Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha Archaeological Site Interpretation Center
Virtual Museum of Canada

Historical reconstruction

Historical reconstruction

Illustration of an aerial view of the historical reconstruction showing the longhouses and palisade (Illustration : Maurice Dunberry)

Aerial view of the historical reconstruction
(Illustration : Maurice Dunberry)

Like most heritage presentation projects, the Droulers / Tsiionhiakwatha Site Archaeological Interpretation Center focuses on letting visitors experience in situ the context that inspired archaeological excavation. The project has incorporated certain characteristics associated with an interpretation centre, a living history museum and an archaeological garden, taking an approach that favours a mix of interpretative activities. Those responsible for presenting and interpreting the site have sought to integrate the landscape and surroundings with the total visiting experience.

The interpretation centre's main objective is to give visitors a better idea of the daily life of the St. Lawrence Iroquoians in the 15th century and to present the prehistoric archaeological heritage of the Haut-Saint-Laurent regional municipal county. To this end, the site is presented and interpreted through a visiting experience in which indoor activities alternate with those taking place in the immediate surroundings. Like many presentation projects, the centre seeks to reach out to a broader public by working towards the goal of attracting families, young people and school groups.

The reconstruction of the first longhouse and the palisade at the Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha site was carried out in 1996 by Michel Cadieux, an experimental archaeologist. Calling on his considerable experience in reproducing archaeological objects and building historic models, Mr. Cadieux began by constructing a small-scale model of the longhouse. To do this, he followed exactly the same steps that would have been used for a full-size longhouse, since he wanted the reconstruction to represent the materials and techniques of the time as faithfully as possible.

Sketch showing the various stages of a longhouse's structure. 1) Set up of the longhouse's central posts. 2) Pairs of posts joined together horizontally. 3) Set up of taller posts alongside the initial ones. 4) Creation of  an arched frame. 5) Set up of horizontal poles to strenghten the structure.

Sketch showing the various stages of a longhouse's structure
(illustration : Michel Cadieux)

The first step was to set up the longhouse's inner frame by installing two rows of central posts. These posts, which served to support the structure, were planted into the ground to a depth of up to 50 centimetres. Then poles, somewhat longer than the distance between the rows, were installed horizontally so as to join pairs of posts in either row and stabilize the basic structure. The next step was to set up taller vertical poles at the ends of the horizontal poles, as well as at the ends of the whole structure. The tops of the long poles were bent inward to reach the central posts and then were attached in pairs to form an arched roof frame. Following this step, horizontal poles were installed lengthwise inside the structure; one set was attached to the central poles at about 60 cm from the ground, while a second set was placed higher up. These poles served as a framework for building sleeping platforms and storage areas.

The next step consisted in installing horizontal poles to the outside, spaced about 60 cm apart from the base right up to the roof, all around the structure. By starting at the base, the poles could be used like a ladder, which made it easier to finish the outer frame and cover the roof. Constructing this first structure required the work of five people over a period of three weeks.

The wood used for reconstructing the longhouse frames is cedar (Thuya occidentalis) because it is very flexible and grows abundantly in the region. Linden and hemlock bark was chosen as an outer longhouse covering.

After the first longhouse was built at the Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha site in 1996, an impressive project was undertaken to reconstruct a 15th-century St. Lawrence Iroquoian village.

Did you know?

Did you know?

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.

A total of at least 3 200 cedar posts were needed to construct the four longhouses and the palisade at the Droulers / Tsiionhiakwatha site.

Two views of a model showing the assembly of a longhouse, with the sawing of poles and building of its structure.

Model showing the assembly of a
longhouse's structure
(model : Michel Cadieux)


Reconstruction of the first longhouse on the Droulers/Tsiionhiakwathat site; a dwelling measuring 19 m long by 5.8 m wide, containing 5 hearths and covered with hemlock bark (from Île d'Orléans).

Construction of 3 new longhouse frames:

• one measuring 25 m in length, with 8 hearths
• another measuring 18 m, with 5 hearths
• another measuring 13 m, with 4 hearths

Construction of a palisade around the longhouses, requiring almost 3 200 cedar posts. Construction and fitting out of a building to receive visitors.

Inauguration of the Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha Site Archaeological Interpretation Center.

First season of the field school run by the anthropology department at the Université de Montréal.