It is probable that Ontario was first occupied almost as soon as the land was exposed by melting ice. Fluted points, which are very similar to projectile points from the western and southwestern U.S., have been found on a number of sites in southern Ontario, although different "Type" names have been given to them to recognize slight differences in style which indicate variation in time and space. The fluted points in Ontario are believed to date between 11,000 and 10,500 years old.
Paleo-Indian sites are also recognized by the presence of other distinctive artifacts such as beaked scrapers, gravers, and tiny projectile points made from channel flakes. Paleo-Indian sites are also often recognized by the types of chert used to make their tools. Collingwood chert, a light blue to creamy yellow chert found in the Beaver Valley, was a favoured raw material during Paleo-Indian times but other cherts such as Bayport chert from Michigan, Kettle Point chert from the southeastern shore of Lake Huron and Onondaga chert from the north shore of Lake Erie, were also used.
Some researchers suggest that the Paleo-Indian's choice of light coloured cherts may be related to their religious practices. The only other known indications of religious practices known so far for these people include a cache of heat fractured tools, which may indicate a cremation burial, and a fluted point made of clear quartz crystal with traces of haematite, or red ochre, adhering to it found near Newcastle, Ontario. Red ochre was believed to have special religious significance to many of the First Nations and was often used in burials. Ethnographic comparisons with people who lived similar kinds of lifestyles suggest that some forms of hunting magic and shamanism may also have been practised.
Site areas indicate that band sizes may have been small, with few sites being returned to repeatedly. The total population of Ontario was probably only 100 to 200 people in the earliest periods. Their choices of site locations may indicate that they were hunting migratory caribou as these locations would have been travelled by caribou in their seasonal round. There is no indication of Paleo-Indians having hunted mastodons in Ontario although a paleontological site in New York has produced evidence of Paleo-Indians in association with mastodons and other large game animals.
The wide variety of chert types found on sites of this period suggests that either these people travelled great distances in their seasonal rounds or had contacts with people over wide areas.
Late Paleo-Indian sites are characterized by projectile points which are lanceolate shaped like fluted points but are not fluted. Like the earlier peoples, Late Paleo-Indians appear to have preferred distinctive light coloured cherts with Haldimand chert, from quarries just north of the Lake Erie shores, being one favourite variety. The available evidence seems to suggest that many of the living patterns of previous time periods were repeated although the population for southern Ontario may have been slightly larger than in previous time periods with new areas having been occupied.
Two broad groups of Late Paleo-Indian projectile points are recognized. In southwestern Ontario are found projectile points called "Holcombe" and "Hi-Lo", which are relatively broad and thick and have concave bases. In northern Ontario, and occasionally in southern Ontario, some projectile points have the characteristic "ribbon flaking" and straight bases more common to the west and southwest. These are the first occupations of northern Ontario and are believed to have derived from west of the great lakes area. Sites in the Thunder Bay area, for example, appear to have been situated along glacial lake shorelines and often involved quarrying of materials such as taconite, a tough jasper-like rock which flakes similarly to chert. Here again, however, the presence of materials from more distant sources indicates some form of trading network and/or long distance travel.
The late Paleo-Indian period is believed to date between 10,500 and 9,500 years ago.
This summary of Ontario Archaeology was taken from the Discovering Ontario Archaeology - Speakers Kit. The original texts were written by Jeff Bursey, Hugh Daechsel, Andrew Hinshelwood and Carl Murphy.
INTRODUCTION¦ POST ICE-AGE GEOGRAPHY AND ENVIRONMENT¦ FIRST PEOPLE OF NORTH AMERICA¦ FIRST PEOPLE OF ONTARIO: THE PALEO-INDIANS¦ THE ARCHAIC PERIOD¦ EARLY WOODLAND PERIOD¦ MIDDLE WOODLAND PERIOD¦ LATE WOODLAND PERIOD¦ THE CONTACT PERIOD¦ THE FRENCH PERIOD (A.D.1650 TO 1763) ¦ THE ENGLISH PERIOD (A.D. 1760 TO 1867)
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