Latest Posts from William D. Finlayson
This isn’t an easy part of any country’s history to explore let alone read about or appreciate, however, it does help to understand the past in a way that gives clarity to the present and future generations of its people. As archaeologists, we don’t always know what we’re going to come across in our work. As such, we take great care and respect in excavating and preserving our findings. Some of our evaluations may be considered professional interpretations due to missing data, yet others present with such clear fact as indicated here that there is no other side but a single truth. Please note: part of this post contains graphic details which may be uncomfortable for some readers.
Here, we look at the additional planning that the Iroquoians—who lived at Draper and who moved into Draper—undertook as the various expansions of the village were constructed. As you will see, there was significant planning and I believe that much of this was of a strategic nature. Its specific purpose was to position longhouses to provide additional defensive barriers to assist in the protection of the village . . .
Conrad Heidenreich, a geographer who wrote extensively on the Huron, provides in his 1970 book Huronia a description of one palisade from one village. The following was written by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain during his visit to Huron County in 1615-1616: “Fortified by wooden palisades in three tiers, interlaced into one another, on top of which, they have galleries which they furnish with stones for hurling, and water to extinguish the fire that their enemies might lay against their palisades.”
One never knows what unusual artifacts are to be found in the collections at sites such as Draper and what new insights will result from their study.
Fittingly, I continue this blog series with another extraordinary set of findings we recovered from our excavations at the Draper site in 1975 and 1978. This involves 10 projectile points which predate the occupation of the Draper Village by many centuries. Indeed, one of these projectile points may be 8,000 to 8,900 years old, while some are several millennia old.
At Draper, almost 98% of the chert used to make arrow points, scraping tools, and other cutting and scraping instruments were made from Onondaga chert. This chert was found along the north shore of Lake Erie in an area occupied and probably controlled by the Neutral. More recent research on Draper has revealed that there are other artifacts characteristic of the Neutral People. One of these was a bead made from the toe bone of a deer.
We discovered 7 houses about 40 metres south of the Draper Main Village. Two of these houses overlapped, with one being shorter. I believe the latter may have been lived in by the workers who built the rest of the houses. There was eventually a total of 6 houses separated from the Main Village by a fence, and likely occupied at the same time.
Tripp noted 10 characteristics which suggested that the White site was a farm hamlet, occupied seasonally over many years. Among these unusual features were an absence of village planning and defensive planning in the placement of houses, which on the other hand was so prevalent at Draper.
We know from the historical documents of the Historic Huron that these types of houses existed. We can use this data to help us better understand the occupants of the Draper site. It is noteworthy that as the village expanded, these long longhouses were situated on the outer edges of the expanded part of the village. Such a pattern of placement of chiefs’ houses—to potentially assist in village defenses—may be unique to the Draper site.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the Draper Site was that it began as a typical small community of about 8 longhouses in a palisaded village, 1.2 hectares in size. Amazingly, it expanded five times to become a 3.4-hectare village comprised of 39 houses, most of which were occupied at the same time, with an estimated population of 1,800 people. Also, quite interesting was that not all of the structures we discovered were longhouses. There were three which I believe were unique structures used to house visitors to the Draper village. We know from historical documents written by early explorers and missionaries…
We discovered a second location we called The Windmill Site, inspired by an old windmill still standing beside the site. We also found the cellars of both of these homes which can be seen in the aerial picture taken by our drone. There were thousands of artifacts dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century, most of which were metal. We collected a few as representative samples of the kinds of artifacts in use at the turn of the century.