Bones of the Ancestors

Ronald F. Williamson and Susan Pfeiffer

In 1997, an Iroquoian ossuary dating to the thirteenth century containing the remains of at least 87 people was accidentally discovered in Toronto. The pit was excavated and recorded. Detailed mapping of the skeletal remains led to a reconstruction of the method and sequence of placing the bodies within the ossuary. Analyses of the bones resulted in a detailed demographic profile of the Moatfield people, along with indicators of their health and diet. The book reports these findings and includes a complete database of maps and profiles on a CD-ROM inserted in the back cover.

Mercury Series, Archaeology Paper 163 Canadian Museum of Civilization

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“The archaeological and osteobiological record of the Moatfield ossuary represents an important and respectful portrait of the lives of my thirteenth-century forebears.”
(William Woodworth Raweno:kwas, from the Foreword.)

“This volume is more than a detailed archaeological and bioanthropological site report, however. The close working relationship between the archaeologists, the osteologists, and the Six Nations Council is apparent, both in the text itself and in the manner in which the project personnel defined their goals. In the poignant first chapter, William Woodworth Raweno:kwas, an architect, indigenous scientist and member of the Mohawk Nation offers a personal statement that reflects his reaction to the project. He characterizes this detailed study as empowering a ‘sense of inheritance in a form of spiritual land claim for us native people’. The closing chapter, or epilogue, by Beverly J. Garner, an archaeologist, who attended the reburial ceremony, is also a personal narrative. Between these two narratives is the scientific study, including archaeological, ethnohistoric and bioanthropological subject matter. Overarching goals emphasize reconstructing the daily lives of community members. … Bones of the Ancestors is an excellent volume, a credit to all contributors.”
(Jane Buikstra from the Journal of Antropological Research Volume 60 Number 3 2004)