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Lake Ontario Maritime Cultural Landscape

Benjamin Ford
Thesis: August 2009
Chair: Crisman
Nautical Archaeology Program


The goal of the Lake Ontario Maritime Cultural Landscape project was to investigate the nature and distribution of archaeological sites along the northeast shoreline of Lake Ontario while examining the environmental, political, and cultural factors that influenced the position of these sites. The primary method of investigation was a combined archaeological and historical survey of the shoreline within seven 1-km square areas. The archaeological component of the survey covered both the terrestrial and submerged portions of the shore through marine remote sensing (side-scan sonar and magnetometer), diving surveys, pedestrian surveys, and informant interviews. A total of 39 sites and 51 isolated finds were identified or further analyzed as a result of this project. These sites ranged from the Middle Archaic period (ca. 5500–2500 B.C.) through the 19th century and included habitation, military, transportation, and recreational sites. Analysis of these findings was conducted at two scales: the individual survey area and Lake Ontario as a whole. By treating each survey area as a distinct landscape, it was possible to discuss how various cultures and groups used each space and to identify instances of both dynamism and continuity in the landscapes. Results of these analyses included the continuous occupation of several locations from pre-Contact times to the present, varying uses of the same environment in response to political and economic shifts, the formation of communities around transportation nodes, and recurring settlement patterns. The survey data was also combined to explore regionalscale trends that manifest themselves in the historical Lake Ontario littoral landscape including ephemeral landscapes, permeable boundaries, danger in the lake, and factors of change.

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