People are always interested in their past. Something inherent in human nature demands that questions such as "where did we come from?" and "how did we know how to do that?" be answered. We are all familiar with the wonders of the Egyptian pyramids, the architecture of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire and their accompanying mythologies and the treasures of Mesoamerica. We are also familiar with Indiana Jones and his adventures. We do not, however, have to travel to such exotic places in the quest for knowledge of our past. Canada has its share of prehistory and history, indeed, Ontario is rich in heritage. The City of Kingston itself contains one of the richest continuous archaeological records in the province.

The profession of archaeology is quite new compared to others. Early archaeological expeditions relied on wealthy gentlemen explorers such as Heinrich Schleimann who discovered Troy in 1873 and Lord Carnarvon and Howard Cater who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922. Other discoveries made at this time employed a variety of excavation and recording techniques and interpretations and even now are subject to change. The most important l Read More
People are always interested in their past. Something inherent in human nature demands that questions such as "where did we come from?" and "how did we know how to do that?" be answered. We are all familiar with the wonders of the Egyptian pyramids, the architecture of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire and their accompanying mythologies and the treasures of Mesoamerica. We are also familiar with Indiana Jones and his adventures. We do not, however, have to travel to such exotic places in the quest for knowledge of our past. Canada has its share of prehistory and history, indeed, Ontario is rich in heritage. The City of Kingston itself contains one of the richest continuous archaeological records in the province.

The profession of archaeology is quite new compared to others. Early archaeological expeditions relied on wealthy gentlemen explorers such as Heinrich Schleimann who discovered Troy in 1873 and Lord Carnarvon and Howard Cater who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922. Other discoveries made at this time employed a variety of excavation and recording techniques and interpretations and even now are subject to change. The most important lesson learned from these early endeavours in archaeology is that once a site is excavated it is destroyed.

Keeping this fact in mind, we begin to see how important archaeology can be in reconstructing the past, but also the importance of keeping that record as accurately as possible. Artifacts can alone can tell us very little. They provide far more information when found in relation to a particular soil or building. The soil and remains of a structure can also provide valuable information and are an equally important part of archaeological record.

Many people wonder why we need to do archaeology at all if we already know our history and have many documents that can tell us a variety of things about our past. Again, human nature dictates our need to know even more about ourselves. We might also question how intact our historical record is. Was every record about everything that ever happened always kept? It is not likely. There is also the aspect of the unrecorded. It is the uncertainties about our past that archaeology can uncover as well as confirming or disproving what we think we already know.

While historical documents provide knowledge about the past, archaeology allows us to physically touch history. It provides a rare opportunity to interact with the past and enhance our historical understanding.
Excerpted from Kingston Archaeological Master Plan Study: Stage 1 Report published by the Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation.
© 2007, Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

Archaeological digging does not always involve dirt; one of the first steps in the archaeological process is archival research. Researchers examine archives, maps, documents, and photographs to aid archaeologists in locating potential sites, and assess the archaeological potential of an area. Archaeologists are able to use this information to determine the best placement of their excavation units and where to focus their excavation efforts as a whole. Before archaeologists begin digging, they want to understand as much as possible about what the site was used for, who might have used it, and what they might find.

Archaeology provides archaeologists and historians with new historical information about a site. Sometimes the results of an excavation provide physical evidence that supports the historical documentation. At times, archaeologists are unable to locate features or historical sites as documented in the historical assessment. There are a number of possible reasons for this: it can mean that the excavation pits are too far in one direction, that disturbance of the area at a later date has erased all evidence of earlier land uses, or that the historical documentatio Read More
Archaeological digging does not always involve dirt; one of the first steps in the archaeological process is archival research. Researchers examine archives, maps, documents, and photographs to aid archaeologists in locating potential sites, and assess the archaeological potential of an area. Archaeologists are able to use this information to determine the best placement of their excavation units and where to focus their excavation efforts as a whole. Before archaeologists begin digging, they want to understand as much as possible about what the site was used for, who might have used it, and what they might find.

Archaeology provides archaeologists and historians with new historical information about a site. Sometimes the results of an excavation provide physical evidence that supports the historical documentation. At times, archaeologists are unable to locate features or historical sites as documented in the historical assessment. There are a number of possible reasons for this: it can mean that the excavation pits are too far in one direction, that disturbance of the area at a later date has erased all evidence of earlier land uses, or that the historical documentation is inaccurate.

In combination with archival research, archaeological excavations and discoveries provide important information about our past.

© 2007, Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

The earliest account of interest in prehistoric archaeological materials in Kingston appeared in the November 11th, 1840 edition of the Kingston Chronicle and Gazette. The brief description of native burials reads:

[Indian Remains, --- During the progress of some excavations making by the Marine railway company, on Mississauga Point, the remains of from 15 to 20 Indians, with beads, knives, &c., have been found, imbedded about 10 inches below the original surface of the site of the battery. The bodies appear to have been severally wrapt in bark, the remains of which were found in close proximity to the undecayed portions of each skeleton.]

It is not known what further activities stemmed from such discoveries, but there are several additional references to native artifacts being found within the City. In 1952-53, Dr. James Pendergast, with the National Museum, conducted limited archaeological testing on the Kingston Outer Station site, a fishing station situated along the west bank of the Cataraqui River. Artifacts recovered from the site indicate that it had been occupied in approximately 1200 C. E. Wallace Havelock Robb donated his collection of Indian a Read More
The earliest account of interest in prehistoric archaeological materials in Kingston appeared in the November 11th, 1840 edition of the Kingston Chronicle and Gazette. The brief description of native burials reads:

[Indian Remains, --- During the progress of some excavations making by the Marine railway company, on Mississauga Point, the remains of from 15 to 20 Indians, with beads, knives, &c., have been found, imbedded about 10 inches below the original surface of the site of the battery. The bodies appear to have been severally wrapt in bark, the remains of which were found in close proximity to the undecayed portions of each skeleton.]

It is not known what further activities stemmed from such discoveries, but there are several additional references to native artifacts being found within the City. In 1952-53, Dr. James Pendergast, with the National Museum, conducted limited archaeological testing on the Kingston Outer Station site, a fishing station situated along the west bank of the Cataraqui River. Artifacts recovered from the site indicate that it had been occupied in approximately 1200 C. E. Wallace Havelock Robb donated his collection of Indian artifacts from the "Rob Garden Site" to the Kingston Historical Society in 1964 and among them was a war club head reported to have been found in a Kingston garden.

The largest native site to be investigated within Kingston was on Belle Island and was identified in the 1940's or 1950's, but only recorded in the early 1980’s. Careful testing indicated an extensive seasonal campsite form the Middle to late Woodland transitional phase. The 1000- to 1400-year-old site is possibly the best preserved site of its time period to be found in Eastern Ontario. There was subsequent accidental discovery of several human burials which has resulted in further excavation work by the city in 1989.

In the 1980s, redevelopment of a downtown waterfront property known as Block 'D', or Mississauga Point, also threatened prehistoric archaeological resources. The Indian graves reported in the 1840 newspaper article had been found in the immediate area of Block ‘D’. Industrial development starting in the 1840's had destroyed any evidence of earlier deposits.

Kingston's rich history since European settlement has provided archaeologists with significant archaeological opportunities that have added to our historical knowledge of the area. The 1983-85 excavation of the French Fort Frontenac site uncovered extensive artifacts and the northwest bastion of the Fort. The excavation of the Molly Brant’s home contributed to our knowledge of a Native Loyalist hero and the Loyalist period in the area. The 2005 Market Square excavation uncovered the foundations of the 1865 Market buildings, the predecessor to the current market wing that now functions as part of the municipal offices.

While all these excavations contributed to our historical knowledge the Market Square excavation is a unique picture into a specific period of time. Not once, but twice, due to the fires of 1840 and 1865, a period of history was captured in a sealed site. What is also interesting, is the significance of the years in which the fires took place. In 1840, Kingston was poised to become the capital of Canada. 1865 was just two short years before Confederation, announced in Kingston’s Market Square. The two sets of deposits of material culture give us a snapshot into everyday life at this time. Because these artifacts were sealed in the ground from the fire, it is possible to be sure of the dates and obtain a clear idea of what was in use during this time period. This allows Kingston archaeologists to create a type collection for artifacts for other excavations across Ontario.
Excerpted from Kingston Archaeological Master Plan Study: Stage 1 Report published by the Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation.
© 2007, Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

Archaeology: The study of human antiquities both prehistoric and historic by excavation of cultural remains.

Archives: Two-dimensional historical primary documents

Artifact: Product of human workmanship, not naturally created.

Ecofact: Naturally produced item which has been utililized by humans.

Excavation: The uncovering or extraction of cultural remains by digging.

Mitigation: To reduce the severity of development impact through either or any combination of preservation, conservation or excavation of an archaeological site.

Salvage: Rescue of any property from development impact through excavation.

Significance: Level of importance of an archaeological site as determined through cultural, chronological, functional and locational  distinctness, historical personage association, site in Read More
Archaeology: The study of human antiquities both prehistoric and historic by excavation of cultural remains.

Archives: Two-dimensional historical primary documents

Artifact: Product of human workmanship, not naturally created.

Ecofact: Naturally produced item which has been utililized by humans.

Excavation: The uncovering or extraction of cultural remains by digging.

Mitigation: To reduce the severity of development impact through either or any combination of preservation, conservation or excavation of an archaeological site.

Salvage: Rescue of any property from development impact through excavation.

Significance: Level of importance of an archaeological site as determined through cultural, chronological, functional and locational  distinctness, historical personage association, site integrity and  research and educational potential.

Stratigraphy: Sequential layers of accumulated cultural and natural materials which archaeologists excavate and record.

Survey: To examine the condition of potential site.

Test: Examination of the qualities of a potential site through small scale excavation, normally part of an archaeological assessment.

Typology: A classified list of particular kinds of artifacts.
Excerpted in part from Kingston Archaeological Master Plan Study: Stage 1 Report published by the Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation.
© 2007, Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

Native settlement in the Kingston area dates as far back as 700 B.C.E. By this time, Native trade networks were well established, as evidenced by trade goods found at various excavation sites and native burials.

In 1673, the French arrived, eager to secure sources for furs, and established Fort Frontenc. Natives had been using different spots along the Cataraqui River as seasonal camping grounds for years prior to French arrival and passed through the area en route to their hunting grounds. Over the eighty years of French occupation, the small wooden fort evolved into a significant military, trade and supply post with substantial stone fortifications.

As part of the peace agreement when the British triumphed over the French in the Seven Years War, France's North American colonies were given to Britain. With Fort Frontenac a short distance across Lake Ontario, it was logical refuge for Loyalists who fled to the area during the American Revolution. After the success of the American Revolution, it was decided that the site of Fort Frontenac would be hospitable to a permanent settlement for the Loyalist refugees. Lt. John Holland, was called in to survey the land Read More
Native settlement in the Kingston area dates as far back as 700 B.C.E. By this time, Native trade networks were well established, as evidenced by trade goods found at various excavation sites and native burials.

In 1673, the French arrived, eager to secure sources for furs, and established Fort Frontenc. Natives had been using different spots along the Cataraqui River as seasonal camping grounds for years prior to French arrival and passed through the area en route to their hunting grounds. Over the eighty years of French occupation, the small wooden fort evolved into a significant military, trade and supply post with substantial stone fortifications.

As part of the peace agreement when the British triumphed over the French in the Seven Years War, France's North American colonies were given to Britain. With Fort Frontenac a short distance across Lake Ontario, it was logical refuge for Loyalists who fled to the area during the American Revolution. After the success of the American Revolution, it was decided that the site of Fort Frontenac would be hospitable to a permanent settlement for the Loyalist refugees. Lt. John Holland, was called in to survey the land and layout pans for a formal town of Kingston. As with any community, the development of a market was established early on, a necessity of life as it was the centre for everyday commerce and a large plot for a market reserve was included in his original proposal in 1783.

Kingston grew into a bustling port, an important stop on shipping routes from the St. Lawrence and inland, its economy and size expanding. The town was incorporated in 1838 and ownership of the Market Reserve passed from the crown to the town of Kingston. The market continued to play an important commercial role within the town as it was still the source for everyday goods for Kingstonians. It wasn't until the early 20th century, when permanent stores along what is now called Princess St. became a more profitable way to market consumer items, that the market became largely redundant.

© 2007, Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

Archaeologist Susan Bazely demonstrates stratigraphy at an archaeological dig site.

Archaeologist Susan Bazely demonstrates stratigraphy at an archaeological dig site.

The way we excavate is we excavate by the particular soil layers. And you can see we have here the first upper portion is the sod, and it's less than about 10cm, and then we have a fairly clean clay fill below that that looks fairly thick. Of course it's quite dried out now and it's difficult to see the colour differentiation. But as we follow along here we can see there's a darker band here right in underneath that clay and that actually represents an earlier ground surface, that's a buried sod layer. And below that we start to get broken up limestone and a clay mixture, and this is in fact a fill. And you can see that it thickens out as we go further in one direction, it's quite thin up at the top. So this fill dates to about sometime in the 1820's, probably about 1825 or so, and it's in fact covered over a part of the original landscape. Below that fill you can see a very definite slope and in fact this is part of the hillside we are on. This is, in fact, a part of the original landscape and the soil or the layer that we are standing on is in fact the cultural surface that relates to the War of 1812 and the soil below that is in fact natural soil and below that would be the bedrock.

Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation
Susan Bazely, Hannah Roth

© 2007, Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation. All Rights Reserved.


Archaeologist Susan Bazely explains how stratigraphy aids in the dating of artifacts.

Archaeologist Susan Bazely explains how stratigraphy aids in the dating of artifacts.

What we do is we excavate down from the top, and we have ways of dating the different layers, primarily by the artifacts but also by the cultural events that we know that happen over time. One of the things to note here is that we have also found Native material in locations within the soil context that are fairly close to the surface, with the idea being, generally, that the older material is found close to the bottom but I think what this profile illustrates is that you don't have to have old stuff really, really deep down.

Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation
Susan Bazely, Hannah Roth

© 2007, Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation. All Rights Reserved.


Clay Pipes, 2005 Market Square Excavation

Clay Pipes, 2005 Market Square Excavation

Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation
Hannah Roth

© 2007, Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation. All Rights Reserved.


Serving Platter, 2005 Market Square Excavation

Serving Platter, 2005 Market Square Excavation

Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation
Hannah Roth

© 2007, Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation. All Rights Reserved.


Porcelain Anchovy Paste Box, 2005 Market Square Excavation

Porcelain Anchovy Paste Box, 2005 Market Square Excavation

Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation
Hannah Roth

© 2007, Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation. All Rights Reserved.


Stemware, 2005 Market Square Excavation

Stemware, 2005 Market Square Excavation

Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation
Hannah Roth

© 2007, Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation. All Rights Reserved.


Wall Feature, 2005 Market Square Excavation

Wall Feature, 2005 Market Square Excavation

Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation
Hannah Roth

© 2007, Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation. All Rights Reserved.


Steps, 2005 Market Square Excavation

Steps, 2005 Market Square Excavation

Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation
Hannah Roth

© 2007, Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

  1. Learn about the development of native communities from the Paleo Indian Period, circa 7000 B.C.E. through to Late Woodland Period circa 1600 C.E., within the Kingston area.
  2. Learn about the factors that caused and contributed to the urban and societal changes in the Kingston area from pre-history, circa 7000 B.C.E. until circa 1900 B.C.E.
  3. Research the chronological development of prehistoric Kingston and how an understanding of such knowledge is necessary in the field of archaeology in identifying artifacts and contributing to our understanding of the past.
  4. Examine the basic archaeological practices used in local excavations.

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