Ontario Resource Document
The Palaeo Period
(up till 9000 B.P.)

Oral traditions among Ontario's First Peoples tell of the creation of the Earth and of people who have always been in their home territories.  Archaeological evidence offers other explanations about how people arrived in Ontario.

Until about 10,000 years ago, most of Ontario was covered with ice, several kilometres high.  The glaciers that covered much of Canada started to melt as the Earth's temperature became warmer. When they melted, soil and lakes were left where the ice had been.  Plants started to grow on the soil.  Animals moved north to eat the plants.  People followed the animals to hunt them.

The people had arrived in Canada a long time earlier (Some dates in northern Canada are about 12 000 years ago and other dates from the U.S. A. show people lived there 16 000 years ago).  They likely had come from the place we now call Siberia, in Russia, across land where there was no ice or water then.  Perhaps some also came by sea.  They had to go south into the place now called the U.S.A. because the ice of the glaciers covered most of Canada.

These people arrived in Southern Ontario to hunt, especially caribou or mastodon.

The evidence archaeologists found to show that people were here up to 9000 years ago was:
  • spear points (see projectile point chart)
  • camp sites
  • dates from tests on charcoal and bones from sites in the U.S.A. that have the same kind of spear point.
Mastodon were hunted by trapping them in swamps to spear them while they floundered.  This was much safer for hunters than running up close to a charging mastodon.   Mastodon became extinct in Ontario.

Caribou were hunted by trapping them in narrow places and spearing them.  A famous caribou killing site in Ontario is at the pass in the Niagara escarpment at Kelso Park on Highway 401 (site 1 on this map), just west of Mississauga.  The caribou herds passed through the gap in the escarpment here.  The hunters waited on the hill and killed the passing caribou. A famous Palaeo period site in northern Ontario is the Cummins site (site 2 on this map) near Thunder Bay. When people lived there, it was on the shore of the lake.  The temperature became warmer and the water evaporated more. Lake levels fell. The site is now many kilometres away from the lakeshore. Geologists helped archeologists know where to look for the site by explaining where the lakeshores had been, thousands of years ago.


1. During what dates did the Palaeo period occur?

2. Why didn't people live in Ontario before this time?

3. Why did people first come to Ontario?

4. What evidence did archaeologists find that people lived in Ontario 9000 years ago?

5. How did people hunt a) mastodon, b) caribou?  How would archaeologists know this?

The Palaeo Period
(up till 9000 B. P.)
The Archaic Period
(9000 - 3000 B.P.)
The Woodland Period
(3000 - 300 B.P.)
The Historic or Post-Contact Period
( 300 B.P. - Present)
Archaeology Canada and the Ontario Curriculum
Annotated Resource List