Archaeological Mysteries in the Ottawa Area


The information contained in this article was gathered along with other facts collected over the course of several years.  The purpose of this research was to bring a greater attention to the archaeology of the National Capital Region.  While there remains much more research (in libraries, archives and in the field) to carry out, it is worth making these few discoveries more widely know.  It is indeed ironic that with such a major cultural institution in the National Capital Region for more than a century, no substantive publication since the very early XXth century had ever seen the light of day with regards its early history.  These few pages, along with others dealing with T.W. Edwin Sowter and the general framework of the ancient history of the Ottawa area will hopefully provide the area's residents with a better sense of their own place in the region's long and rich story.

Along the way I have had the benefit of substantial help from a number of sources.  First, it is very important to acknowledge the detective work of Randy Boswell of the Ottawa Citizen who relocated the very enticing 1843 article.  Jill Delaney, photo archivist with Library and Archives Canada was once again very helpful in tracking down photographs held in the Topley collection and in the Ottawa Field Naturalists' collection.  Moira McCaffrey kindly facilitated access to the McCord Museum's Van Cortlandt collection.  Guylaine Lemay of the McCord Museum, along with Barbara Lawson of the Redpath Museum kindly attempted to track down documentation on the Van Cortlandt collection that may have survived from the former Ethnological Museum of McGill University.  Monsieur Serge Barbe of the City of Ottawa Archives brought the existence of the Moffat biography of Van Courtlandt to my attention along with other possible period sources of information.

Earlier versions of this virtual article were reviewed and commented upon by Janet Young and David Keenlyside, both the Archaeology and History Division of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.  I much appreciate their timely observations and suggestions.  I must quickly point out, however, that all errors and omissions are entirely my own.

I would like to thank Ken Swayze, a consulting archaeologist from the Cobden region who frequently carries out mitigation work in the Ottawa area.  Our frequent telephone conversations have helped to focus some questions and bring other issues into a better perspective.  We share a similar quest to see people better appreciate those who preceded us and to value those lives lived.

Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to Roger Marois, a former colleague at the Archaeological Survey of Canada, and Pierre Cantin; they edited the French-language version of my text. In addition to catching those bothersome errors that the use of computers allow, they offered suggestions for rephrasing some passages which clarified some important ideas. They also added fluidity to the text and gave them elegance. Muchas gracias Roger and Pierre!

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