Bones of the Ancestors: The Archaeology and Osteobiography of the Moatfield Ossuary

By Mellon, Hugh | British Journal of Canadian Studies, May 2006 | Go to article overview

Bones of the Ancestors: The Archaeology and Osteobiography of the Moatfield Ossuary


Mellon, Hugh, British Journal of Canadian Studies


Ronald F. Williamson and Susan Pfeiffer (eds), Bones of the Ancestors: The Archaeology and Osteobiography of the Moatfield Ossuary, Mercury Series Archaeology Paper 163 (Gatineau: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2003), 351pp. + CD-Rom. Paper. $39.95. Mercury Series. ISSN 0316-1854 (Archaeology Paper ISSN 1707-8989).

Travellers in contemporary Toronto struggle with summer heat, traffic congestion and suburban sprawl. Amid such distractions the distant past may seem obscured, if not forgotten. Yet that past can reassert itself at the most unexpected times. Such was the case in the summer of 1997 when work on North York (now part of the enlarged city of Toronto) unexpectedly uncovered an Aboriginal burial site going back centuries. Artefacts, 'particularly the remains of ceramic vessels, suggested that the site had been occupied between circa A.D. 1280 and A.D. 1320, during the early Middle Ontario Iroquoian period' (p. 6). The then City of North York contacted the nearest Iroquois band, the Six Nations Council of Oshweken, Ontario, about how to proceed. Meanwhile, Archaeological Services Inc. (ASI) was retained to investigate the site, referred to as Moatfield, and arrange for the appropriate treatment of the remains. Together these participants came to decisions which allowed both the examination of selected material from the site as well as the respectful reburial of the skeletal remains over the course of ensuing months. This volume is the fascinating account of the process which brought this resolution about and of the discoveries arising from the scientific studies. Readers with an interest in Aboriginal history or in Canadian archaeology will find much of interest. …

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