work and no play makes for a dull day but, this was certainly not the case.  Student accommodations on Tay Point sported a beach, and some students even defied the icy waters of Georgian Bay in May!  In addition, the camp boasted a sports field and basketball court, trails and a fire pit.  Students also rounded out their field experience by taking part in local indigenous culture - participating in a smudge ceremony and sweat bath, as well as being instructed on how to flint knap and make and use indigenous herbal remedies to stave off bugs and sooth their bites.  Fun was had by all on a day long excursion to Ste. Marie-among-the-Hurons and later that evening, a pizza party hosted by the Huronia Chapter of the Ontario Archaeological Society.

While the dog days of summer fade and a new semester looms on the horizon, work from the field school continues.  Over the next several months processing of water-screened materials and floatation samples from the field school will take place in R128.  Also, the post-excavation analyses of geophysical and metal detector data, artifacts, botanical and faunal remains recovered from Allen Tract.  The authors and senior students of AR452 are currently working on a paper to be delivered at the Ontario Archaeological Society’s annual symposium in Peterborough at the end of October.

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