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Generations of Haldimand and Norfolk citizens have found and collected stone artifacts from their lands. Artifacts were kept out of intrigue and interest and often displayed prominently within homes. Some were valued as family heirlooms, others placed in boxes and kept packed away on a shelf. This is where I enter the story. My name is Lorenz Bruechert and I am an archaeologist.
Not long ago a land owner told me that artifacts had been collected from his family property over many, many years. I was invited to make an examination because the owner knew they might be important to my regional archaeological study (www.haldimandarchresearchproject.com). There still was a little hesitation, primarily out of concern that I might confiscate the artifacts. But that is not what I do. My interest in private collections from prehistoric times is based in public outreach and education.
I was able to provide the owner with a time period of the artifacts, the type of rock used in their manufacture, and their origins. You see, I believe it is important to foster trust and to empower landowners with information, thereby ensuring their collections are valued, respected and hopefully made available for scientific study.
Private collections reflect the richness of our homelands and confirm the reality of past human occupation. Trying to make sense of who primitive occupants were and how they lived is helped immensely by studying the ages and quantities of found artifacts. Artifacts date from within historic periods to as far back as when glaciers still existed in Southern Ontario. In fact, many land owners are surprised to learn that their collections are much older than a few hundred years.
At least 80% of human history is represented by stone artifacts. The rock used is generally a sedimentary variety containing silica. The more silica a rock has, the easier it is to break apart. The geological name for the type of stone used in most tool manufacture is chert or flint. Chert formations date as far back as the age of the dinosaurs. They were scoured and scraped by the movement of glaciers and carried along until the glacier melted. What this means is that an artifact found in Haldimand or Norfolk may have originated thousands of kilometers away!
In Southern Ontario, stone tool artifacts have been recovered and dated within several different main time periods. Each period shows variations thought to reflect climate changes that made an impact on animal and plant species. As species changed or disappeared, new types of stone tools were manufactured to keep up with these transitions. Dating artifacts, therefore, helps to identify migrations of different people groups across our counties’ deep past.
Most landowners truly enjoy having their artifacts interpreted. Their private collections remain intact and local people become, in a sense, guardians of local history. If a family is not interested in acting as stewards, I always encourage them to donate their pieces to a local museum, to ensure that the artifacts remain in the community.
Lorenz Bruechert will return soon for another installment of local archaeology. You can contact Lorenz at firstname.lastname@example.org.