Navigating ancestral landscapes in the Northern Iroquoian world

Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, Volume 39 (2015)
Jennifer Birch and Ronald F. Williamson

After the transition to settled village life ca. AD 1300, the Northern Iroquoian peoples of northeastern
North America relocated their settlements every few decades or less. Frequent village location meant
that, after less than 100 years, the landscape they inhabited would have contained more abandoned than
occupied village sites. We draw upon ancestral Wendat site relocation sequences on the north shore of
Lake Ontario, Ontario, Canada to explore factors influencing village relocation and how the continued
abandonment of village sites created ancestral landscapes that included sites of pilgrimage, resource
extraction, and ceremony. As communities of the dead, abandoned villages and associated ossuaries were part of a larger set of spiritual responsibilities to meaningful places in the landscape. As ancestral sites, these places were part of ongoing processes of emplacement through which Wendat communities laid claim to politically-defined territories.

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