Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy




Ellis, Christopher J.


Despite decades of archaeological investigations into the presence of people in northwestern Ontario during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene there is still a tenuous understanding of the timing and origins of those past groups that moved across the region. This is mainly a result of small sample sizes, acidic soils (that degrade organic materials) and low recoveries of diagnostic tools such as projectile points. The discovery of an uncharacteristically large Paleoindigenous site, the Mackenzie I site, east of Thunder Bay, yielded recoveries of artifacts in numbers never seen in the region. The exceptionally large number of projectile points recovered from this site offers a unique opportunity to examine Paleoindigenous activity. Projectile points are considered to contain a significant amount of cultural information in their shape, and in the method of manufacture used for shaping them, largely because they are the most “complex” of stone tools recovered. The recoveries from the Mackenzie I site allow for an in-depth analysis both from an intra-site perspective, as well as a comparison from an inter-region perspective using samples from Manitoba, Minnesota and across northwestern Ontario. In conjunction with a GIS density analysis to identify spatial clusters across the site, a 3-dimensional geometric morphometric (3DGM) examination of the morphological traits of the projectile points is completed. The resulting information offers insight in both how the site was used over time as well as highlighting stylistic variability between the identified areas of the site. Furthermore, part of the 3DGM results from the inter-region comparison indicate that shape variation from the Mackenzie I site is markedly different from all other samples, representing a restricted range of variation suggesting the site was occupied for a brief period of time. These findings contradict previous research, specifically for Minong beach sites, that suggested morphological variation within the region was continuous and multimodal, with attributes varying widely from site to site. Furthermore, additional impressionistic and typological analysis suggests that there is a close relationship stylistically between the points from the Mackenzie I site and western forms such as Jimmy Allen or possibly Angostura. This type of research has never been completed within the region and offers a glimpse into the activities and occupation of the largest Paleoindigenous site in northwestern Ontario.

Summary for Lay Audience

This research compares spearpoints from recoveries of a large Paleoindigenous archaeological site, the Mackenzie I site, east of Thunder Bay. Spearpoints are unique and important because archaeologists have been able to determine where and when they were manufactured based on their shape. The Mackenzie I site is important because it is one of the largest sites excavated in the region with an extremely large number of spearpoints. Having a large site, with many samples allows for a comparison of all the points and their shape. This research compared all the points to highlight those that were like those that were different. Using the rest of the artifacts, analysis was completed to find discrete areas at the site that represented either areas of activity, or areas of occupation using computational Geographic Information’s Systems (GIS) tools such as Point density and Kernel density. The data from the shape analysis and the density analysis, the identified areas (cluster areas) are examined to illustrate the similarities and differences with regards to the spearpoints (ie., those areas with similar points to other areas which had different points). This allows for comment on the different areas and possible groups who used the site over time.

Finally, the overall shape of the spearpoints from the Mackenzie I site are compared to spearpoints from areas in western Manitoba, northern Minnesota and across the rest of Northwestern Ontario. The similarities and differences are explored to comment on where people might have migrated from when Northwestern Ontario was first deglaciated roughly 9500 years ago.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License