camera into the forest and back in time

Some photos of a Huron village site, more precisely the midden next to the village.  Midden is the polite word for the village dump, which has been sitting on the edge of a gully side that drops down into a creek.  All of this near Penetang, Ontario.  The village, undated at the moment, either from the 17th century and the time of the French contact time or earlier.  This site was not officially known until a few weeks ago.  Sadly it has been picked over to some extent by people who some call “looters” and others label them “curiosity seekers”.

Today was day one of a two day public but controlled numbers access to the site hosted by the Ontario Archaeological Society Huronia Chapter with the site under the direction of the licensed archaeologist, Dr Alicia Hawkins.  The Simcoe County Forest was in on this as well.  There was participation by some staff from the Simcoe County Museum.

I took photos with my Nikon D3100 and 18-55 lens, with no light or with the Metz 44 flash unit or with the Polaroid ring light attachment.  It has rained hard yesterday and today, but not when I walked in and took photos.  The workers had a blue tarpaulin tied between trees to shelter the area being worked and where the dirt was screen shaken and checked.  Even with the tree cover there was good light and some good shots were possible.

The trees were about forty feet high.  On the forest floor rich dark soil growing small treelets, a lot of maples trying to make it and most at a height of about 12 inches, which created a kind of “false floor” of green shoots to step through and discover the uneven soil below.  There were also a lot of dead branches on the forest floor, but overall the walking was not too bad.  I had brought along a walking stick and it was essential.  My winter with an aircast on my left leg has left me with weak legs and they certainly felt weak today.  On the way out on my own I missed the trail and finally emerged from the forest about a 100 yards west of where the trail was and where I had walked in but that was ok.  Mosquitoes were few.  As for poison ivy, time will tell, probably by morning.

This was my first visit to a public archaeolgy day. I was at the field school public day last year as well. What struck me today was the enthusiasm of the people working. Also at the hard work that is involved. I missed the monsoon moments, but the conditions were difficult. People seemed both enthusiastic and highly satisfied to participate directly in archaeology, which can often seem to be reduced to sitting in a dusty auditorium listening to a speaker with modest presentation skills talking at a series of less than pulse-pounding documentary photos. Interesting but a little detached from direct experience. So a public archaeology day allows interested folk the chance to stand on a former village site and touch the past. In this modern day that is a remarkable experience.

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