Ontario Resource Document
The Historic or Post-Contact Period
(300 B.P. - Present)

Europeans arrived in Ontario and wrote down in words what they saw and did.  Because we have written information from this time, it was called "historic". Archaeologists also call this period "post-contact".

The people who lived in Ontario began trading with the Europeans.  Food and furs were given for kettles, knives, axes, needles, beads, jewelry and later - for guns.  At first, the two cultures mixed.  First Nations people still made arrows, but they sometimes made them by cutting up metal kettles.  Europeans used First Nations inventions like canoes, toboggans, snowshoes, tobacco pipes.  Some Europeans, like fur traders married First Nations wives "in the tradition of the country".

First Nations people kept their own ways of living - by farming, by hunting and fishing, but gradually, European things and ways started replacing the First Nations artifacts on sites.

The different European groups that came to Ontario - the French and the English had wars with each other.  They involved the First Nations peoples in these wars.  Because of the wars and European diseases, may First Nations people died.  The large farming villages were mostly destroyed.

First Nations people lived in small groups to hunt and fish, both in the north and in the south.  Europeans tried to make them settle into small, European-style farms or villages or onto reserves.  Europeans asked them to give up their land, but this did not mean the same thing to the First Nations peoples as it did to the Europeans.  Many had to move anyway.  In northern Ontario, there was still a mostly traditional way of living.

The Europeans built trading posts and some forts.  These were replaced, over time, by farms, villages, towns and cities.  In the cities, factories were built to make goods like glass, pottery, metal hardware and machines.

Ships and trains brought goods from the U.S.A., Europe, Asia and Africa to Ontario.

The European part of the Historic period is often divided into periods itself, because of the different types of artifacts that were the most common in each.  The sub-periods include:

1. The French period (from Cartier's arrival in 1534 to the Treaty of Paris of 1763)

2. The British Period  1763 - 1867

3. The Canadian period  1867 - present (The British and Canadian periods include the Industrial era and the artifacts that reflected the Industrial Revolution)

Evidence archaeologists have found from this period include:
  • metal arrow points
  • metal kettles (with points cut out)
  • trade axes
  • trade beads
  • written records and drawings, maps
  • ceramics, glass, metal artifacts
  • farmsteads
  • towns
  • machinery
  • factories
  • dates from tests on wood, charcoal and bones, and from records and documents
(historic clay pipe typology, examples of ceramic plates, examples of nails, historic ceramic typology)

French Period

(see site locations on this map)

-Ste.-Marie-Among-the-Hurons, Midland
-Fort Frontenac, Kingston
-Fort Rouillé, CNE grounds, Toronto
-French settlements along the east shore of the Detroit River including Windsor

British Period

-Fort York, Toronto (1796 and following)
-Fort George, Niagara-on-the-Lake (1812)
-Battlefield House, Stoney Creek (1812)
-Fort Malden, Amherstburg (1812)
-Willow Creek Depot, near Barrie (fur trade)
-Fort Wellington, Prescott (1812)
-Fort St. Joseph, Richard's Landing, near Sault Ste. Marie (1812)
-Fort Henry, Kingston (post 1812)
-Fort William, Thunder Bay (19th century fur trade fort)
-Crysler's Farm Battlefield, Morrisburg (1812)
-Discovery Harbour, Penetanguishene (1812 and following)
-Mackenzie House, Toronto
-The Rideau Canal, near Ottawa

Canadian Period

-Bellevue House, Kingston
-The Blackburn Site (Sackville School), Toronto
-Fathom Five Park, Georgian Bay
-Sir Adam Beck Generating Station, Niagara Falls
-Spadina House, Toronto
-Todmorden Mills, Toronto


1. What does the term "historic" mean to an archaeologist?

2. How did the arrival of the Europeans show up in the archaeological record (i.e. in the ground)?

3. Why were so many European sites forts?

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