Digging up yesterday

17th-century French trade axe

Photo: 17th-century French trade axe


Dena Doroszenko

Archaeology, Cultural objects, Tools for conservation

Published Date: Feb 16, 2006

Reesor live on a property near Bass Lake, Ontario that is protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust natural heritage easement. They lovingly care for this land and are interested in its history. The easement protects a portion of their property – specifically, a wetland area which also has a remnant of the original Old Barrie Road through the south end. The area surrounding Bass Lake is known to contain numerous archaeological sites, so it is not surprising that an Iroquoian site was discovered on the Reesor property in 2001.

In summer 2005, during a routine Trust site visit, John Reesor brought out a find he made while digging near his c. 1840 farmhouse – a remarkably well preserved 17th-century French trade axe (shown here). The term “French trade axe” or “hache de traite” applied to many types of axes traded during the French regime in New France. Iron axes were tools commonly used by aboriginals following contact with Europeans. Based on its weight, markings and measurements, this particular axe can be dated to the 1640s.

This remarkable find is not uncommon. Throughout Ontario, people are digging up yesterday with sometimes surprising, yet always fascinating, results. They may not be as old as a 17th-century axe, but every shard of our past tells us something more about our unique heritage.