Our Lands Speak is a prolific series of books documenting the fascinating findings of This Land Archaeology Inc. excavations since 2006, led by founder, author, and Ontario’s senior-most archaeologist, Bill Finlayson.
This was state of affairs at the museum at that time. I assumed the position of Executive Director in February 1976 and began the challenge of its revitalization as an archaeological research centre committed to field work, analysis, and reporting of sites in southwestern and southcentral Ontario. It was a daunting task, but one which was rewarding and productive for more than 20 years.
It was with this background knowledge that I took on the job to dig the Draper site, which was a vital component in the revitalization of Wilfrid’s Museum, in part because it demonstrated the ability of archaeology to continue to attract large contracts to the university. It is also part of the narrative in understanding how the opportunity arose for me to become Executive Director of the Museum without a university salary.
One of the challenges in undertaking the excavations at the Draper site in 1975 and 1978 was ensuring the safe operation of the dig, the security of the excavations, and providing accommodations and meals for our crews which at times numbered up to 60 people. These are just a few of the more memorable events at Draper, which remind me of the challenges of directing the size of crews we needed to complete the largest and most significant excavations of an Iroquoian village ever undertaken in the province. Still, one of the highlights of my career I feel fortunate to share and contribute to our archaeological history.
One of the advantages of our field work at the New Toronto International Airport from 1975 to 1979 was that we had the use of some of the buildings which had been expropriated by the Federal Government. Most important was the two-room Glasgow schoolhouse a few km north of Draper. This became our headquarters for the large crews in 1975 and 1978 . . . By undertaking major portions of the processing of the artifacts and information recovered in the field, we were able reduce the amount of such work to be handled back at the laboratories at the University.
One of the aspects of planning the excavations of the Draper Site in 1975 was negotiating a contract between The University of Western Ontario and the National Museum of Man . . . Another life-changing event, which ultimately lead to another incredible opportunity to significantly expand my exploration of Ontario’s rich archaeological history. Embracing new uncharted territory enhances our journey on all levels and, in a way, pushes us to use more of our experience and skills for the greater good.
The Brains Behind the Books
Bill Finlayson, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., is the senior-most archaeologist in Ontario archaeology with well over 50 years of experience in the field. Since 2006, he has undertaken the salvage excavation of more than 60 19th century homesteads and farmsteads, culminating in the total excavation of Patterson Village, the largest excavation of a 19th century Euro-Canadian site in Ontario.