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Ancient footprints, once dismissed, may be from 1st people of Ontario

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Author Topic: Ancient footprints, once dismissed, may be from 1st people of Ontario  (Read 47 times)
Courtney Caine
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« on: December 26, 2008, 06:18:10 pm »

Ancient footprints, once dismissed, may be from first people of Ontario
Tuesday,  December 23, 2008 2:56 AM
By Bradley T. Lepper

 The Toronto Star recently reported an old discovery of very old human footprints.

In 1908, construction workers came across a clay layer near Hanlan's Point in Toronto Bay in which they found 100 impressions of what appeared to be moccasin-clad feet. The claim was dismissed at the time, because the clay was thought to be more than 100,000 years old, and it is exceedingly unlikely that people lived on this continent so long ago.

The footprints are being reconsidered, however, in the light of recent evidence that the clay is only 11,000 years old. Canadian archaeologist Ronald Williamson said this could make them the "footprints of the first people of Ontario."

It is extremely rare for such ephemeral traces of human activity to be preserved, but there are several notable examples. At the Monte Verde site in southern Chile, archaeologists found human footprints in association with an ice-age village that is more than 14,000 years old.

More incredibly, Mary Leakey discovered two sets of early hominid footprints at the

3.5 million-year-old site of Laetoli in eastern Africa.

My first experience in archaeological excavation was as an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico. While excavating an Anasazi masonry-walled room, we came across an old doorway that had been sealed with sandstone slabs and plastered over with clay.

About 1,000 years ago, someone had pressed his open hand into the wet clay. As I carefully exposed this ancient handprint, I became the first person in more than 10 centuries to place my hand on it.

I do not believe in ghosts, but the hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I "shook hands" with a person who knew the answers to all the questions I might have asked about what had taken place inside that room.

These imprints of human feet and hands are among the most intimate and timeless traces left to us by ancient people.

For a sketch of the ancient Canadian footprints, go to

Bradley T. Lepper is curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2008, 06:19:12 pm by Courtney Caine » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2009, 11:49:44 am »

A 1908 sketch of footprints found at
Hanlan's Point in Toronto

                                   The enigma of Lake Ontario's 11,000-year-old footprints

              The area's first evidence of human habitation or the impressions of 'a lobster-like animal'

Nov 23, 2008
Leslie Scrivener
Feature Writer

In the fall of 1908, while building a waterworks tunnel east of Hanlan's Point in Toronto Bay, a work crew came across 100 footprints in a layer of blue clay. The prints appeared to have been left by people wearing moccasins 11,000 years ago.

It was an astounding discovery, perhaps the first evidence of human habitation on Lake Ontario, but few recognized its significance.

"It looked like a trail ...," city inspector W. H. Cross told the Toronto Evening Telegram about what he saw that November day. "You could follow one man the whole way. Some footprints were on top of the others, partly obliterating them. There were footprints of all sizes, and a single print of a child's foot, three and a half inches..."

He went on to describe the way the clay had shot up under the imprints of the heels, how the prints appeared to be heading north, and how he had tried to lift a piece of the clay to preserve the prints, but it broke away in his hand.

The group likely a family, judging by the different sized prints could have been walking from a hunting camp on the shore of Lake Ontario to what is now downtown Toronto. Back then, the shoreline would have been more than a kilometre further south.

The story is told in a new book, 'Toronto: A Short Illustrated History of its First 12,000 Years', which, unlike most others that look at Toronto's past, begins at the very beginning, before recorded history. Tragically, the prints were not preserved. The tunnel workers were in a hurry to complete the job, and simply poured concrete over the clay.

"If they were found to be authentic, it would have been the only discovery of footprints of the first people of Ontario," says archaeologist Ron Williamson, who edited the book and wrote the chapter on pre-European contact. "It would have been amazing."

Though it seems shocking that a find of such potential importance was unceremoniously buried, a similar attitude toward the archaeological history of First Nations people prevails, he says.

"The fact that it was almost immediately destroyed ... I can't tell you how many times, even today, construction crews make the same argument when something significant is found: They have no time for this, they have to get going."

Without seeing the prints, it's difficult to evaluate their authenticity, Williamson says, though there's no reason to believe that Cross and company were exercising a hoax.

Hunters pursuing caribou, mastodon or mammoth were known to inhabit the shoreline, then a landscape of spruce forest and tundra, similar to Canada's sub Arctic.

Mammoth remains have been found in Toronto, most notably during excavation for the former Eaton's College Street department store at College and Yonge Sts., and at Christie Pits.

Archaeologists have found 11,000-year-old spear points east of Buffalo with mastodon bone that appear to have been shaped into tools.

The Toronto Daily Star, in fierce competition with the Toronto Telegram, also reported on the footprints story, but dismissed it. At the turn of the 19th century, it was wrongly believed that the clay in which the footprints were found dated to more than 100,000 years.

One expert consulted by the Daily Star said that since the shale was there long before man arrived, the source of the prints was not early hunters but more likely "a lobster-like animal."

"Now that we know it was only 11,000 years ago," says Williamson, "it's much more sensible."

Along with exploring the footprint mystery, the book also contains essays by local historians: Robert MacDonald on Toronto's natural history, Carl Benn on colonial transformations, and Christopher Andreae on the city's industrial development.

Roger Hall's concluding essay brings Toronto into the 21st century, with observations on the nature of the modern city, unrecognizable to the travellers whose footprints were revealed under Lake Ontario.

After World War II, Toronto was no longer the "introverted capital" it had been in 1939. The arrival of manufacturing and newcomers from southern Europe and Asia led to a strengthening economy and new cultural vibrancy. Still, Toronto was not a world-class city.

"Flattering, at least to some, but not true," Hall writes.

It was not as ancient as Delhi or, like Beijing, trying to invent itself in the modern world.

Nor was it a global power broker, like New York.

"What it was," Hall writes, "was something more attractive to most of the world's inhabitants: safe, prosperous, predictable, substantial, decent. In short, it was a good place to live in a country that could boast the same qualities."
« Last Edit: April 21, 2009, 11:58:44 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.
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« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2009, 12:01:20 pm »


Thank you for bring us this article!!!
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Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.
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