Archaeological Mysteries in the Ottawa Area

The Burden of Proof

The question now becomes one of who to believe.  Was all of the information in Van Cortlandt's article exact?  Did he estimate distances properly in speaking of the distance between the falls and the ossuary?  Who wrote the 1843 article if not Van Cortlandt?  How well did they pay attention to detail?  Did they make some assumptions about location? 

In the final analysis, we have no choice but to place the greatest amount of credence in the information provided by Dr. Edward Van Cortlandt himself.  It was, after all, he who excavated and kept this unique collection of human remains (which have long since been lost to us).  His account, while published 10 years after the fact, must be accepted as best reflective of the circumstances and the nature of the discovery. Further, when he wrote his short article for the Canadian Journal, he most likely still had in his possession the human remains and so the 1853 description must be considered accurate.  While we might allow for details of the initial discovery to have faded with time, it is difficult to imagine new elements being added to the collection itself, such as red ochre when first there was no mention, perfect skulls when earlier one was severely fractured skull, or a separate individual's burial with a 4 pound boulder on his chest, thought to have been used as armour!  Still, there are interesting and significant points in common, which suggests that the anonymous 1843 author did have access to first hand information, but erred in some details.  It is proposed that the writer of the 1843 article more than likely a. - received his or her information from Van Cortlandt, but incompletely reported his findings, b. - was possibly given incorrect information for unknown reasons (such as the need to meet the expectations of an editor) or c. - simply made mistakes in reporting the observations that were supplied by Dr. Van Cortlandt. 

On this basis, can we doubt the precise locational information provided in 1843?  Put differently, can we accept it uncritically?  Can we use the 1843 locational information as a basis for questioning the veracity of later statements made by Sowter regarding the Ottawa Ossuary's location?

Introduction | Dr. Edward Van Cortlandt | A Comparison of Two Articles

The Burden of Proof | In Defence of Bédard's Landing | T.W. Edwin Sowter's Certainty

Final Considerations | 1843 Bytown Gazette Article | 1853 Van Cortlandt Article

References Cited