ARCHAEOLOGY OF LAKE DESCHÊNES
(originally published in 1900, The Ottawa Naturalist, Vol. XIII, No. 10: 225-238)

 By T. W. Edwin Sowter


To those who are unacquainted with local topography it may be said that Lake Deschênes is an expansion of the Ottawa River, extending from the Chats Falls, in a south-easterly direction, as far as Deschênes Rapids, a distance of about thirty miles, and averaging from less than one to upwards of three miles in width.  This beautiful expanse of water was known to the old "voyageurs" as "Lac Chaudière," and was so designated at a time as com-paratively recent as that in which the late John Egan was mayor of Aylmer, as there is an old by-law, bearing his signature, in the municipal archives, in which the westerly limit of the Aylmer Road is described as Chaudière Lake.

A similar confusion of place-names, in this connection, is a source of annoyance to the student of natural or ethnic history in dealing with matters of local reference.  For instance : Chats Island is now known to many as Moore's Island ; Pointe à la Bataille has become Lapottie's Point, and Pointe aux Pins, the site of the Queen's Park, is known to summer visitors as One-tree Point.

It seems a pity that names given to these places by the pioneers of civilization should be thus lightly set aside for the prosaic nomenclature of modern times.

As already noted in THE NATURALIST, the evidences of Indian occupation of the shores of Lake Deschênes are of frequent occur-rence and of extreme interest to the archeologist.  These consist, for the most part, of what may be termed beach workshops, or certain portions of the lake shore where the primitive workman

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chipped out his flint arrowheads ; or labouriously ground an edge to his rude stone tomahawk, many years before the coming of the pale-faces.

At these places the beach is thickly strewn with flint chippings and, frequently, the sand or gravel contains large quantities of them to a considerable depth.  This flint, which is very dark, is identical both in colour and character with that contained in the Trenton formation at Hull, from whence it was doubtless procured, as it is there found in large quantities and may be removed from the limestone beds with little difficulty.  The fact that flint is not found in the Chazy or Calciferous rocks, outcropping on the lake front, would seem to justify the presumption that the Algonkin warriors of Lake Deschênes procured their supply of raw material from the nearest and most convenient source, which would be the place already indicated.

While these work places contain such traces of Palaeolithic art in great abundance, they also reveal evidences of later contact with the white man in the shape of light colored gun and musket flints which are said to be characteristic of the Cretaceous flint of western Europe.

At Bell's Bay, just below Aylmer, I removed several fragments of worked flint from beneath a large oak stump and about one foot below its base.  These were taken from a bed of river gravel that was being washed away, at high water, by successive spring floods.  Similar fragments were also obtained from the surface of the same gravel bed, having been laid bare by the washing away of the overlying deposit of vegetable mould.  As, in the former instance, the flints must have become embedded in the gravel long before the time required for the oak to grow from a seedling to a large forest tree, it is not difficult to form an approximate estimate of the long period of time which must have intervened between the days in which the first and the last of these fragments were cast aside by the lithal artificer.

At Raymond's Point, on the side next the big bay, some recent quarrying operations have exposed a fine section of stratified rock, with an overlying bed of coarse gravel about 18 inches in thickness.  I secured a piece of flint from the bottom of this gravel, where it came in contact with the bed of rock beneath.  It

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was evident that the gravel had not been disturbed by natural or artificial agencies since the clearing away of the forest, and, as the bed is beyond the reach of the high water in the spring, there is some ground for the supposition that it must have been washed into its present position at a time when the volume of water in Lake Deschênes was much greater than it has been in recent years.

From a personal examination of the foregoing and similar data, I am convinced that for many generations these work places were centres of aboriginal occupation, either as village sites or permanent camping grounds, for the red men of this part of the Ottawa valley.

These places, which have so far been examined, are situated at Raymond's Point, just opposite the innermost extremity of Chartrand's Island, and at Snake Island Point and Noël's Point, all on the Ontario shore.  Also, from the eastern boundary of the Queen's Park at Pointe aux Pins, on the Quebec side of the lake, the shore is strewn with flints as far down as the rocky point which forms the eastern limit of Newman's Bay.  At Bell's Bay, between the town of Aylmer and Deschênes village, at the mouth of a small creek, flints are also found in great abundance, and above and below it at frequent intervals.

A peculiar feature of these beach workshops is that the greatest accumulations of flint chippings are to be found about large boulders or detached masses of rock, which appear to have been utilized as work-tables upon which the chipping, pecking or grinding processes in the fabrication of implements of war or of the chase were accomplished by the ancient workmen.

Fragments of rude pottery, at Raymond's Point, composed of a mixture of clay and gravel, and imperfectly burnt, are indications that in fictile work the primitive dwellers on the shores of Lake Deschênes had mastered the initial stages in the manufacture of domestic utensils.  These fragments are quite smooth and ornamented on the outside ; while they are either smooth or bear the unmistakable impressions of grass blades on the inside; from which it would seem that two different methods were employed in the manufacture of the originals to which they belonged.  In one process, the primitive potter seems to have daubed the matrix

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about a core of grass, which was doubtless worked into the shape- of the desired utensil.  Then, by placing the whole mass in the fire the grass core would be burnt to ashes and a rude eathern vessel would remain as a triumph of aboriginal art.  By the other method, some advance appears to have been made, as in this instance the matrix has evidently been manipulated both on the inside as well as the outside, which is evidence that the grassy core had been discarded by the adoption of a simpler process of manufacture.

 Specimens of celts or palaeolithic tomahawks, picked up at Bell's Bay and Raymond's Point, as well as others from neighboring localities, are very crude products of lithal workmanship.  A fragment of stone appears to have been selected about the size and as near as possible the shape of the desired weapon.  One end of this was then ground down to a cutting edge, and a celt from Raymond's Point has had one side reduced to proper shape by pecking.  A peculiarity of many specimens from this district is, that the sharpened end of the blade has been ground flat on one side and broadly rounded on the other, something like the edge of a carpenter's axe.

The arrowheads, from these beach workshops, vary in shape, as they were doubtless designed for different purposes.  They are usually made of flint and some of them of white quartz.  The Squaw's Knife, Fig. 1, and the arrowheads, Figs. 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in Plate II., were collected by Mr. Jacob Smith of the Interior Department at Ottawa.  They are now in the collection of Rev. A.W. Mackenzie of Lakefield, Ont., who kindly loaned them to illustrate this paper.  Mr. Jacob Smith, of the Interior Department, picked up a small and very perfect one, at Snake Island Point, which was probably designed for the killing of birds or small animals.  It was only about one half the usual size and was made of light grey agate.  A single arrowhead, made of bone, was taken from an Indian grave on the Lighthouse Island, and is probably the only specimen of the kind from this district.  It should be remembered, however, that weapons made of this material and exposed for many years to the action of the weather, as well as in many cases to the attrition of the shifting gravel of the lake beach, would soon be destroyed ; so that the absence of

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all but a single specimen should by no means be taken as negative evidence that bone arrow-tips were not in common use among the Indians of the lake.

As already stated, gun and musket flints have been found mingled with the flint chippings of these workshops.  This is obviously an indication of the advent of the European trader. Of course these flints may have been lost or discarded by either white man or Indian ; but their presence may also bear witness to these village sites having been used as temporary camping grounds by the "coureurs des bois," or, later on, by the agents of the Hudson's Bay Company.  A silver bangle was also found, at Snake Island Point, which is said to resemble those which are still used in the ornamentation of hunting shirts and supplied to customers of the above named company in the North West Territories.

My attention was first directed to these workshops by Mr. Jacob Smith, of the Interior Department at Ottawa, to whom is due the sole credit of their discovery.  Mr. Smith has thus rendered an important contribution to the advancement of science that will be duly appreciated by every student of Canadian archaeology.

In a former paper in THE NATURALIST on the "Antiquities of Lake Deschênes," I called attention to the finding of a cache of bullets, some years ago, by Joseph Leclair of Aylmer, at Pointe à la Bataille, otherwise known as Lapottie's Point, at the junction of the lake shore with the eastern limit of Constance Bay.  The bullets are said to have been large and suited for a 12-bore gun.  Mr. Leclair took away several hundreds of them, but left many more washing about in the sand.

On the 24th of May, 1897, Aldos and David Pariseau discovered a cache of bullets at Flat Rock, near Wilson's Bluff, and just above the summer residence of Mr. A H. Taylor, in the town-ship of South March, Ontario.  They were found in the sand, in a few inches of water quite close to the shore, and 8oo were taken from the cache, together with an Indian pipe with the head of some animal moulded or carved on the bowl.  Some of these bullets are now in my collection, and I am told that they are what are known as the "trade bullets " supplied to Indians of the Northwest by the Hudson's Bay Company.  They are about the size used for a 16-bore gun.

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Some time ago while Mr. Charles Breckenridge was plowing on his farm at the mouth of Breckenridge's Creek, on the Quebec shore of the lake, about eight miles above Aylmer, he unearthed a large cache of gun-flints.  He also found in the vicinity a couple of stone celts and the copper handle of a kettle. The handle was of rolled sheet copper and belonged to a large sized kettle.

A very fine specimen of pipe-tomahawk was picked up by Mr. Samuel Edey on his farm on the N. 1/2 of lot 19, 2nd concession of the township of South Hull.  The axe weighs 1 lb. 1 1/4ozs., and is one of the kind said to have been designed for presentation to Indian chiefs.  The flint lock of a musket was also found at the same place, by Mr. Edey, but it was so badly rusted as to crumble to pieces on being touched.  The point at which this find was made is about two miles from the lake shore to the north-east of Aylmer.

Some years ago, while a path was being cut through a gravel bank in front of the summer residence of the late Col.  J. S. Dennis, at Kingsmere, Que.., the workmen unearthed an iron tomahawk of French manufacture.  An old squaw, who was living in the neighborhood at the time, informed Col.  Dennis that according to a tradition of her people an Indian trail at one time led across the mountains, by way of Kingsmere, from the waters of the Gatineau River to those of Deschênes Lake.

This is by no means an unlikely story, for on the earliest recorded map of the township of Hull, several creeks of consider-able size are shown as taking their rise at or near these mountains and flowing southward into the lake.  Many of these tributary streams have shrunk in volume owing to the clearing away of the forest and subsequent drainage of the land for farming purposes and some of the smaller ones have disappeared altogether.  Traces along these watercourses of the dams of the much prized beaver, as well as the testimony of the early settlers that this district was at one time teeming with game, are sufficient reasons for suppos-ing that these local tributaries of the Ottawa River were frequented by Indian hunters and trappers ; and as one of the largest of these streams flows from the mountains, within a short distance of Kingsmere, this may have been the direction taken by the trail above mentioned.

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Apart from the foregoing, it is not unlikely that when the primeval forest stretched in unbroken continuity between the waters of the Ottawa and the Gatineau, many a red inhabitant of the river front, in times of trouble, found an asylum on some of these streams and saved his hair from the covetous hands of unwelcome visitors, by availing himself of the strategic advantages of these intricate waterways in a practical application of the old Indian proverb that "water leaves no trail.

Although much important work has been accomplished in con-nection with the beach workshops already alluded to, there still remains a large amount of useful information to be derived from a careful examination of Indian burial places, at various points along the lake.  One of these is said to be situated near Blueberry Point, a short distance above Bell's Bay ; another may be found on what are known as the Sand Hills, between Bucham's and Constance Bays, on the Ontario side of the lake, near the mouth of Constance Creek ; while a third is situated near the foot of the old Indian portage on Conroy's Island at the Chat's Falls.

A most important burial place, however, and the only one I have so far examined, is that of the Lighthouse Island above Aylmer and opposite the Queen's Park at Pointe aux Pins.  At this place I have assisted at the exhumation of several skeletons, which has given me a fairly accurate insight into the mode of sepulture which obtained among the aboriginal people of Lake Deschênes.

This island, which is about an acre in extent, and rises at its highest point to some fifteen feet above the summer level of the lake, is composed of sand, gravel and boulders.  It is of glacial origin and was obviously left in its present position by the recession of the vast glacier which at one time occupied this part of the Ottawa valley.  Its area was at one time much greater than it is at present, but the upper side is being worn away by the ice shoves every spring and the subsequent high water.

There is abundant evidence to show that the island has been used as a burial place from very early times down to a period so comparatively recent as to come within the memory of those of the generation that is now passing away.

It is clearly evident that the interments are all intrusive, a

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fact which would do away with the suggestion of a tumulus to account for the dome-shaped crown of the island where most of them are to be found.  This is sufficiently shown, on the upper side of the island, where the cut bank in falling away has exposed sections of graves so clearly as to leave no room to doubt that they were excavated.

The usual mode of sepulture seems to have been to swathe the remains of the dead warrior in birch bark and place them, with or without his personal effects, in a shallow grave from two to three feet below the surface of the ground, in a recumbent rather than a prostrate posture.  With one exception the burials are single, but in excavating the foundations of the lighthouse, recently erected by the Marine Department, at the highest point of the island, the workmen laid bare a great accumulation of bones, which would seem to indicate the presence of an ossuary, the approximate extent of which may be judged from the fact that a cartload of bones was removed from the holes for the base sup-ports of the superstructure.

If, therefore, we may rely upon the testimony of the workmen who excavated the foundations of the lighthouse, and there is no reason why we should not do so, then, we have on this island two distinct modes of sepulture, the single and communal.  This would lead to the conclusion that two different races, practising variant mortuary rites, were contemporaneous occupants of the lake shores, according to each other the privileges of a common burial place.  The presence of the communal grave is accounted for, as a matter of course, by shadowy Indian traditions of a bloody native battle fought in the vicinity.  A. F. Hounter, in dealing with a kindred subject, "The Rice Lake and Innisfil Mounds," says that "the same is true of every bone-pit or communal grave of any kind from Montreal to Detroit, none of which could be understood by the modern Algonkins as burials made in times of peace."

Now, in the first place, the bones on the Lighthouse Island have been thrown into the pit promiscuously, as they are not grouped in the relative positions which would naturally follow if they had been buried in the flesh.   In the second place, if an invading force had been met and "wiped out" by the warriors of

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the lake, it is altogether likely that, after the scalping-knife had done its work, the victors, instead of giving their slain enemies a decent burial, such as the above grave would indicate, would have left them, in conformity with Indian usage, to the wild beasts of the forest, while their own dead would have been interred at leisure in accordance with tribal custom.

As a suggestion, in explanation of the presence of this ossupry, may it not have been likely after the great Huron--Iroquois family quarrel that one of the remnants of the fugitive Huron nation may have found an asylum in this vicinity, have lived in friendly intercourse with the native population and held the "Feast of the Dead" on this island burial place.  Iron toma-hawks, scalping-knives, gun and musket flints, porcelain beads, &c., have been found on this island at different times.  A stone slab bearing the letters j P 0 T was found by Mr. Boucher in what was probably the grave of a white man.

The most unique isolated burial, however, that has yet been discovered on the island, was that recently laid bare by the light-house keeper, Mr. Frank Boucher.

After the destruction of the old lighthouse, in the early part of last summer, and before the erection of the new structure by the Marine Department, while Mr. Boucher was sinking holes for the reception of a tripod to support a temporary light, he unearthed a skeleton together with a large array of implements.  The skeleton was in a reclining position with the implements placed beneath the shoulders.  Mr. Boucher very generously presented me with the skull, the bones of the pelvis and the implements.  These latter consisted of an iron tomahawk, three knives, five gouge-like iron tools, some beaver teeth, a bone gouge, a bone skin-dresser, a bone harpoon and a bone netting neddle, a copper kettle with an iron handle, a bar of wrought iron perforated near the middle, some pieces of sheet lead, a number of shell beads or disks, a flint for making fire, and a quantity of human hair made into fringe and wrapped in birch bark.
Sketches of this tomahawk and of the one found by Mr. Edey were sent for identification to Mr. David Boyle, curator of the- Archaeeological Museum at Toronto.  As Mr. Boyle is one of our most distinguished archaeologists, and one who has had large

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experience in the study of Indian relics, his own description of the weapon will be far clearer than any that might be substituted by me. He says :—

"The tomahawks of which you send drawings are un-doubtedly French.  We have many bearing a similar mark.  The British ones usually have a round eye and are not nearly so well made as the French tools.  They are also smaller and handier, according to Indian notions, for we have several examples of attempts, successful and otherwise, to make the French ones lighter by laboriously sawing off longitudinal sections with flints, just as if the tools had been made of stone."

"The French stamps vary somewhat, and tools of British make have seldom any stamp at all.  There is quite a little field for investigation respecting the makers and the stamps.  I fancy that each trading company had its own mark, those from, say Rochelle being distinguishable thus, from those made in or com-ing from Havre or St. Malo.  This, however, is only a surmise."

The iron tomahawk from the Lighthouse Island is made with a slide eye, and is 2 lbs. and 1 1/4 ozs. in weight.

The three knives are all of the same pattern but of different sizes.  As they are so badly rusted, it is impossible to find any marks on them by which they might be identified.  One of them has a wooden handle, inlaid with a vine-like design in copper.  One of them is strongly made, with a 6-inch blade, and was doubt-les the one used in removing the emblems of victory from the
heads of slain enemies, in other words, the scalping-knife.

The five gouge-like tools are of iron, and therefore of Euro-pean make.  It is difficult to say, however , for what purpose they were used. Mr. Boyle inclines to the belief that from the small bulb or knob, at the end of the handles, they may have been used by means of pushing directly in the band, perhaps as skin-dressers or flesh-scrapers.  The blades are all more or less curved. and vary in width at the ends.  A tool somewhat similar to these was received at the Toronto museum, not long since, but it had a straight blade and was minus the knob at the end of the handle.  It is just possible they may have been the crooked knives used by wood-workers ; but they are so badly rusted that this must be merely a conjecture.

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The bone harpoon is six inches in length and a little more than halt an inch in width.  It has four barbs and an eye at the shank end, by which it was doubtless attached to the shaft.

The bone netting needle is about three and a-half inches in length by less than half an inch in width, with an eye in the middle.

The copper kettle, which is of European manufacture, is in a good state of preservation and still bears the marks of fire upon the bottom.  The bottom has not been knocked in by the stroke of a tomahawk, so as to render it useless, as is the case with many specimens from western Ontario.  It is about six inches across the top, and four inches in depth, The handle, however, is badly rusted and might be broken by careless handling.

The bone gouge and the skin dresser are made, the former from a human thigh bone and the latter from a human jawbone, from which we are constrained to form a very low estimate of the moral status of their owner, who thus appropriated portions of a fellow-creature's anatomy from which to fabricate his domestic implements.

The hair fringe is a specimen of intricate and beautiful workmanship, and a tangible example of the delicate manipulation of the aboriginal hair-dresser.  In his archaeological report, 1897-98, to the Minister of Education for Ontario, Mr. David Boyle, in reference to native textile work, has written : "Before very long we shall be unable to become possessed of such specimens, and an effort should be made at once to collect every available type- sample of woven work from the hands of our Indians." As this is a timely and valuable suggestion, I have been particularly careful in ascertaining the exact texture of this piece of hair work.  The warp, into which the hair is woven, consists of three threads about the thickness of and somewhat resembling ordinary stout sewing cotton.  Examined through a common magnifying glass, these threads appear to have been spun from the inner fur of some animal, such as the beaver, the otter, or the muskrat, or from fine human hair from the head of a child.  As the loom in which the fringe was fabricated was not buried with him, and a descrip-tion of it, therefor, being out of the question, let us suppose that the ancient weaver adopted for the purpose some contrivance of

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the simplest and most primitive character.  His hunting bow may have suggested the use of a piece of bent wood, which, being strung with the warp threads one above the other, the thin strands of hair which constituted the weft were manipulated in something like the following manner : One of these strands was taken and one end of it passed outward between the middle and upper warp threads, around the upper thread, forward and downward across it and the middle one, outward between the middle and lower threads, around the lower one, forward and upward across this and the middle one, again passed outward between the middle and upper threads, then around the upper one and outward again between it and the middle one, around behind the middle thread and forward between it and the lower one.  The free ends of the strand, one on each side of the centre warp thread, were then united and drawn forward with one hand, while with the thumb and finger of the other both warp and weft were brought firmly together.  Succeeding strands having been treated in a similar manner and connected with each other by a lateral or side-long pressure, the result was a section of hair fringe with a selvage of about 4 of an inch in width.  Figure 10a in Plate II, repre-sents a 3-ply strand of twine woven loosely through a warp of three threads, to illustrate the weaving of the hair fringe in Fig. 10.

The shell beads or discs are a little over 3/8 of an inch in diameter, and appear to have been made from the shells of the Unio.

In looking over the bones belonging to the same skeleton, which Mr. Boucher had collected for the purpose of re-interring them, Dr. R. W. Neill, of Aylmer, now of Balmoral, Manitoba, picked out a segment of the lumbar vertebra of an Indian that was transfixed by a bone arrowhead.  Dr. Neill very generously presented this interesting relic to me, thereby furnishing us with a striking example of the deadly nature of this aboriginal weapon, and a graphic illustration of the manner in which the deceased warrior met his death.  This bone belonged to the Indian unearthed by Mr. Frank Boucher on the Lighthouse Island.  The shank of the arrowhead, which had pierced the spinal cord from behind is broken off, doubtless by the falling of the body, the

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lower portion of which would become immediately paralyzed as a matter of course ; so that this victim of inter-tribal warfare in all probability passed to his happy hunting grounds with the war-whoop still ringing in his ears and his scalping tuft in the hands of a triumphant enemy.

It is indeed a gruesome relic and carries the mind back to a time in the history of New France when the line of communica-tion, by the way of St. Lawrence, between the Indians of the great lakes and the lower French settlements had been severed by the blood-stained tomahawk of the Iroquois, and the northern and western tribes were beset at the carrying places and vulnerable points on the "River of the Ottawas" by the implacable hostility of their southern neighbours.

I might say in conclusion, that as we have in the membership of the Field Naturalists' Club some of the most eminent scientific men in America, it would be well if some of these would devote some of their leisure time to the study of Canadian archaeology.  We have in the vicinity of Ottawa a splendid field of investigation and I trust that the study of ethnic history, in this domain, will reflect honour upon the members of the Field Naturalists' Club.

ILLUSTRATIONS.

PLATE I.

Figure 1.-Pipe-tomahawk, 1/3 diameter, from Mr. S. H. Edey's farm, N.1/2 of lot 19, 2nd concession of the township of South Hull.
Figure 2. -Tomahawk, 1/3 diameter, from Indian grave on Lighthouse Island,
near Aylmer.
Figure 2a.-French stamp, natural size on Fig. 2.
Figure 3.-Stone celt, 1/3 diameter, from Bell's Bay, Lake Deschênes.
Figure 4.-Segment of lumbar vertebrae of Indian, natural size, pierced by bone arrowhead, from Lighthouse Island, near Aylmer.
Figure 4a.-Flat side of bone arrowhead in Fig. 4.
Figure 5.-Bone netting needle, 1/2 diameter, from Indian grave on Lighthouse Island.
Figure 6. -Shell bead, from Indian grave on Lighthouse Island.
Figure 7.-Silver bangle, Snake Island Point, Lake Deschênes.
Figure 8.-Bone harpoon, 1/2 diameter, from Indian grave on Lighthouse Island.

Plate I

 

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PLATE II.

Figure 1.-Squaw's knife of dark flint. diameter, from Lake Deschênes.
Figures 3-7---Flint arrowheads, diameter, from Lake Deschênes.
Figure 8.-Skin scraper, made from human jawbone, 1/3 diameter, from In-dian grave, Lighthouse Island.
Figure 9.- Gouge made from human thigh bone, 1/3 diameter, from Indian grave on Lighthouse Island.
Figure 10.-Hair fringe, natural size, but hair 1/2 the natural length, from Indian.grave, on Lighthouse Island.
Figure 10a.-Twine woven loosely to show method of weaving hair fringe in figure 10.
Figure 11.-Copper Kettle, 1/3 diameter, from Indian grave on Lighthouse Island.
Figures 12-14.-Knives of European make, 1/3 diameter, from Indian grave on Lighthouse Island.

Plate II

 
PLATE III.

Figures 1-5.-Front view of gouge-like implements or crooked knives, diameter, from Indian grave on Lighthouse Island.
Figures 1a-5a.-Side view of figures 1 to 5.
Figures 6-7.-Gun flints, natural size, from Lighthouse Island, Lake Deschênes.
Figure 8.-Stone slab, 1/10 diameter, lettered J.P.O.T., from grave on Light-house Island.

Plate III