Tabor Hill Ossuary in Scarborough – 60 Years After it Was Almost Flattened

On August 17, 1956, a steam shovel began clearing a 60-foot mound near Lawrence Avenue and Bellamy Road in the Highland Creek Watershed. The soon-to-be flattened land would be used for a suburban subdivision in Scarborough, and the removed soil would be used as construction material for the building of Highway 401.

Instead, what was revealed was a First Nations ossuary–a ceremonial burial ground measuring about 50 feet long, seven feet wide and one foot deep, containing the remains of almost 500 ancestral Huron-Wendat members. It’s believed that the remains found in the ossuary are linked to a ceremony in which bodies are left to decompose on platforms for several years before they are carefully cleaned and buried during a Feast of the Dead ritual.

The Tabor Hill Ossuary is believed to date back to the 14th century, making it one of the earliest ossuary sites in Ontario. A second burial pit was also discovered nearby, slightly smaller than the first.

After the two discoveries, the land was re-purposed as a cemetery and a reburial ceremony was held in October 1956 to return the remains to Tabor Hill. The ceremony, a 3-day tribute to the Feast of the Dead ritual, brought together First Nations leaders as well as several thousand spectators.

For its significance as a sacred site, the Tabor Hill Ossuary, has been given cemetery designation and is recognized under the Ontario Heritage Act.

* Photo by SimonP