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The Dawson site and the village of Hochelaga

In 1860, workers digging at the corner of Metcalfe and Burnside (today de Maisonneuve Boulevard) discovered fragments of human bones, ash and bits of burnt wood from old fire pits, burnt animal bones, post moulds in the subsoil from wooden longhouses, and potsherds.

As a result of this discovery, Sir John William Dawson, principal of McGill College (today McGill University) undertook one of the first archaeological protection operations in Canada.

He discovered that the potsherds and stone artifacts dated from before the arrival of Europeans. Sir Dawson became convinced that the site that had been discovered was that of the village of Hochelaga, one of the largest Saint Lawrence Iroquoian villages, visited by Jacques Cartier in 1535.

“there came to meet us more than a thousand persons… who gave us as good a welcome as ever father gave to his son…”
Jacques Cartier, The Voyages of Jacques Cartier, translated and edited by Henry Percival Biggar, University of Toronto Press, 1993, p. 59.
“The village is circular and completely enclosed by a wooden palisade… There is only one gate and entrance to this village, and that can be barred up… There are some fifty houses…”
Ibid, p. 61.

However, even today, it is extremely difficult to discern whether the site is really that of Hochelaga. Archaeological research has validated its era, between 1500 and 1550, but its location does not agree with Jacques Cartier’s description.

“…[we] found that the land began to be cultivated. It was find [sic] land with large fields covered with the corn of the country… And in the middle of these fields is situated and stands the village of Hochelaga, near and adjacent to a mountain, the slopes of which are fertile and cultivated…”
Ibid, p. 61.

In addition, the small number and the distribution of artifacts found on the Dawson site do not completely correspond to a village of that size.

Nevertheless, whether the site was a village or not, its collection of exceptional artifacts contributes to understanding the archaeological history of Montréal.


Photo credit:

Potsherd, 1480-1530
ACC2829.1
© Musée McCord 

 

Pipe, Late 15th, early 16th century
ACC2870.1
© Musée McCord

Adze, 1465-1530
ACC2844
© McCord Museum
 

Potsherd, 1480-1530
ACC2824.2
© McCord Museum

Pipe and pipe bowl, late 15th-early 16th century
M4244, M13333
© McCord Museum
 

Potsherd, Late 15th - early 16th century
ACC2820. 1-2
© McCord Museum

Adze, 1465-1530
ACC2845
© McCord Museum
 

Potsherd, Late 15th, early 16th century
ACC2830.3
©  McCord Museum

Potsherd, 1480-1530
ACC2829.1
© McCord Museum

Potsherd, Late 15th- early 16th centure
ACC2823.3
© McCord Museum

Potsherd, Late 15th - early 16th century
ACC2819.1-4
© McCord Museum

Pipe fragment, late15th-early 16th century
M4289
© McCord Museum

Ornemental discs, late 15th century, early 16th century
Late 15th, early 16th century
© Musée McCord

Scraper, Late 15th- early 16th century
M4355-M4247
© McCord Museum

Pipe bowl, Late 15th-early 16th century
M13325
© McCord Museum
 

Pipe bowl, 1860-1900
M13360
© McCord Museum