Bringing the Past to the Present for the Future



Sunday, April 29, 2007

Articles on Public Archaeology, Cultural Heritage Concerns, and Indigenous Rights

Here are some abstracts for articles on public archaeology, cultural heritage concerns, and indigenous rights that you might be interested in

Who's indigenous? Whose archaeology?
Bill Sillar

The International Labour Organisation, the United Nations and various indigenous Organisations have raised and/or objected to diverse criteria through which indigenous groups have been defined and the rights that should be accorded to them. This paper discusses the implications of these issues in relation to archaeological research and heritage management and uses this to position the other papers in this volume. Specific themes that are addressed include: the impact of colonialism and nationforming on indigenous groups; the continuing influence of 19th and early 20th century social evolutionary concepts on the representation of indigenous groups and the role of archival material from this period today; the contrasting processes of cultural continuity and assimilation within 'dominant' societies in which indigenous communities have participated, and the effects that this has had on more recent claims over land rights; the cultural differences that surround the concepts of individual and community ownership, particularly in relation to copyright; the role of academia, museums and the media in the representation of indigenous people in the past and the present.

Of grizzlies and landslides: the use of archaeological and anthropological evidence in Canadian aboriginal rights cases
Jean Leclair

This paper discusses some of the most contentious problems raised by the use of archaeological and anthropological evidence in aboriginal rights litigation in Canada. The first part of the paper deals with the general impact of archaeological and anthropological theories on law. The more specific problems related to the use of archaeological and anthropological evidence in aboriginal rights litigation are the subject of the second part. The final section deals with the reverse problem, that is, the question of the law's impact on the disciplines of archaeology and anthropology

Indigenous peoples' rights to their cultural Heritage
Lyndon Ormond Parker

This paper discusses indigenous peoples' rights to their cultural heritage, using the example of rights to indigenous human remains, held by institutions, universities, scientific centres and museums. It addresses international developments in indigenous cultural policy at the United Nations and the European Union, with specific reference to Australia and the United Kingdom. It also outlines issues relating to indigenous peoples' collective rights, free, prior and informed consent, ownership of indigenous human remains and the issue of benefit sharing and sustainable justice. There are now several international declarations, conventions and policies in place to assist indigenous people in gaining some form of control and protection over their heritage, however, these international instruments are often unco-ordinated and lacking in any enforcement mechanisms and they hold little sway with those who retain indigenous human remains against the wishes of descendant communities.

Artefacts, archaeologists, and American Indians
Joe Watkins

Archaeologists traditionally have observed the style and technology of artefacts and used this to classify archaeological assemblages, describing the repeated association of artefact groups as a 'Culture'. We continue to place overwhelming reliance on our ability to derive meaningful information about past culture from artefacts, yet the importance these objects had for the members of the cultural group (past and present) is not adequately considered. The typological approach sidelines the creative role of the artisans, we find out a little about their economy, gain momentary glimpses of their religion, but learn almost nothing about their humanity. Archaeologists tend to focus on the physical, technological or esoteric attributes of an artefact, while indigenous populations tend to focus on the object's ritual or social importance. This is most apparent in the treatment of funerary artefacts. Until recently, many American Indian tribal groups have seen no distinction between 'grave robbing' and 'archaeological excavation'; it made no difference to them whether the dead were disturbed by looters or by qualified archaeologists. By involving indigenous populations in the design, practice and dissemination of archaeological research, we can add humanity to our study of the human past, and take a step toward a truly worldwide archaeology.

Indigenous claims and heritage conservation: an opportunity for critical dialogue
Glenn Wharton

Indigenous claims of ownership and access to material culture challenge the field of heritage conservation. This article illustrates how indigenous concerns conflict with basic constructs of Western conservation, and how conservators respond to these claims. Despite efforts of inclusion, relatively few conservation projects integrate indigenous knowledge with scientific research. Redistribution of conservation authority is rarely put into practice. The article concludes by pointing to conservation as a meeting ground where collaborative decisions can be made about material culture on display. Conflict negotiation in conservation presents a potential forum for cultural representation and contested meaning of objects on display.

The above articles can be located in the journal PUBLIC ARCHAEOLOGY Volume 4 Issues 2 and 3 (SPECIAL ISSUE)

PUBLIC ARCHAEOLOGY is an international, peer-reviewed journal, setting archaeology in a global context

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Archaeological Process in Ontario

The archaeological process in Ontario is conducted in four sequential stages. Stage I, and in most cases Stage II, are required for residential and commercial development and infrastructure improvement undertaken in the Province under the Planning and Environmental Assessment Acts. Stage III and Stage IV investigations are determined through documentary and cultural resources encountered during the Stage I and Stage II assessments. The Ministry of Culture is currently reviewing the standards for archaeology in Ontario. The new guidelines are expected to be in place in the spring of 2007. Not only does the Central Archaeology Group adhere to the existing Ministry of Culture’s Archaeological Assessment Technical Guidelines, but in anticipation of these new guidelines, we have already incorporated them into our work practices.

Stage I – Background Study

The purpose of the Stage I assessment is to investigate the cultural land use, archaeological history, and the present condition of a property. The majority of the Stage I process is conducted in the office and involves the examination of records such as historic settlement maps, land titles and documents, historical land use and ownership records, primary and secondary documentary sources, and the Ministry of Culture’s archaeological sites database. The study may also involve interviews with individuals who can provide information about the property and consultation with local First Nations communities. The background study is followed by a property inspection to examine geography, topography and current conditions, and to determine the potential for archaeological resources. Stage I background research is usually completed in conjunction with a Stage II property survey.

Stage II – Property Survey

The Stage II property survey involves the documentation of archaeological resources by collecting artifacts and mapping cultural features. Depending on the nature of the property environment, two methods are employed in the survey: 1) pedestrian survey, and; 2) test-pit survey.

Pedestrian survey involves walking the property to search for features and collect artifacts on the surface. It is usually reserved for recently ploughed land that has been weathered by one heavy rainfall or several light rainfalls to increase visibility of cultural material on the surface.

Test-pit survey is utilized to search for artifacts and features located below the surface by digging small regularly spaced, shovel-sized pits. These surveys are carried out in wooded areas, pastures with a high rock content, abandoned farmland with heavy brush growth, properties of less than a hectare, and narrow corridors for pipelines, hydro lines, road widening, etc.

Any artifacts or features discovered on the property are mapped. A sizable concentration of artifacts and/or features likely indicates the presence of a site(s). At this point, the archaeologist, in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, will determine if the project should proceed to a Stage III site-specific assessment. If nothing is found during the Stage II property survey, or the artifact or features found are deemed to have little heritage value by the Ministry of Culture, then development of the property can proceed.

Stage III – Site-Specific Assessment

The purpose of the Stage III site-specific assessment is to identify the extent of the archaeological site(s) discovered during the Stage II property survey. During the site-specific assessment a representative sample of artifacts is gathered to determine the heritage value of the site and appropriate strategies for mitigation are recommended. The Stage III assessment also involves detailed documentary research that is specific to the site(s) that supplements the Stage I background study.

Stage III field analysis involves a controlled surface pick-up and test unit excavations. In a controlled surface pick-up, the ground surface is examined for diagnostic artifacts and/or a representative sample of non-diagnostic material, which are recorded and collected. Like pedestrian survey in the Stage II assessment, controlled surface pick-up is reserved for ploughed fields.

Test unit excavations involve controlled excavations using one-metre squares to determine the presence buried artifacts and/or features. Test unit excavations are conducted in areas where archaeological sites were discovered through Stage II test pit excavations or where Stage III surface pick-up occurred. Although the goal of test unit excavations is to determine the overall extent of an archaeological site and to gather a representative sample of artifacts, the number of test units required is dependent on the nature of the archaeological site.

Stage IV – Mitigation of Development Impacts

The Stage IV mitigation of development impacts is used to outline the overall impact of development on the heritage value of an archaeological site, and is addressed by either the protection and avoidance of the archaeological site, or complete excavation and documentation.

Protection and avoidance offers both short term protection of archaeological sites during the development phase, and long-term protection which ensures the preservation of the archaeological site from future development without further documentation and removal. Protection and avoidance measures can include establishing a buffer zone around the archaeological site or passing site stewardship to a publicly accountable owner, such as a municipality or conservation authority.

Although protection and avoidance is preferred, the preservation of archaeological sites is not always feasible. Excavation and documentation involves the removal of as much cultural material from the archaeological context as possible. This involves the excavation of one metre units around high-yielding test units from Stage III by hand and mechanical topsoil removal to uncover any subsurface features.

Graves and Cemeteries

Cemeteries are a ubiquitous component of the landscape and it is not surprising that many unknown and unmarked graves are found every year. Considering the overarching spiritual and religious connotations of cemeteries, identifying unmarked grave sites has become a political, social, economic, and developmental priority over the years. It therefore becomes important to delineate the boundaries of unmarked cemeteries, and to do so with sensitivity. The Central Archaeology Group is able to provide the technical support you need while maintaining the sensitivity needed for such a project. By utilizing new technology, such as Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), we are able to map grave locations with little to no physical disturbance of the site. However, in other instances, given the circumstances of discovery, the proposed land use of the area, or in cases of extreme soil erosion to known graves or cemeteries, it may become both necessary and desirable to have the internments removed to a more appropriate location.

The Central Archaeology Group is well-equipped to conduct examinations of identified and unmarked cemeteries and grave sites for the purposes of documentation, registration, relocation, and cemetery closure. These investigations may involve the identification, mapping, and reporting of unmarked Euro-Canadian and First Nations grave sites, as well as the negotiation of site disposition agreements between landowners and representatives of the deceased, and the processing of new cemetery applications. All cemetery projects are conducted under the Ontario Cemeteries Act and associated regulations, administered by the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services.

Urban Environments

Archaeological investigations in urban environments require a different approach than the methods listed above. Archaeological deposits are often associated with complex sequences that are usually found beneath modern buildings and concreted in areas that have been developed for decades and sometimes even centuries. Although the presence of former land use may not be readily apparent, often evidence of the past, such as building foundations, cellars, privies, and even graves, can be found in deeply buried deposits beneath the surface. However, traditional archaeological field investigations in these areas are often difficult and not always plausible. Before field investigations begin, a detailed examination into the land use of the proposed development area is conducted through the use of documentary sources, historic maps, insurance plans, city directories and old photographs. Once areas of archaeological potential have been identified, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) is passed over the surface of the site to detect any sub-surface features. Significant features identified by the GPR are further examined through borehole and/or trench excavations.

Laura McRae and Derek Paauw

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Cultural Landscapes in Ontario

(reprinted courtesy of the Ministry of Culture-to be redirected to their website click on the link above)

Since the Ontario Heritage Act was proclaimed in 1975. LACACs and municipalities have developed considerable experience in identifying and designating individual heritage properties and districts. Now, in the conservation field, we are expanding our interest from individual buildings as landmarks to an appreciation of cultural landscapes.

People have always altered their surroundings to meet their needs. However, the natural landscape should not be considered as merely a setting for buildings but as an influence upon them and human activities. While there are various definitions of cultural landscapes, all emphasize the interrelationship of people and the natural environment.

Cultural landscapes are characterized by the activities and processes which have shaped them. It is our shared sense of the values they represent that make them significant.

We should not confuse cultural with scenic landscapes. A scenic landscape is valued for its pleasing appearance; a cultural landscape for the information it conveys about the processes and activities that have shaped a community. For example, an abandoned and possibly unattractive industrial site may be an important cultural landscape for the information it reveals about industrial processes and the development of a particular community or region.

Types of Cultural Landscapes

There are different typologies for cultural landscapes but generally they fall within three categories. These are taken from the Operational Guidelines adopted by the World Heritage Committee in 1992:

Defined landscapes: those which have been intentionally designed (e.g., a formal garden or, in a more urban setting, the square in the Town of Goderich)

Evolved landscapes: those which have grown organically including those which continue to evolve (continuing landscape); (relict landscape) where an evolutionary process has come to an end (e.g., an abandoned mine site)

Associative landscapes: those with powerful religious, artistic, or cultural associations of the natural element rather than material cultural evidence, which may be insignificant or even absent (e.g., Algonquin Park because of its association with the Group of Seven paintings)

Why Cultural Landscapes?

- Landscapes which have been altered by people or which have a special significance for them, convey cultural messages about past or continuing practices and processes.
- Landscapes illustrate broad patterns of land use over an extended period of time. They tell us how communities have developed; they help define what gives a region its characteristics and hence distinctive identity (e.g., the grid-like concessions of the southwest Ontario farming landscape vs. the mining landscapes of northern Ontario reveal different reasons and periods of development, and different responses to the natural landscape).
- By studying cultural landscapes, we understand the broad social, economic, political and environmental forces that have shaped and may continue to shape our communities. As a result, we have a greater chance of identifying what activities and policies will positively or negatively affect our heritage.

New Opportunities and Responsibilities

By their very nature, cultural landscapes are more complex and difficult to identify and conserve. They can be owned by a number of people or cross municipal boundaries (e.g., the Rideau Canal corridor lies in 23 municipalities, including a regional municipality). Defining the extent of the landscape requires careful evaluation of its components and an understanding of the influences and activities that shaped them. Comprehending the relationship between various parts of a landscape helps guide the types of change that could occur while ensuring adequate preservation. Evaluating landscapes helps develop a shared appreciation for them particularly if the community is involved in the process.

Identifying cultural landscapes builds on the years of experience that LACACs have with heritage buildings and districts. It offers the opportunity to expand on the understanding and appreciation of our heritage and our communities.

Cemetery Improvement Projects

(reprinted courtesy of the Ministry of Culture-to be redirected to their website please click on the link above)

Well-intentioned individuals and groups have over the years sought to improve cemeteries in projects ranging from quick clean-ups to total reconfigurations of the original layout. Many generations of Ontarians have expressed concern about poor conditions in older cemeteries. The Canadian Freeman in 1833 called the St James churchyard "the most dangerous nuisance" in York (Toronto) and urged the Board of Health to take action. A correspondent to the Canada Farmer asked in 1864, "Why is it that the grounds here are left so untidy, some of them full of logs and stumps?" An editorial of 1903 in the Canadian Horticulturist commented, "A neglected graveyard with uncut grass, broken fences and stones that are falling over, seems to shame the living, and speak loudly of their lack of reverence for their ancestry."

A common response to overcrowded and development-pressed urban cemeteries has been to close them. An early example is the churchyard of Toronto's St James (Anglican) Cathedral, closed after the city's new cemetery, St James Cemetery, opened farther north, near Bloor Street, in 1844. Over ensuing decades, some of the human remains and monuments were transferred, others replaced, and still others abandoned. (Some surviving markers were affixed in the twentieth century to the protected porch walls of the cathedral.) Though most of the elements of this early cultural landscape have been removed, this former churchyard remains a significant open space.

Potter's Field was York's first (1826) non-sectarian cemetery. Its six-acre site was built over several times and was closed in 1875 because of public health concerns and land-use pressures. It is now identified only by a plaque at the north-west corner of Yonge and Bloor streets in Toronto.

The condition of monuments has long been a motivation to action for individuals and organizations -- often with less than satisfactory results. Over the years, many broken monuments and their fragments have been tossed aside or pilfered. Even if carefully buried at the gravesite or placed in a cemetery storage building, records of their origins and new locations have tended to get lost. Families having old monuments replaced have seldom had the full inscription, the carvings, and the carver's name replicated. Moreover, even the replicated information has sometimes been copied incorrectly.

The Pioneer Pergola in St Andrews Park in Galt (Cambridge) was an early, well-intentioned effort to preserve monuments on a large scale. In 1907, near the site of St Andrews Church (demolished 1889), the Waterloo Chapter of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire created the pergola, with concrete walls, pillars, and floor, surmounted by rustic wooden beams. Into its concrete faces it incorporated the 207 monuments remaining in the churchyard. Though this structure was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1983 for the historical significance of its records, the stone and inscriptions are now deteriorating rapidly. Worse still, records of the relative positions of markers, vegetation, church, and other landscape elements were destroyed in 1907.

Ironically, most such "preservation" efforts were made as a celebration of history and as part of a government-sponsored program. In 1967, many communities in Ontario, particularly in the southwest, sought to cure their older cemeteries' ills using funds provided by the federal and provincial governments on a per-capita, dollar-for-dollar matching basis. Many attempted radical operations.

In some cemeteries, each row of monuments would be reset in one long concrete slab, though the locations of graves and the orientations of markers to graves were, if known, retained. In other places, more disruptive changes took place, with the original grave arrangement scaled down and the monuments reset into a much smaller concrete square or rectangular concrete pad. In the better examples, the monuments were placed in their original horizontal and vertical orientations. In the worst, formerly upright monuments were set flat in the concrete, destroying all sense of original location and differences in height and width.

The most radical solutions involved the placing of monuments and fragments of monuments in new and unrelated locations within the original cemetery. As a result, monument-embellished buildings, contiguous and freestanding walls, retaining walls, and cairns dot many of Ontario's southern counties, most noticeably along Hwy 10 and rural county roads.

The long term physical damage to monuments from setting them in mortar or concrete has been severe, as explained in the ministry's publication, Landscapes of Memories, A Guide for Conserving Historic Cemeteries: Repairing Tombstones. Wholesale clearing of "overgrown" and "unwanted" vegetation, plus maintenance with machines and chemicals, has also destroyed heritage plants and historic vegetation patterns. Moreover, the reconfiguration of monuments and loss of heritage planting patterns have detracted from the historical-cultural integrity of the cemetery.

Attitudes to conservation and landscape preservation are continually evolving. We now recognize that some past efforts to preserve our cemetery heritage, though they seemed positive solutions to pressing problems, have had harmful long-term effects. We cannot change the irreversible actions of the past, but given more foresight and planning we can now choose methods that are reversible and allow options for the future.

Cemetery Designation

(reprinted courtesy of the Ministry of Culture-to be redirected to their website click on the link above)

Our inheritance of architecture, cultural landscapes, and material culture is an irreplaceable asset and resource. In Ontario, the task of conserving historically and architecturally significant properties is primarily a municipal matter. The Ontario Heritage Act provides a framework within which municipalities can act to ensure conservation of such properties. It also encourages citizens participation in local heritage conservation.

Local municipalities may designate heritage cemeteries under Parts IV and V of the Ontario Heritage Act (Ontario, 1990b). Cemetery owners or property managers may also enter into easement agreements with other agencies, such as the Ontario Heritage Foundation or a municipality. All these measures may assist in preservation of cemeteries. Properties may either be associated with significant heritage buildings or be related to a settlement or rural area. The ministry makes available a list of Ontario's designated cemeteries.

Designation is a means by which local municipalities can exercise control over those proposed alterations to heritage properties which would affect the property's heritage significance. Generally speaking, new burials in a designated cemetery do not constitute such an alteration as it is unlikely that new burials would alter or affect a cemetery's heritage significance. However, other types of work within a designated cemetery may constitute an alteration requiring consultation with the municipality. Well-worded descriptions of the cemetery properties and their built and landscape features are essential in order to provide a clear understanding of the heritage significance of these features so that can be protected from inappropriate alteration. These descriptions, referred to as "the reasons for designation", form the most important section of the designation by-law approved by the municipality.

Where cemeteries are significant primarily for historical reasons, it is important to include information such as historical association with:

- a specific event, such as a battle or a disaster;
- well-known people, such as a pioneer founding family;
- a well-known person in the burial place; and
- a well-known rural community and associated cemetery

Where context and landscape design are significant, the application should describe the attributes of the landscape in which the cemetery is located. It is useful to note the following:

- design and layout of the cemetery, including any special landscape features such as trees, plantings, fences, entrances, roads, open spaces, walls, pathways, gates, and fountains;
- the relationship of the cemetery to the general community in which it is located;
- its relationship to historical settlement patterns and use of land;
- a particular designer or landscape firm involved;
- the integrity of the site;
- if the property is one of only a few remaining;
- the cemetery's role as a physical or spiritual landmark

Where craftsmanship and architectural design are significant, the document should describe the attributes of the built features located within the property either individually or as a group -- for example, funerary monuments, dead house, fences and gates, markers and mausoleums. The following attributes for built features are elements for consideration in a statement of reasons for designation:

- the name of the builder, artist, designer, mason, carver, or architect
- a description of the building and/or marker type, including:
- materials of building construction and markers
- religious and artistic influences, as in pyramids, obelisks, metal work
- type or architectural or decorative elements, carving or detailing, such as lambs and angels
- special construction techniques or devices

The following example of heritage designation from a municipality in Ontario represents efforts to reflect accurately the significance of these features through the statement of reasons for designation, in support of a local municipal by-law, as required under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Cemeteries as a Cultural Resource

(reprinted courtesy of the Ministry of Culture-click on the link above to be redirected to their website)

Older cemeteries are visible, tangible links with people who made history -- ordinary individuals as well as famous people. The inscriptions on their monuments tell us not only their names and dates, but often where they lived, their occupation and affiliations, the manner of their death, personal traits that survivors held dear, and names of relatives. These inscriptions instruct us about local, medical, and material history, cultural geography, historical archaeology, folklore, genealogy, and much more.

A cemetery is more than a collection of interesting historical data -- as precious and revealing as that may be. It is also a place -- an open space populated by monuments and vegetation -- which forms a very particular and revealing part of our built environment. There are things to be learned from the overall layout and arrangement of the monuments. We can note the nature and quality of the materials; we can see the skill of the monument makers and observe the richness of the symbolism. We can wonder at the age of the trees and the choice of species and imagine the look of the surrounding landscape in earlier times. We can speculate on what prompted this location to be chosen for a cemetery and how the presence of the cemetery has influenced the neighbourhood in which it is located. Each cemetery has its own history of creation, development, and growth, and together Ontario's heritage cemeteries form an irreplaceable part of the province's cultural heritage.

Older cemeteries demonstrate their value as a cultural heritage resource in different ways. They have aptly been called outdoor classrooms. For students of all ages they offer endless possibilities for continuing education involving both natural and historical resources. Some cemeteries promote recreational use of their grounds by maintaining extensive and well-labelled collections of plants and trees, by welcoming hikers, cyclists, photographers, and birdwatchers, and by organizing walking tours and outdoor chamber-music concerts. Cemeteries can supplement community park systems and enhance adjacent public open spaces; larger, park-like cemeteries provide habitats for wildlife.

The character of a cemetery changes with the passage of time. There are active cemeteries, which accept interments, and there are inactive cemeteries - some still maintained, though closed, and others abandoned. Time also inevitably alters the landscape within and around a cemetery. Weathering, often aided by environmental pollutants, can damage monuments and structures, as can accidents, vandalism, and neglect. Well-intentioned interventions may obliterate the original relationships among carefully laid out parts of the cemetery. Maintenance costs, ageing infrastructure, changing surroundings and context, and public liability are pressures facing all cemeteries.

These pressures can lead to a diminution of those elements that give a cemetery its value as a cultural resource, such as its architectural and landscape heritage, as well as its educational, interpretative, and contextual value. It may also result in loss of social and family history, which would be of special value to those connected to the people interred.

Fortunately, many of Ontario's older cemeteries remain substantially intact. They deserve thoughtful, long-term conservation planning. Only if each generation exercises careful stewardship will they survive as records of the past and as a cultural heritage resource to be shared with generations as yet unborn. The ministry's publication, Landscapes of Memories - A Guide for Conserving Historic Cemeteries: Repairing Tombstones, contains information and technical advice intended to foster the conservation of Ontario's heritage cemeteries in a manner commensurate with their status as an irreplaceable cultural heritage resource.