Approximate migration routes throughout North America

The first human populations to inhabit North America came from eastern Asia about 20 000 years ago. After many thousand years of slow migration across the continent, human populations arrived in what is today Quebec, leaving scattered evidence of their existence as they went. The earliest signs of human presence in Quebec date to the Early Palaeoindian period (12 000 – 10 000 years B.P.).

Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.

© 2011, Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.


Natural elements

Until the Early Paleoindian period, the ice sheet covered almost all of Northern Quebec and reached as far south as the lower Laurentian Mountains. As the ice began to gradually retreat, small groups of Palaeoindian populations moved into the newly freed land, travelling over vast territories as they sought available resources. They thus acquired invaluable knowledge of a fairly hostile environment.

Photos by Luc Bouvrette

© 2011, Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.


Model of the iroquoian village

The St. Lawrence Iroquoians were a semi-sedentary people, who practised a corn-based agriculture and engaged in horticulture to grow beans, squash, tobacco and sunflowers. They lived in palisaded villages that contained several longhouses.

Model by Michel Cadieux

© 2011, Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.


Man working on projectile points

The men were responsible for clearing the land needed to set up villages and lay out fields, but also built the longhouses, erected the palisades and made birch bark canoes, dugout canoes and snowshoes. Hunting and fishing, as well as trade and diplomatic expeditions, were almost exclusively masculine activities.

Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.

© 2011, Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.


Mealtime inside a longhouse

The women, in addition to helping to clear the land, prepared and sowed the seeds, cared for and harvested the crops, processed the corn and stored surpluses. The women also prepared meals, collected firewood, drew water, gathered wild plants and made clothing, fishnets and baskets.

Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.

© 2011, Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.


Reproduction of an iroquoian vase

Women were skilful potters and produced ceramic vessels that were used for storing and cooking food.

Vase by Michel Cadieux

© 2011, Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.


The treasures of the Droulers / Tsiionhiakwatha site

The Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha site is one of the most important Iroquoian sites in Quebec, and it is considered to have been the foremost village in the region marked by the culture of the Saint-Anicet Iroquoians. Radiocarbon dating places the occupation of the site between 1450 and 1500 of our era. During this period, the cultivated land sometimes extended for as much as two kilometres beyond the village limits.

The Droulers site has revealed numerous fragments of ceramic pots characterized by decorative collars that make these some of the finest domestic pottery discovered on Iroquoian sites. The appearance of pottery corresponded to changes in Amerindian food habits.Pots were used to cook cornmeal, which was an essential staple in the diet of all Iroquoian populations. Baked clay pipes usually have flarings, trumpet-shaped openings or easily packed bowls. The bowls are often decorated with various motifs, as well as with animal or human figurines. The stone objects discovered on village sites in the region include milling implements, axes and adzes. The last two tools were heavily used, since land had to be cleared before cultivated fields could be laid out.

Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.

© 2011, Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.


Archaeological dig

The first thing archaeologists have to do before starting to excavate a site like the Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha site is to remove the vegetative cover, layer by layer, until they reach the occupation level that was abandoned several centuries before. All the information related to the excavation context and all signs of human occupation are carefully noted in a field book. Measurements are constantly taken in order to draw plans and record the spatial distribution of finds.

Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.

© 2011, Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.


Aerial view of the Droulers / Tsiionhiakwatha site.

A total of at least 3 200 cedar posts were needed to construct the four longhouses and the palisade at the Droulers / Tsiionhiakwatha site. A special aspect of this presentation project is the participation of members of the Akwesasne Mohawk community, who have been steadily involved since the very first reconstruction efforts and have helped in particular to build the longhouses and the palisade.

Illustration by Maurice Dunberry

© 2011, Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.


Learning Objectives

- Visualize the vast migrations of the first populations accross North America.
- Understand the impact of climate change on the territory and its resources.
- Learn about the daily tasks of the St. Lawrence Iroquoians.
- Appreciate the importance of the Droulers / Tsiionhiakwatha site and its historic reconstitution.

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