By Julian Smith |

When European explorers and missionaries began arriving in the Great Lakes region in the sixteenth century, they found groups including the Huron (also known as the Wendat) and Iroquois (also known as the Haudenosaunee) living across what is now southern Ontario and Quebec, Canada, and upper New York State. The encounters marked a time of great change for the native cultures of this region, known as Iroquoia.

Excavations at the Alexandra site, an ancestral Huron-Wendat village located east of Toronto, Canada. Like many of the sites dated by this project, Alexandra was excavated by Archaeological Services, Inc. as part of cultural resource management activities associated with the expansion of Toronto’s suburban footprint. The descendants of the people who lived at Alexandra likely ended up in one of the large, defensively palisaded settlements such as Draper and Keffer that were dated by the project. | Credit ASI Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Services
This ceramic pipe bowl effigy from the Mantle site has patterns of dots that are thought to reference tattooing. Mantle is one of the sites that was found to be younger than previously thought. | Credit: Archaeological Services Inc.
These sample from decayed wood post are examined in the Cornell Tree Ring Laboratory in hopes of developing a tree-ring sequence to date a site. | Credit: Cornell University
The outer tree-rings of a house post from the Warminster site in Ontario (WAR-1) . Radiocarbon dates on specific tree-rings from this tree-ring sequence were used to date the post securely and formed a key constraint enabling dating of the site. | Credit: Carol Griggs, Cornell Tree Ring Laboratory

For decades, archaeologists have tried to unravel this complex timeline of cultural interaction, which included the introduction of European trade goods to native villages that relocated frequently and often fought with each other. Recently, the Dating Iroquoia Project, led by Jennifer Birch of the University of Georgia and Sturt Manning of Cornell University, has revealed that the accepted chronology was off by as much as a century in places. This carries significant implications for the understanding of history in the region, Birch said. “We’re really digging into the centuries around contact in ways that help us better understand how indigenous people are responding to these profound changes.”

Cornell PhD student Annapaola Passerini using an increment corer to take a tree-ring sample on an eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) during a fieldtrip for the Cornell Introduction to Dendrochronology course led by Sturt Manning. Tree ring chronologies built up through such fieldwork by Cornell researchers and students provide some of basis to dendrochronological dating in the region. | Credit: Cornell University


This is an article excerpt from the Summer 2021 edition of American Archaeology Magazine. Become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy for your complimentary subscription.  

More from American Archaeology


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.