Contractors rebuilding the Long Point Causeway next year will have to work around an archaeological dig.
During an environmental assessment (EA) of the $12-million project last year, an 8.5-acre area south of the intersection of the causeway and Front Road was deemed archaeologically significant.
A meticulous “Stage 3” dig is planned for either side of the causeway in this area. The area to be explored measures 375 metres north and south and 30 metres east and west.
The archaeological end of the (EA) was overseen by Archaeological and Cultural Heritage Services of Toronto and Burlington.
Archaeologists knew going in that this area has heritage potential. Six archaeological sites within a kilometre of the causeway are registered with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
One of them is known as the Reimer Site. It was filed with the province in 1968. Test pits in the causeway construction zone turned up dozens of primitive flint tools and flakes resulting from stone tool-making. The archaeological consultants found so much material that a site exploration has been ordered.
“The Stage 2 results are consistent with previous studies that show the site occupation to be spread widely across the Lake Erie shoreline, which is not unexpected given that the area has been used intermittently for upward of 10,000 years,” Archaelogical and Cultural Heritage Services says in its report.
The consultants suspect the study area is an unexplored extension of the Reimer Site. The survey undertaken 50 years ago concluded that artifacts in the area are “paleo-Indian.”
That would place them in the archaic period of the Woodland aboriginal occupation. These were the first aboriginal inhabitants in this part of Ontario. The paleo-Indian period dates to about 9500 B.C., which is shortly after the last of the glaciers receded from the Great Lakes basin at the end of the last Ice Age.
The EA for the causeway project was overseen by environmental consulting firm Parsons of London.
In his presentation to Norfolk council on April 23, Parsons spokesperson Henry Huotari said contractors will have to find a way to work around the site until the province is satisfied it has surrendered its secrets.
“This is going to be a lengthy process,” Huotari said. “It will take months. A lot depends on how many people they throw out there. There will be 10 to 20. But it will be handwork.”
In their report, the archaeological consultants describe the painstaking examination ahead for this “large, multi-component lithic scatter.”
“This site will be excavated by hand, placing one-metre square units in a 10-metre grid across the site, with additional units amounting to 40 percent of the grid total,” the report says.
“These will be placed in areas of interest around units of high artifact counts or other significant areas of the site. The test units should be excavated five centimetres into the sterile subsoil and soil fills screened through six-millimetre wire mesh to facilitate artifact recovery. The sterile subsoil should be troweled and all soil profiles examined for undisturbed cultural deposits.”
The report assures the county there will be no further archaeological surprises.
The rest of the causeway between Port Rowan and Long Point is of no interest because the land has been dug up and restructured for modern-day uses. Put another way, anything of heritage interest in the road allowance was destroyed or displaced long ago.