Study Of Rural Farm Land Endeavors To Save Archaeological Evidence

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The Haldimand-Norfolk Archaeological Research Project is a regional study meant to discover new information about the past that has impacted the region such as; glaciers, climate change, prehistoric and historic settlements, wildlife, and geologic formations.  The agricultural lands of Norfolk and Haldimand County combined is approximately 2,286.49 km2 and is identified as a zone of geologic, archaeological, and historical significance, promising to reveal a great deal about past environmental events and people.

Yet, the urbanization of agricultural lands continues to alter the landscape by removing evidence of forests, tributaries, reduced land elevations, current and past ecologies, and lastly, evidence that people and their descendants once crossed the landscape of this region.  For these reasons a regional study has been initiated before this information is lost forever.

When you take a closer look at the landscape you can find physical evidence this region is unique.  Evidence such as the scrapes and grooves on bedrock surfaces by glaciers (see The Silo Facebook page wall for an example photograph of glacial scarring in Haldimand-Norfolk  content producer), erratics and drumlins left behind when glaciers melted away.

Watersheds and their tributaries, originally a result of glacial melt water, continue to drain seasonal waters from the agricultural lands year round.  Present day Carolinian forests represent evidence of climatic changes in the great lakes region that supported a successful transition from a tundra-like environment over 10,000 years ago.  Mega mammals such as mastodon once roamed the ecosystems of Norfolk County only to disappear and be replaced by other mammal species.

Geologic formations date back over 80 million years ago where fossils of coral reefs can be found and chert formations were formed and found across Haldimand County.  People identified as Paleo-Indians used these same chert formations over 8,000 years ago to make stone tools as they crossed the landscape.

Regional studies are long-term and pay special attention to all aspects of a changing environment and landscape from one region compared to another.  A regional study combines different scientific disciplines (e.g., archaeology, geology, hydrology, and paleobotany) that can bring specialists to assist with the recovery of new information.   The results of a scientific study can produce new and unexpected insights into how the environment within a landscape once looked and how it was used by people.

Studies such as this create opportunities for community heritage to improve public awareness and education to understand how long term changes (e.g., climate, urbanization, and development) that can have an impact on a region.

What can a land owner expect when I come to their farm as part of this regional study?  Permission is always asked to begin a study of the landscape on private property.  I always work independently, and if help is needed, permission is asked to bring an assistant along.  Once permission is given the study begins by walking over land repeatedly over a period of time and preferably free of crops.

Walking over open fields creates opportunities to examine the topography of the landscape, tributaries, plant and tree life, natural drainages, tree growth, and land elevations.  Observations of prehistoric camps or historical homesteads, and their refuse pits is recorded when found.  Evidence of a camp or homesteads where people lived is called settlement patterns.  When settlement patterns are observed Geographic Positioning System coordinates are collected to record the exact location.  Even though archaeological excavations are sometimes necessary, they are restricted to a small area.  No excavation activity takes place unless permission is given by the landowner.

Even then, the landowner is first shown where an excavation is proposed on their property, and if crops are on the land, there is an offer of crop damage compensation based on current markets prices for wheat, soy, and corn.

A standard practice for a regional study is to recover and record the location of artifacts (e.g., prehistoric or historic) observed on the ground. These are recovered to gain new scientific insights regarding their origin, exact age, context, and association to surrounding landscapes.  This includes the recovery of samples from rock formations for geologic studies.

Since this regional study is focused on private lands all information is kept confidential and private.  Information is not shared with the general public at any level, and there is absolutely no interference with farming practices whatsoever.  Its business as usual!  If landowners are curious to know what I am learning about the region from studying their farm land I am happy to share this information. For the Silo, Lorenz Bruechert. 

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