Coalescent Communities in Iroquoian Ontario

Author(s): Jennifer Birch

Year: 2010


This study documents and theorizes the processes behind the coalescence of ancestral Huron-Wendat populations on the north shore of Lake Ontario. A multiscalar analytical approach is employed to examine settlement aggregation at the regional, local and community levels. The study draws upon cross-cultural models of coalescent societies and the archaeology of communities while being

theoretically situated within an historical-processual approach.

The settlement data presented demonstrate that during the fifteenth century AD, small, previously distinct communities came together into large village aggregates. Through an examination of settlement relocation sequences and the occupational histories of individual villages, the transformations in social and political organization that accompanied this process are examined. Differences between site sequences suggest that while it is possible to identify similar processes in coalescence, the actual experience of coming together varied at the local level due to particular historical contingencies. A major contribution of the study is a detailed analysis of one village relocation sequence involving the aggregation of several small village communities at the Draper site, during the late fifteenth century. In the early sixteenth century, this coalescent community relocated to establish the Mantle site, the largest Iroquoian village excavated to date in the Lower Great Lakes. A detailed analysis of the occupational history of the Mantle site is presented here. The results point to the increasing integration of the community over time. A comparison of the built environments and other features of the Draper and Mantle sites elucidate practices that directly address the lived experience of coalescence. These community-level processes are ultimately situated in, and form the basis for, the broader sociopolitical realignments that characterized the Late Precontact Lower Great Lakes.

Cite this Record

Coalescent Communities in Iroquoian Ontario. Jennifer Birch. 2010 ( tDAR id: 374322) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8ZP457K

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