Land of the Spirits
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Photograph of man and woman excavating a square

Going Under Cover

What do water, trees, ants and humans have in common?
Answer: they all bury things. Ants bury things as they work and tree roots push up the ground. Water shifts and entombs things as it freezes, and humans conceal things on purpose to hide them from view or for safekeeping.

Imagine you drop a set of keys while going for a walk. Unless someone else picks them up they soon get covered with dead leaves or dirt. Burrowing insects and rodents will move the ground and bury them deeper. Then frost and rainwater might cause the surrounding soil to shift. No one would know the keys are underground unless they go digging for some reason.

Archaeologists dig — excavate — for all kinds of things that have been lost or buried. These items are called artifacts. The science of archaeology is important because it teaches us how to properly recover artifacts. And as all archaeologists know, the most ordinary places sometimes reveal the most extraordinary things.

There's a lot going on under cover.

Uncovering the Treasures of the Little Bonnechere River

A shard. A broken saucer. A projectile point.

Today, little remains of the human history along the Bonnechere River. A century ago, the lumber companies left their shanties to rot as they pursued fresh stands of timber. Then with the expansion of Algonquin Park most of the original buildings were reused, removed or burned. Therefore, much of what was known about this time and place came from interviews with former residents, and from old photographs, papers and stories that have been passed down or carefully preserved in archives.

Then we started digging.

Staff from Bonnechere and Algonquin Provincial Parks, with support of the Ontario Archaeological Society Ottawa Chapter, developed a public archaeology program along the Little Bonnechere River. It offers visitors and school groups interested in the science of archaeology and history of the waterway opportunities to dig down and dig back. To date, both professional and amateur archaeologists have made some amazing discoveries, ranging from broken bits of bottles and plates along the foundation of a former stopping place, to tools dating to the late Archaic Age. One projectile point is estimated at 5000 years old!

So, how do we go about digging?

Anyone can become an online archaeologist, but there are a few things you need to know first. Archaeology 101 illustrates the basics of what it takes to dig in.

View Archaeology 101 Activity
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View Archaeology 101 - Solved
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Proceed to Dig Site
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