Archaeological Investigations on NCC Lands

Maps and Publications

The known archaeological sites in Ottawa–Gatineau reflect some 8,000 years of continuous occupation of lands in Canada’s Capital Region. The following describes some of the region’s major archaeological sites related to the pre-contact, early historic settlement and post-1850 periods.

Pre-Contact Sites

Leamy Lake Park, Gatineau

Leamy Lake Park holds one of the richest and largest pre-contact archaeological site complexes in the Outaouais. Archaeological investigations indicate that the earliest human occupation of the park dates to around 5,000 to 6,000 years ago.  Most of the sites, however, were occupied between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago. The artifact collections recovered from these sites provide important information on the Aboriginal history of Canada's Capital Region.

The pre-contact archaeological collections from Leamy Lake Park include:

  • stone tools and the stone waste flakes produced by making tools
  • implements made of native copper
  • pottery fragments
  • the bones of animals eaten by the inhabitants of the campsites.

Jacques-Cartier Park, Gatineau

In 1994, archaeological investigations in Jacques-Cartier Park led to the discovery of an important pre-contact campsite. This site, which was occupied between 500 and 3,000 years ago, contains an area that Aboriginal groups used as a workshop for making stone tools. It also holds the remains of a tent habitation about 7 metres in diameter.

The pre-contact artifact collections recovered from the site are similar to those from the Leamy Lake Park sites, and include stone tools and fragments of decorated pottery. Manufactured items related to the early historic settlement period were also found, including porcelain dishes, clay pipes and wine bottles.

Early Settlement Sites (ca. 1800–1850)

Philemon Wright’s House, Gatineau

In 1800 Philemon Wright and a small group from Massachusetts became the first permanent settlers of European origin in what is now the city of Gatineau. Wright's homestead, today known as the “Gatineau Farm,” was located along the Gatineau River, in what is now Leamy Lake Park.

While stabilizing the shoreline of the river, the NCC conducted archaeological salvage excavations at the site of Wright's original house. A wealth of domestic items were found, including earthenware pots and dishes, cutlery, buttons, religious medallions, combs and dolls.

Colonel By’s House, Major’s Hill Park, Ottawa

In 1826, Colonel John By, the Royal Engineer in charge of constructing the Rideau Canal, built a stone house on the site of present-day Major's Hill Park. This house, which later became the residence of the District Commander of the Royal Engineers, was destroyed by fire in 1848.

In 1972–73, the NCC and Parks Canada excavated the foundations of the house. The artifacts recovered include an elegant china tea set, ornamented glass objects and a wide range of other domestic items. Bronze reproductions of some of the artifacts are displayed at the site of the partially restored foundations.

Post–1850 Sites

LeBreton Flats, Ottawa

Between 2001 and 2009, the NCC conducted archaeological investigations in LeBreton Flats, as part of the soil decontamination and land development of the area. The excavated homes, businesses and industrial buildings spanned the 19th century development of the community and its redevelopment after the Great Fire of 1900. More than 200,000 artifacts were recovered from the Flats. They provide a vibrant portrait of life in what was a thriving industrial and working class residential district of Ottawa.