Before leaving the topic of my recent publication The Draper Site, an Ontario Woodland Tradition Frontier Coalescent Village in Southern Ontario, Canada: Looking Back, Moving Forward, I want to briefly review another distressing trend that I discovered while researching this book. This involves the presentation of data which are not factual but are presented as such, yet another variant of the less than noble practices I raised in my earlier two blog posts on plagiarism in Ontario archaeology. Such practices have become more common and appear to be infiltrating published literature with little awareness or consequence.
As I have indicated before, there is a growing trend for those who are writing about Ontario archaeology to increasingly rely on the secondary literature as the main source of information about the topic they are addressing. One of the negative aspects of this is that incorrect data are repeated over and over, there being no apparent understanding that certain data presented as fact are actually false. The following two examples demonstrate this.
There has been a significant number of publications about Coalescent Villages based on the excavation of the Mantle site by Archaeological Services Inc. and the comparison of Mantle to Draper and the intervening Spang site.
- The Mantle site is an important one, as is the concept of Coalescent Villages developed and promoted by Professor Jennifer Birch and Dr. Ron Williamson. One of the fascinating issues about the Mantle site is its size. There are numerous publications and reports where the Mantle site is reported to be 4.2 hectares in size. For example, the Wikipedia article on Mantle states “1500–2000 people occupied the 4.2 hectares site” and that Mantle “is the largest and most complex ancestral Wendat-Huron village to be excavated in the Lower Great Lakes region to date.” This is not completely true. Mantle is probably the most complex site, but it is not the largest. Yet the size of 4.2 hectares and the claim that it is the largest is cited again and again by certain authors. The primary literature, the licence report produced by Archaeological Services, clearly states that the Mantle site was originally 2.9 hectares in size (2012:19). In a later stage of occupation, the Mantle site was smaller still, since it appears some people left the village. It is also interesting to note that the major publication on the site by Birch and Williamson, The Mantle Site: An Archeological History of an Ancestral Wendat Community, also reports the correct size of the site as 2.9 hectares (2015:63).
- A second example of factually incorrect data involves the number of rows of palisades surrounding the Draper site. In a summary of Wendat archaeology, a statement regarding Draper describes the village as having three rows of palisades (Williamson 2014:20). As readers of my blog are aware, Draper was initially surrounded by four rows of palisades with the first four expansions surrounded by three rows and the last expansion again surrounded by four rows of palisade. One can only wonder how 4 -> 3 -> 3 -> 3 -> 3 -> 4 rows of palisades can be described as three rows of palisades. But here again, the secondary literature presents factually incorrect data which will no doubt be cited by those who ignore the primary literature.
There are more examples, but these two illustrate the point. It is a challenge to comprehend how and why such errors are made and how it is that authors and editors of the publications have not caught these. The reasons are probably many including the rush to publish or perish and the need of some to claim the biggest, the most unusual, or the greatest to gratify egos. Regardless of the reasons, this is a problem which needs to be addressed.
Digging deeper to ensure original sources are being used, not to mention credited, is an important beginning. Integrity and pride in one’s work is another. Rectifying errors as soon as they are brought to light. Caring about the truth of our history is yet another and perhaps that which has the biggest impact.
Thank you as always for your keen interest and support.
William D. Finlayson, Ph.D.
Ontario’s Leading and Senior-Most Archaeologist and Author
Feature image: Sequence of Expansions of the Draper Site Showing Numbers of Rows of Palisades as Village Grew
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