Archaeology on Ontario’s Saltwater Shore

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The eroding bank fronting the Fort Severn site is losing irreplaceable pieces of Canada to the Severn River as one or two metres of land are swept away each year.

by Michael Whittaker

Almost four centuries of archaeological materials from Fort Severn, on Ontario’s southwest shore of Hudson Bay, are the subject of Katherine Davidson presentation to the Rideau Valley Archaeological Society Sunday, June 9 at the Goose and Gridiron in Merrickville. Everyone is invited to the talk that begins with lunch at 12:30 pm.

The current site dating to 1759, which has never been excavated, sits on the Fort Severn First Nation Reserve. Riverbank erosion has been deteriorating the site over several decades, allowing the collection of a considerable number of artifacts between 1950 and 2017. These are the basis of Ms. Davidson’s research.

The remains of the area’s original Hudson’s Bay Company post, called Fort James when established in 1689, was destroyed by fire. In 1782 during the American Revolutionary War, the French pillaged Fort Severn when they were allied with the Thirteen Colonies. The HBC ceased operating at Fort Severn in 1980.

Katherine Davidson completed her MA in Anthropology at the University of New Brunswick after taking her BA in Archaeology at Trent University. She has spent her summers working for the Canadian Museum of History, and has participated in digs in Belize and Ireland. Her research interests cover archaeological ethics, historic archaeology, public engagement, community based participatory research, and addressing the curation crisis in Canadian collections.

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