Thursday, January 24, 2013

Birds From the Past (filler!)

(Previous attempt did not work!).  Something I wrote a few years ago for my nature column was about remains of birds found at archaeological sites.  The Wallaceburg area has been occupied for a long time and many sites have been found.

Weiser Site (west of Wallaceburg)
my dad is pictured above on right

I thought of an interesting topic: what one learns of nature from archaeological sites. North American natives have been around here for thousands of years, and their gathering places can be found through archaeological digs.

A few years back, I picked up a newly published book that compiled information about birds from diggings around Ontario. A couple of these from Chatham-Kent are listed. I had already known about the Libby site where the new Baseline Bridge was built in Wallaceburg. I purchased this book to see what was listed for Chatham-Kent and surrounding area. The book was written by Douglas C. Sadler and Howard G. Savage of Trent University in 2003. It is entitled Birds from the Ground: The Record of Archaeology in Ontario.

The Libby site is located at the west end of the new bridge, and was studied in the summers of 1991, '92 and '93 as a requirement before the commencement of building of the new bridge. The site occupation was dated at approximately 1540-1570. They found 11 mammals, eight fish, five birds, three turtles, and two snakes.

Plants included all the local Carolinian types that one would expect.

Birds included a goose, Sharp-shinned Hawk, two Wild Turkey, 33 Passenger Pigeons, one Raven, two duck sp. and one grouse species.

The later studies found mammals such as woodchuck, river otter, chipmunk, Red Squirrel, beaver, black bear, bobcat and American elk among the more common species. More of the above-mentioned birds were found as well.

The other site is called the Crawford Knoll, with date of occupation approximately 1500-500 B. C. Obviously this is a very old site! I am not sure where it is, but is likely at the mouth of the Snye. I will list the bird fragments found from studies in 1980 and 1988.

Loon (1), Great Blue Heron (8), Canada Goose (4), Trumpeter Swan (5), Tundra Swan (2), puddle ducks (4), Wood Duck (5), Black duck (2), Mallard (2), Pintail (4), diving ducks (9), Canvasback (11), Redhead (2), Ring-necked duck (2), Greater Scaup (3), sea ducks (1), scoter species (1), Common Eider (1), Bufflehead (3), Common Goldeneye (1), Hooded Merganser (1), Red-breasted Merganser (1), Bald Eagle (1), Red-tailed hawk (1), Wild Turkey (1), rail species (1), common Moorhen (1), Sandhill Crane (2), owl species (1).

These are obviously all water-related species that one would expect at that location. The Common Eider is very interesting, as it is a very rare bird in southern Ontario. I have never seen one as yet!

This location was occupied by Hunter-gatherers a various times. At the time of occupation, the sand ridge was a mixture of open prairie and woodland surrounded by marsh.

These interesting studies give us an insight as to what flora and fauna was present at those particular times. It is interesting to note how things have changed with the extinction or extirpation of certain species.


  1. Blake, these archeological studies are always interesting, but it can never really be established with certainty where these bird fragments actually came from. Is it possible that some of these fragments came from a long ways away, and were carried here by natives, or were traded between different native groups? Absolutely!

  2. Alan,
    I am quite aware that various remains could have been brought in from afar since some of these natives were quite nomadic.
    In any case, it is interesting to know what is there and speculate on origins!