Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
This is a sixteenth century, pre-contact Neutral Iroquoian village situated on a plateau overlooking the confluence of the Medway River and Snake Creek in northwest London. The site measures two hectares in size, although was estimated at one hectare on March 15, 1970 when what is now the southern portion was designated under the Archaeological and Historic Sites Protection Act
(now Ontario Heritage Act). It is also commemorated with an Ontario Heritage Foundation plaque.
The heritage value of the Lawson Site lies in its integrity, rarity or representativeness, cultural and temporal affiliations, and potential data productivity as a sixteenth century, pre-contact Neutral Iroquoian village. It is Canada's only ongoing excavation and reconstruction of a pre-contact village and one of the few Neutral village sites where earthworks are preserved. Excavations have recovered over 300,000 artifacts and the remains of at least 19 longhouses, 30 middens, and a palisade along the northern half of the site. Evidence suggests that at the height of occupation the village was home to over 2000 people. It was occupied year round although many of its inhabitants left the village from April to December to engage in hunting, fishing, gathering, and the cultivation of crops such as corn, beans and squash. It may have served as a major regional centre for other Neutral populations during this period. Its inhabitants engaged in trade or other forms of interaction with other pre-contact groups along the Atlantic Seaboard, Lake Superior, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.
The Lawson Site also has associative value with the development of archaeology as a discipline from its relic-hunting roots in the mid-nineteenth century, to the more scientific investigations of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The research potential of the Lawson Site was first realized in the late-nineteenth century by Dr. Solon Woolverton, a geology professor at the University of Western Ontario and a prominent London citizen. He introduced the site in 1894 to Provincial Museum archaeologist, Dr. David Boyle, and undertook excavations from 1895-1920. The first formal description of the site was written by Boyle. His successor at the Museum, Dr. Rowland B. Orr, visited the site in 1917 and subsequently published an article including a sketch map. Dr. William J. Wintemberg of the Victoria Museum in Ottawa (now the Canadian Museum of Civilization) selected the Lawson Site for major fieldwork projects from 1921 to1923. Wilfrid Jury, who later founded the Museum of Indian Archaeology and Pioneer life at the University of Western Ontario, worked with Wintemberg at the Lawson Site. Col. Tom Lawson and members of the Fuller family donated the property in 1969 to the University of Western Ontario to preserve and interpret the site for the people of Ontario.
In 1978, the Lawson Site and adjoining lands were transferred to the Museum of Indian Archaeology (now the London Museum of Archaeology). This is a major centre for archaeological research in Ontario and pre-contact aboriginal life ways as interpreted through the Lawson Site.
Source: Ministry of Culture Archaeological Licence Reports
The heritage value of the Lawson Site is embodied in key character defining elements such as:
- its potential for unexcavated archaeological deposits including the remains of longhouses, features, and other cultural materials
- the series of earthworks used to support the original palisade protecting the village
- excavated remains such as artifacts and associated documentation
Province of Ontario
Ontario Heritage Act
Designated Archaeological Site (Part VI)
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
- Canada's Earliest Inhabitants
Function - Category and Type
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Archaeology Licence Reports, Heritage and Libraries, Ministry of Culture (Toronto); Reports and publications, London Museum of Archaeology (London)
Cross-Reference to Collection
London Museum of Archaeology (London, Ontario)