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Local artifact over 4,000 years old 0

By Emily McPhee, Special to Barry's Bay This Week

Local residents Joan and Tony Chapeskie hold in their possession a local artifact that was unearthed by Joan’s father while he was digging in a potato field. They brought the artifact to the Archeology Road Show in Barry’s Bay on June 14 to see if any of the archeologists could identify and date it. Much to their surprise the artifact was said to be more than 4,000 years old!

Local residents Joan and Tony Chapeskie hold in their possession a local artifact that was unearthed by Joan’s father while he was digging in a potato field. They brought the artifact to the Archeology Road Show in Barry’s Bay on June 14 to see if any of the archeologists could identify and date it. Much to their surprise the artifact was said to be more than 4,000 years old!

Local residents Joan and Tony Chapeskie got a surprising answer when they brought a family artifact to be dated at the Archeology Road Show on June 14.

The artifact brought in by the Chapeskies was unearthed by Joan’s father, Bernard Gutoskie, while he was digging in a nearby potato field.

It was Tony’s idea to bring what looked like an ancient stone tool to the Road Show – held at the Railway Station in Barry’s Bay and hosted by the Ottawa Chapter of the Ontario Archeology Society – and find out if any of the archeologists could identify and date it.

Sure enough, local archeologist Don Webb classified the object as a ground stone gouge dating back at least 4,000 years. The tool was most likely used for a variety of purposes, but particularly for pulverizing and hollowing out wood to make canoes.

“I didn’t realize it would be that old,” says Tony. “It’s amazing…we’ll have to take good care of it, or donate it to a museum.”

The gouge was found at the head of the portage from Barry’s Bay to Round Lake.

“It is really exciting!” says Webb, explaining that a find like this is quite substantial because it indicates “there was a very big presence in that area” more than 4,000 years ago.

Webb also pointed out that the only portion of the portage that is still intact is the path that leads from St. John Bosco school to the Opeongo Line in downtown Barry’s Bay. The portage is now paved, and students use it to get from the school into town.

As part of the Archeology Road Show, experimental archeologist Marc Kelly displayed cooking pots that he himself had made from clay, replicating designs that date back 3,500 years to the Woodland Period.

He showed how the earliest pots had a cone shape at the bottom of the pot, explaining that this was because the pots were placed partially in the sand for heating.

Rather than putting fire underneath the pot, hot stones from the fire were placed directly inside the pot, making the water boil almost instantly.

This method was used for making soups and other food. He also explained that the interior waterline would leave deposits of food that can now be analyzed by archeologists in order to figure out what types of food were eaten, as well as how long ago the food was prepared.

Another fascinating method used to date ceramic artifacts involves studying the orientation of particles within a given piece.

According to Kelly, “When a clay plot is fired the atoms shift and point towards magnetic north.” This is due to the magnetic pull of the atoms, allowing archeologists to figure out an artifact’s time period based on where magnetic north was at the time the clay was fired.

Andre Miller, society vice-president, says another way they can date a clay pot is by the rocks that are mixed with the clay – known as temper. For example, he says they have a way to determine “when the quartz saw the sun for the last time.”

Miller says events like the Road Show are important not only for the archeologists to connect and share information with each other, but also with the greater community. They serve as both social gatherings of like-minded people and as a way to “remind the public of our heritage and show them that we are real…to give them a face to ask questions…and to share our knowledge.”

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