Reconstructed wigwam
Reconstruction of a wigwam, typical of the structures built by First Nations’ people at Fort Willow

Prehistoric postmoulds visible during archaeological excavation at Fort Willow
Possible post stains from First Nation campsite (the post stains are the brown circular or oval stains in the orange sand).
Prehistoric native pottery found archaeologically at Fort Willow
Prehistoric pottery from native campsite at Fort Willow, dating to c.1400 AD
Archaeology finds of prehistoric Native pottery at Fort Willow
Prehistoric pottery from native campsite at Fort Willow, dating to c.1400 AD
Trade goods from archaeology at Fort Willow: tinkling cone and ear-bob
Artifacts from the Historic period of Fort Willow. British trade goods used by First Nations people camping near the Fort. Items include (centre) an ear-bob, and (right) a silver ‘tinkling cone’, used to decorate clothing and produce a gentle ‘tinkling’ sound when multiple tinkling cones jingle against each other.
Copper kettle trade good clipping; modified to form an awl
Artifact from the Historic period of Fort Willow. This trade good that has been modified: originally a copper kettle, the ingenious First Nations person who traded for this item cut the kettle into smaller fragments to use as awls for punching holes in animal hides.

Researchers: Shannon Dunn & Danica Nielsen, Grade 11

Archaeology conducted at the site since 2005 proves that there have been various Prehistoric Native First Nations activities around the area of Fort Willow.

Prehistoric Artifacts

The bulk of Prehistoric Native artifacts that were found during the excavations were found in the soil layers beneath the layers containing British-Canadian artifacts.

Prehistoric Native pottery, used to carry water or food, has been found at Fort Willow. The pot sherds were decorated with incised lines on the outside of the pot with diagonal orientation on the rim and horizontal orientation on the body. The sherds, pictured above, were identified as Middle Ontario Iroquoian dating from 1300 to 1400 AD. This would place them in the Late Woodland period, just before European Contact. The age of the pot corresponds with two known Native sites near Fort Willow called Gervais and Sparrowfarm, which were nearby Iroquoian villages; perhaps these pot sherds were discarded by people from these villages.

Along with the shards of pottery there are frequent pieces of gray chert stone flakes. While no stone tools have been found so far, these small chert flakes tell us that the prehistoric Native people who passed here stopped long enough to manufacture or ‘touch up’ tools.

Historic artifacts

Some artifacts associated with First Nations people are from after the arrival of Europeans to the New World. Some such items are purely decorative, and include coloured glass trade beads, and, as pictured above, silver trade goods such as ear rings and tinkling cones (the latter were worn on clothing in groups so that they ‘tinkled’ when they clinked together). Other items were of a more practical nature: some of the gun flints found at Fort Willow may have been discarded by native gun owners, and, as pictured above, native people chose to trade with the British for copper kettles which had more benefits than simple durability: they could be cut into smaller pieces to be used as tools.

Features from Native Campsites

​Stains in the soil, called postmoulds, were also found along with the chert and pottery shards. These stains are all that remain from the occasional temporary campsites created by prehistoric Native peoples as they passed through the area. Some of these campsite postmoulds may be from contemporary campsites that were built by First Nations people who chose to settle near the Fort during its use by the British. The frequency of these postmould finds shows that the portage route where the Fort now sits was a busy route before and after the arrival of Europeans. However, apart from these small campsites, no larger settlements (like a village) have been found at Fort Willow.




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