ARCHAEOLOGY  CANADA

Ontario Resource Document
The Woodland Period
(3000 - 300 B.P.)

Throughout the Archaic period, people started settling into specific parts of Ontario that they considered their own region.  In each region, people had their own ways of living, of speaking, of doing things.  Gradually, thee different groups became different peoples, or nations.

Two major new artifacts started appearing in the different regions of Ontario by about 3000 B.P.  These were pottery and the arrow (and bow).  The ideas for these new things probably came from people to the south, during trading.  The Early Woodland peoples had trade networks that brought them goods from as far away as Wyoming, in the west; the Gulf of Mexico, in the south and Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in the East. Their trading partners from the sough gave the people in southern Ontario an important idea- horticulture.

By this time, the climate had warmed enough that there were forests all over Ontario, and soil for growing crops in the south.  In southern and eastern Ontario, people chopped down trees with stone axes.  They planted fields of corn, beans and squash in the clearings. They had to stay in one place to care for the crops. Large villages were built for thousands of people.  Often, they lived in long houses made of poles covered with bark.  Several families lived in one house.  Each family had a fire pit in the middle of the house and a bunk bed along the wall of the house.  Food was kept in pots, in pits in the ground and drying from the beams in the houses.  These farmers still also hunted animals for meat and were skilled at fishing.  they likely had fights with other people because there were walls built around some villages - some with several rows of palisade walls. They also had pottery, tobacco pipes and arrows.  Each area of Ontario started to develop its own way of making pottery and arrow points.

We know the names and languages of some of the different groups of people in Ontario from this time. At the end of the Woodland period, Europeans came to Ontario and wrote this information down.  Also, some of these same groups still live in Ontario and their teachers can tell us their peoples' stories.

In northern Ontario, there were people who spoke Algonkian languages: including the Chippewas, the Algonquins, the Ojibways and the Mississaugas.  There were also Odawa (Algonkian) people living on the Bruce Peninsula and other smaller Algonkian bands living up and down the Ottawa Valley.

In southern Ontario, by the time the Europeans arrived, thee were people who spoke Iroquoian languages: the Wendats (Hurons), the Tiontates (Petuns or Tobacco Nation) and the Neutrals, as well as a group called the St. Lawrence Iroquois. It vanished between the arrivals of Cartier and Champlain.  Some Iroquoin peoples (the Five Nations from New York - the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and later, the Tuscarora) from what is now the U.S.A. also arrived in Ontario when the Europeans did, during wars with the Wendats.

Evidence archaeologists have found from this period includes:
  • campsites
  • villages (houses, walls, fire pits, food storage pits, garbage dumps)
  • pottery
  • fish weirs
  • arrow points (see projectile point chart)
  • pipes
  • grinding stones for corn
  • seeds (corn, beans, squash)
  • burials
  • dates from tests on bones, charcoal and seeds
  • stories from the past, from First Nations peoples and European visitors
In southern Ontario, famous Woodland period sites include (see site locations on this map):

1. The Crawford Lake Site, near Kelso Park on Highway 401, west of Mississauga
2. The Lawson Site at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, in London
3. Mnjikaning Fish Weirs at Atherly Narrows between Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching
4. Peterborough Petroglyphs on Stony Lake, north of Peterborough
5. Serpent Mounds on Rice Lake, south of Peterborough

In northern Ontario, famous sites from this time period include:

1. The Kant Site (Archaic and Woodland) on Golden Lake, near Eganville
2. The La Vase Site on Lake Nipissing, North Bay
3. Manitou Mounds, Rainy River
4. Agawa Pictographs, west of Sault Ste. Marie

                                                                          QUESTIONS

1. What were the dates for the Woodland Period in Ontario?

2. Which things made the Woodland Period different from the Archaic Period?

3. Why did people live differently in southern Ontario from northern Ontario?

4. What other reasons might people have had for building walls around their village, besides fighting?

5. How could an archaeologist try to prove your ideas from question 4?

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