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Uncovered artifacts trigger archaeological dig in Lively

While digging a hole for a concrete footing for stairs last October, historic materials were uncovered, which triggered an archaeological assessment at the Anderson Farm Museum property in Lively

An archaeological assessment was triggered in Lively last October, when historic materials were uncovered while digging a hole for a concrete footing for stairs. 

This week, a crew of archaeologists from Archaeological Research Associates, based in Owen Sound, were on site to undertake a preliminary dig at the Anderson Farm Museum property.

“The site probably should have had an archaeological assessment some time ago, but I’m glad it’s happening now and I’m really interested to see what they turn up and what we can learn as a result,” curator Sam Morel told

It’s likely a museum exhibit comes out of the dig, which she said will help people better understand what archaeological assessments are, as well as a bit more of the farm’s history. 

Friday was the team’s last day on site, though Archaeological Research Associates field director Hailey Buckton said it’s entirely possible they will return for a more in-depth dig. This, she said, would depend on whatever conclusion head office draws from their preliminary findings.

“Depending on what we find there are other steps, and different things get triggered,” she said, adding that although the province sets out some specific parameters, there’s usually a subjective judgment call factored into the decision. 

The stage two dig that took place this week included a grid of the property in which small pits were dug every five metres in search of potential artifacts.

During the dig, several people have stopped by to ask the team about their work, Buckton said. 

“It’s definitely a curiosity, and people see us digging and they want to come dig, too, but it’s a science,” she said. “We try to discourage that.”

The artifacts were discovered in October outside a barn constructed at the historic dairy farm in 1916, which Morel said they were working to maintain with a new stairwell.

Because the discovery took place in the midst of the seasonal freeze in October, they had to wait until this year for the ground to thaw to begin the archaeological digs.

“We were sort of stuck, because once you find artifacts on site, if other criteria are met, you have to proceed with an archaeological assessment under the Ontario Heritage Act,” she said. 

Between then and now, she said a great deal of research was done to determine more about the affected area, including where buildings might have once been located. During this past week, Morel said archaeologists discovered at least one foundation for a building not previously known to have been located where it was found.

Artifacts discovered in the initial hole included such items as a chunk of metal encircled by rivets, a glass ink bottle and a broken milk bottle. 

It’s unclear why the items were there, though Morel said it could be something as simple as someone dumping trash against the building’s foundation as in-fill, which she’d heard might have been common practice before modern landfill regulations were put into place.

Regardless of what reason there was for the materials being there, she said these discoveries will hopefully teach them even more about the farm, which a follow-up report by Archaeological Research Associates will help flesh out when they have concluded their work.

The Anderson Farm Museum was one of the largest operating in Northern Ontario during the 1920s-’30s, and was owned and operated by Finnish immigrants Frank and Gretta Anderson.

Although it remains to be seen whether a more comprehensive excavation will be required, Morel said she hopes to see the museum celebrate a partial reopening next year, having been shuttered through much of the pandemic. 

A few events, including historical walking tours of the museum site, will be held this summer, with more information available on the museum’s Facebook page.

Meanwhile, the city’s museums are slated to undergo a review for the production of a Museums Revitalization Business Plan being drafted for city council’s 2023 budget consideration. With Anderson Farm Museum taking in the lion’s share of visitors (19,158 versus all other museums’ 169 in 2019), Morel said she anticipates seeing it remain a priority. 

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for


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Tyler Clarke

About the Author: Tyler Clarke

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for
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