A few hundred people lived in long houses, made pottery and grew corn in a medium-sized village on the banks of Strasburg Creek that was thriving 100 years before Samuel de Champlain set foot in Ontario.
“It is probably the most interesting site I have encountered in 24 years of doing this work,” archeologist Paul Racher said.
Racher found the remains of at least 10 long houses, including one 90 metres long, ancient piles of garbage, pieces of pottery, pipes, spear tips and arrowheads. A short distance away from the main village, archeologists found summer houses where corn was grown.
“It is a village site, which is kind of a rarity in archeological circles,” Racher said.
The archeological heritage site is in the Huron Natural Area off Trillium Drive and will be protected by a city bylaw. The site is also registered under the Ontario Heritage Act. Anyone removing artifacts or otherwise damaging the site can be charged and fined up to $1 million.
First Nations in the Grand River watershed did not start living in villages until about 1,000 years ago, “so you don’t get a lot of them,” Racher said.
Some of the artifacts are about 500 years old. Others go back 4,500 years and the oldest is estimated at 9,000 years old.
“It’s a form of spear point that has an indentation at the base that we know was popular 8,500 to 9,000 years ago,” Racher said of the oldest artifact.
Racher, of Archeological Research Associates Ltd., said the village was inhabited by Algonquian-speaking people 100 years before Champlain ever came to what is now Ontario in the early 1600s.
That means the creekside village was bustling 100 years before their way of life was disrupted by the fur trade and the war between the English and French. The village was occupied by what is called the Neutral Tribe, which did not take sides in the war.
English allies included the Iroquois of the Five Nations, which later became the Six Nations. French allies included the Huron.
“The descendants of the people from that site are now among the Six Nations today,” Racher said.
“There is a clear archeological connection that goes back 12,000 years,” Racher said. “There is an intimate connection between aboriginal peoples and the land in the Grand River watershed.”