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Past Examples of Protection by Avoidance
Lake St. George Wetland Complex, Humber River watershed, Richmond Hill
In 1998, the Regional Municipality of York proposed the creation of a wetland on land within the Lake St. George Forest and Wildlife Area. This project was a component of an environmental mitigative program for TRCA lands potentially affected by the construction of the Bayview Avenue Extension. TRCA’s Archaeology Unit was contracted by York Region to conduct an archaeological resource assessment of the TRCA land in question.
The objectives of this archaeological assessment were twofold. The first was to confirm the presence, nature, extent and condition of any cultural heritage resources on the property. The second was to assess the importance of any such resources within the context of the surrounding cultural landscape.
During the field investigation, 51 separate artifacts were located during the surface investigation of project area. Of these artifacts, 47 were clustered in four separate archaeological sites representing Aboriginal campsites dating to various millennia before European contact.
The Region of York agreed that the four archaeological sites found during the investigation were important heritage resources worthy of avoidance and preservation, and so wetland design and construction was modified to ensure the long-term protection of these archaeological sites.
Summaries of Past Excavation Projects
The Stopover Site, Etobicoke Creek watershed, Brampton
In 2007, TRCA’s Archaeological Resource Management Services unit conducted excavations within the Heart Lake Conservation Park in Brampton ahead of Peel Region’s plans to widen Mayfield Road. Identified were a number of Aboriginal campsites dating from the Late PaleoIndian to the Late Archaic periods (10,400 BP to 2,800 BP). The evidence recovered indicates that groups of people returned to this favourable campsite repeatedly during different millennia and made stone tools as part of their activities there, perhaps in preparation for hunting and fishing.
The Stopover site is an important piece of the larger archaeological context of Heart Lake. The information gained from the Stopover excavation has proved invaluable when shared with the local community and with modern descendent Aboriginal communities. Driving past the site today one will see a constructed stormwater pond. Future plans to commemorate the people who once camped in that spot include interpretive signage along the proposed trail system in the area.
Second Stong House (BCPV), Humber River watershed, Toronto
During October of 1997, a limited archaeological investigation was conducted by TRCA’s Archaeological Unit at Black Creek Pioneer Village, a 56-acre replica of a 19th century crossroads settlement. A strip of land adjacent to the Stong family’s second house was to be disturbed by a proposed facility improvement project. This house was built in the 19th century by Daniel Stong, a Pennsylvania German settler and has been designated a historic structure.
During the course of the excavation, a total of 3,147 artifacts were recovered from 24 excavation units. The artifacts range in age from the early 19th to the early 20th centuries. The artifacts recovered from the site represent a wide range of items that might typically be associated with residential occupations of the later Euro-Canadian historic period.
The archaeological investigation revealed a previously unknown semi-subterranean cistern located adjacent to the Stong house. Limited excavation of the cistern recovered a small sample of artifacts that was used to assess the nature and age of this feature. The diverse mix and age of fill material recovered indicated that the material found in the cistern may have come from a previously existing dump area elsewhere on the Stong property. While the inherent archaeological value of these artifacts is limited, their interpretive value is not as they do provide a very nice glimpse of the types of items found and used in households during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Subsequent to the archaeological investigation, the BCPV agreed to alter the proposed construction project to avoid disturbing the cultural heritage resources identified.
Esox Site, Humber River watershed, Richmond Hill
In 1998, working with The Regional Municipality of York, TRCA’s Archaeology Unit conducted an archaeological excavation of the western third of the 7-acre Esox site (AlGu-99.) This project was required prior the construction of the Bayview Avenue extension. As a result of this excavation, a collection of 2,496 lithic, faunal and ceramic artifacts were recovered. These artifacts were distributed in three low-density clusters of sizes ranging from 7m X 11m, 9m X 14m and 10m X 15m.
In general the Esox site in its entirety is defined as a multi-component site with two firmly placed culturally discrete occupations. Diagnostic projectile points indicate that the site was used during the PalaeoIndian, early Archaic, Late Archaic, Middle Woodland and Middle Iroquoian periods, 8,000 BC to AD 1300. The area of the site that was excavated in 1998 appears to have been a large drop zone, where a la minuite activities may have taken place by the inhabitants of the Middle Woodland and PalaeoIndian occupations of the site. Many artifacts were likely dropped in this zone as individuals moved from their dwellings to nearby Lake Wilcox to acquire or prepare food. It is possible that the three discrete clusters represent distinct occupations.
Iax Site, Duffins Creek watershed, Ajax
In 1997, the Town of Ajax requested an easement through TRCA land south of Bayly Road and west of Westney Road along the Duffins Creek in order to construct a sanitary sewer. Prior to construction, an archaeological investigation conducted by TRCA’s Archaeological Unit located several archaeological sites including the Iax site (AkGs-19).
The Iax site (AkGs-19) is interpreted as a single component spring-summer transient camp. Although the site has not been completely excavated, the artifact distribution suggests a brief occupation by a single family, perhaps living in a temporary structure or tent. The placement of the site is strategic as to allow the inhabitants opportunities to gather and exploit seasonally available resources. If the faunal material reported above is reflective of the game processed at the site, an argument can be made to suggest that mammals, which could not be identified, may have been the preferred source of fauna-based protein.
The Iax toolkit includes 2,623 artifacts and is well represented by bifacial and unifacial tools. This suggests that the complete sequence of game processing (skinning, quartering and butchering) was conducted at the site. Several diagnostic artifacts were recovered at the Iax site. In general, this projectile point assemblage appears very similar to that reported for the Kipp Island phase in New York State ca. AD 500-700.
Seed Barker (AkGv-1), Humber River watershed, Vaughan
Seed-Barker site:The Seed-Barker site (AkGv-1) is a Late Iroquoian, pre-European contact (16th century) village located in the City of Vaughan on the east bank of the East Humber River on property owned by TRCA. In it’s day, the village was located on the important Carrying Place Trail, an ancient travel and trade route connecting Lake Ontario with Lake Simcoe.
Starting in 1983, the Seed-Barker site served as a classroom for archaeological field schools including: the Boyd Field School, the York University-TRCA Field School, the Trent University Field School and the Ontario Archaeological Society Field School. During a 20-year period, more than 1,000 students successfully completed these programs. Participants have excavated more than 2,600 sq. m of the site revealing seven complete longhouses, elements of 13 other structures, and recovered approximately one million artifacts.
Of the 11,000 culturally or functionally diagnostic artifacts that have been catalogued and curated at the Royal Ontario Museum and with TRCA, a significant number suggest a Late Iroquoian (c. AD 1530-1560) habitation of the site. Analyses strongly suggest that Seed-Barker is directly ancestral to Sidey-Mackay and consequently is critical to the formation of the Petun in the Collingwood area. In geographic space, the Seed-Barker village was located within the Woodbridge Cluster of pre-Contact Iroquoian sites, along with Woodbridge-Mackenzie, Boyd, Skandatut, and the Kleinburg Ossuary.
Aside from Seed-Barker’s inherent archaeological value, the manner in which the site has been carefully excavated provides a unique opportunity for innovative and thorough research. It is one of the very few sites excavated entirely by hand. The goals of the educational programs are to instruct students in proper excavation techniques with attention given to absolute artifact recovery, spatial control and precise data recording. Education and quality of information are the primary concerns, not volume of information.
Tegis Site, Humber River watershed, Brampton
The Tegis site (AkGv-118) was first identified in 1991 during an archaeological survey of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s proposed Highway 407 right-of-way on land owned by TRCA at the Claireville Conservation Area. Archaeological excavation of the site was conducted by TRCA during September of 1991 and June – July of 1992 to mitigate the resource prior to construction.
The Tegis site (AkGv-118) is a single component, late summer/early fall hunting and hide processing encampment situated on the west bank of the West Humber River. The site was likely occupied for a short duration by two family groups residing in two shelters.
The Tegis site tool kit included 871 artifacts. While these artifacts are similar in many respects to most Archaic assemblages, the collection does exhibit cultural continuity with earlier PalaeoIndian period. Use-wear analysis of several proposed wood working tools and the identification of their use on bitternut hickory and jack pine likewise supports an Early Archaic temporal association.
Although several lines of evidence point to a later Early Archaic cultural affiliation (ca. 6500 to 6000 B.C.) for the Tegis site, at this time this association is equivocal. The Tegis site represents a previously undefined assemblage and associated diagnostic projectile point which serves to identify a new cultural component for the Archaic in southern Ontario.