Innovation and Agriculture at the Lockport Site: New Analyses to Re-examine Old Ideas About Pre-contact Farming in Southern Manitoba.

Saturday, May 5, 2018 - 8:30am to 12:10pm
Ambassador B
This session is devoted to sharing the results and insights gained through recent innovative research on the Lockport site (EaLf-1). The Lockport site exhibits the best evidence for maize farming by ancestral Indigenous groups prior to European settlement in Western Canada. Domesticated and local native plant species comprised local subsistence systems. E. Leigh Syms (Curator emeritus, Manitoba Museum) and Coleen Rajotte, noted Cree film producer, initiated a large-scale project to document pre-contact farming practices in southern Manitoba focusing on the Lockport site. To support the documentary, the University of Manitoba ran a field school to collect archaeological and archaeobotanical data. Students gained further experience analyzing artifacts and floral remains through coursework at the University of Manitoba. Researchers at the University of Manitoba and Lakehead University conducted cutting-edge research using biochemical, advance microscopic, and petrographic analyses documenting new and exciting facets of subsistence practices, artifact construction and decision making processes. We invite contributions by researchers and students involved in the project that focus on specific analyses and resulting information, experiences of students- from fieldwork to lab work to participating in a documentary, or research focused on pre-contact farming practices or general lifeways as expressed by materials from the Lockport site.  
  • Sara Halwas Ph.D., University of Manitoba
  • E. Leigh Syms, Ph.D. C.M., Curator Emertitus, Manitoba Museum
08:30 AM: Student Perspective on Archaeology in Manitoba: The Lockport Site
  • Amanda Gilmore - University of Manitoba
  • Jodi McKay - University of Manitoba
  • Augustus Ada - University of Manitoba
This presentation aims to focus on the importance of public access to archaeology in Manitoba. From a student perspective, the experience of participating in University level courses (ANTH 3910, 3980, 4760) dedicated to the analysis of the Lockport site (EaLf-1) will be reflected upon, highlighting the values of accessibility to these programs for archaeology students at the undergraduate level. Opportunities for archaeology students to take part in excavations and practicum courses at the undergraduate level are rare in the province of Manitoba, and it has become increasingly expensive for students to gain this vital experience at out of province field schools. The Lockport site is a vital key to discovering and understanding pre-contact Indigenous agricultural practices but holds another invaluable significance to students and the public as a resource for essential archaeological training and an insight into the rich history of local Indigenous communities. As students who have been granted the unique privilege of working at the Lockport site and with its artifacts, we relay our own experiences in relation to our perspectives on archaeology in the academic and public spheres.
08:50 AM: A Lithic Analysis of the Materials from the Lockport Field School, 2016
  • Mark Paxton-MacRae - Agassiz CRS
This presentation consists of a lithic analysis of materials recovered during the 2016 Lockport field school excavation. A qualitative analysis of the complete lithic recoveries was conducted, making special note of tool types and lithic materials by cultural horizon, i.e. Late Woodland, Kenosewan, and a pre-Kenosewan occupation.  An initial assessment of the lithic material shows a high quantity of expedient tools. The only recovered projectile point (Knife River Flint) and a complete Swan River Chert scraper have been biochemically analyzed at Lakehead University (results presented separately). As a compliment to Lakehead University’s biochemical analyses, use-wear analysis will be undertaken on the potential expedient tools to identify marks that may indicate specific cultural activities.
09:10 AM: Pre-Contact Pottery from the 2016 University of Manitoba Field School at the Lockport Site EaLf-01
  • Garth Sutton - Manitoba Archaeological Society
The Lockport Site, situated on the East side of the Red River, north of Winnipeg, is a multi-componant site that has produced a variety of pottery wares belonging to a number of archaological cultures. In 2016, approximately 633 pottery sherds were recovered from 4 different loci across the site. This paper is a preliminary analysis of the pottery recovered looking to identify the number of vessels, the decorative motifs on the rim sherds and the surface finish on the body sherds. The archaeological culture will be assigned to the cultural horizon that has been established at the site in order to determine occupation. Early initial assessment of the pottery recovered has revealed the possible presence of a ceremonial pot inferred from the recovery of a small, highly decorated rim sherd.
09:30 AM: The provenience of pre-contact pottery from the Lockport site (EaLf-1): Preliminary results of optical petrographic analysis
  • Kent Fowler - Anthropology, University of Manitoba
  • Brandi Shabaga - Geological Sciences, University of Manitoba
One of the aims of the recent 2016 excavations at the Lockport site (EaLf-1) in south-central Manitoba was to showcase the significance and importance of advanced material culture analyses for understanding past life ways. To this end, the excavators submitted a sample of pottery sherds for provenience analysis. Optical petrographic analysis identified three petrofabric groups in a sample of a dozen sherds. Group A has a mineral composition consistent with the transitional neoArchaen-Archaean geology east of Lockport between the Red River and Winnipeg River. Group B samples have a mineralogical profile characteristic of mafic and ultramafic terrane along the Winnipeg River system further east into the boreal forest. Group C has a complex mineralogy that sees a mix of materials derived from both the limestones and dolomites of the Red River Formation and asbestos-form materials that occur in mafic (basaltic) geologies of Archaean age in the boreal forest to the east. Group C is a possible example of clay mixing from both local and eastern clay sources. Based upon these preliminary mineralogical identifications, it would be difficult to conclude that pottery at Lockport was made exclusively using local clays. Rather the mineralogical data provide an independent line of evidence connecting the plains and boreal forest zones. This study also raises an important question about the cultural significance of clay beyond its physical properties. Currently, Laser Ablation ICP-MS analyses are being conducted to refine the provenience determinations based upon the mineralogical study.
09:50 AM: Going Local: Using Native Plant species to Uncover site use at Lockport (EaLf-1)
  • Sara Halwas - University of Manitoba
I was invited to participate in the Lockport excavations in 2016 to collect and process soil samples for ancient seed, fruit and other plant remains to examine plant taxa used by past First Nations people. As part of the Botanical Analysis course offered by the University of Manitoba, students processed soil samples collected from Late Woodland and Kenosewun (Late Plains Woodland) contexts. The Kenosewun levels produced the majority of plant remains. While no domesticated species were recovered, saskatoons, raspberries, wild cherries, hazelnuts, chenopod and mint seeds and fruits support previous research that many local native plants were used along side domesticated maize and beans. Additionally, plant remains were concentrated into single excavation units in two separate excavation blocks. In these two locations, the ephemeral soil changes and artifacts concentrations suggested the possibility of hearths, where people would have processed or cooked food. Recovery of carbonized seed and fruit remains from soil samples collected from these locations supports this interpretation. This is important as examining all types of evidence, whether ancient cooking pots, stone tools or the remains of the plants people used, can reveal a wider understanding of ancient First Nations traditional activities.
10:30 AM: Archaeology of the Invisible: An Example from the Lockport Site, Manitoba
  • Clarence Surette - Lakehead University
  • Jennifer  Surette - Lakehead University
  • Kayleigh Speirs - Lakehead University
  • Stefan  Bouchard - Lakehead University
  • Carney Matheson - Lakehead University
  • Zebedee Kawei - Lakehead University
  • E. Leigh Syms - Manitoba Museum
In order to gain additional insight from excavations at the Lockport site (EaLf-1) during the 2016 field season, selected artifacts and soil samples were submitted to Lakehead University for analyses. These items included pottery sherds, stone tools and soil from a feature. To recover the maximum information possible, several techniques were employed when examining each specimen. This multi-proxy approach allowed for the recovery of macro-and-micro botanical remains, bones, hairs, feathers, carbohydrates, proteins, and fatty acids. As evident from these analyses, people at the Lockport site were utilizing numerous sources of food, including plants and animals, as well as domesticated products such as maize, which can be missed through conventional archaeological methods. These results indicate that only by combining multiple methods and using multi-proxy approaches can one start to fully decipher what food substances were available to people during the ancient past.
10:50 AM: The Lockport Site (EaLf-1), Manitoba: Past, Present, and Future
  • E. Leigh Syms - Manitoba Museum
The Lockport Site has played a long but intermittent role in the development of the understanding of early First Nations developments in Western Canada. After initial development in the 1950s of the definitive regional chronology for eastern Manitoba and adjacent regions for several decades, its importance diminished. In the mid-1980s it was a major focus for 4 years of extensive excavation in which a large body of detailed data was recovered, including the use of then new techniques such as water flotation. Several detailed professional articles were published in the journal of the Manitoba Archaeological Society. This information was known by relatively small numbers and soon disappeared from much of public awareness. In 2014 a project was initiated by Syms and Coleen Rajotte, a First Nations film producer, to produce a public TV documentary on First Nations cultivation that included state of the art research techniques such as phytolith and starch grain analyses, and microscopy as well as SEM, GC-MS and FTIR work. These included a new focus on microscopic analyses and a focus on plant remains, resulting in an increased focus on the roles of First Nations women. Is this a new era of the adoption of new techniques?
11:10 AM: Documentary Film Screening: Mysteries Beneath: The Story of First Nations Farmers
Produced by Coleen Rajotte, First Nations film producer.