Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Montreal office site may be Iroquois burial ground

Sir William Dawson 1884
My eye was drawn to this article as it passed my facebook feed the other day, as one that certainly requires more study, and fits well within the remit for this blog, so lets have a look at it then!

Of course, the title of this article suggests a burial ground, but the reality is both more mundane, and, in other ways more exciting than that. This story is about the Dawson Site. Found in 1860, the Dawson site, so named due to the work there by John William Dawson; it was an Iroquoian village and thousands of artefacts were found there, as listed in the link above for the site, most of which were concurrent with a village. Yes, 25 burials were also found, with a possibility of over 100 still in place. 

Hochelaga, circa 1535
I heard an interview with a local  archaeologist on the radio yesterday evening, (so no source to link to, but it was likely the same one quoted in the above article) that suggested that, yes, there was the possibility of human remains, but the main thing was, that since this plot  had not been developed in the same way as the surrounding plots, that there was the slim possibility that there would be some archaeology remaining, never mind any of the possible burial sites. He wasn't hopeful, however, since the Dawson site is the only known Iroquoian site where iron has been found, i.e. the only known post-contact archaeological site, then it was the strongest contender to be part of the site of the mysterious Hochelaga.

The artefacts from the Dawson dig are now lodged at the McCord Museum, which is just round the corner from the site itself. Both of which are marked by stars in the map below.

The Dawson Site in Game

The Dawson site has many possible plot hooks, at various eras throughout history. The first, is of course as Hochelaga itself, however, the mysteries of the placement of this village, and its disappearance between the visits of visits of Cartier in 1535, and Champlain in 1611 is something of a multifaceted story, and one I plan to come back to in a future post, so lets leave that aside for now to come back to later

The next era where we can visit the site is of course during the Gaslight era, where Sir Dawson himself leads the dig into this site. From all accounts, a great many items were found. There are
mention of metal artefacts, but there is some question as to whether they match the kinds of items and metals that Cartier records as being given to the locals. If they are not from his expedition, then that opens the doors to other, more intriguing sources for these items. The first to spring to mind are star metals, or Migo artefacts.

In the Classic era, this is obviously the centre of downtown Montreal, however, throughout that time, part of the site remains relatively undisturbed, just under the surface (I hear just 30 cm down). One classic Montreal establishment, which was just round the corner, and was started in 1908 was Ben's, although it was originally situated elsewhere and moved there in 1949 (it was a little further up the same street since 1929), but who's to let a little thing like the truth get in the way of a good story? Bens was a 24 hr diner, frequented by the rich and famous, and by everyone else too. It was a busy place, and could easily be used as a place for the Investigators to meet with their contacts. If you want to link the diner, or another local establishment to the plot, then we have the obvious, but worn thin by repeated use on Scooby doo plot of the haunting from the Indian burial ground underneath the house. Possibly a little tired and best avoided. If need be, the basement to any of the local buildings could give access to the remains of Hochelaga, and local cultists may even be using these sites for their own purposes.

In the modern era, we are back to archaeology. When Investigators are setting out on an archaeological expedition in CoC, we usually send them off to the back of beyond, maybe into the Arctic circle, or the deserts of Northern Africa, where they are searching for the remains of some lost city or other. Here we have the lost city that is actually underneath the modern city. That twist in itself could be enough to set off a great adventure. Of course, when they are in town, they do have a lot more back up at hand, with local police forces etc, but they can also act as a hindrance to what Investigators might have planned (sticking on the right side of the law is not usually high in players priorities). There is also the threat that what may be unleashed by the dig could be set loose in an area of high population, which of course raises the horror stakes that little bit higher. That little twist on the regular CoC plot opens up so many options by itself. Maybe the Investigators are the archaeological consultancy firm like the one mentioned in the original article, brought in to go over the site and give a report to the city of Montreal, and to the construction company as to the value of the site and what may be found there. I like that story...

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