Southwold Earthworks National Historic Site
The Southwold Prehistoric Earthworks was recognized as a National Historic Site in 1923 and is now under the care of Parks Canada. The earthworks are the only visible remains of a native village inhabited between AD 1450 and 1550 by the Attiwondaronk Nation.
Attiwandaron is a name from the Huron-Wendat language that refers to the confederacy of Iroquoian peoples living north of Lake Erie who were neutral in the conflict between the Huron-Wendat and the League of Five Nations Iroquois. The village was once home to several hundred people who lived in longhouses, which were multi-unit dwellings that housed entire extended families related by a common maternal ancestor. The village was, and is, surrounded by conspicuous earthworks. The 17th-century French referred to the Attiwandaron as the “la nation Neutre” or the Neutrals. There is no distinct descendant population of the Attiwandaron today, as the entire confederacy was dispersed or incorporated into the Five Nations Iroquois during the years 1647 to 1651. This is the only Iroquoian village administered by Parks Canada that is commemorated as a village in itself.
The 2.2 hectare (5.5 acre) site is situated in an area of fertile farmland, once the western portion of the Attiwondaronk settlement which stretched from Kent County to the Niagara Peninsula.
The double wall of earthworks constitutes one of the most remarkable features of the village. The outer earthworks surrounded the 2 acre oval-shaped village except for the openings where a stream entered into and exited from the enclosure. The inner earthworks displayed a similar gap on the southwest to west perimeter of the site, where the stream cut in to the village. Scientific evidence indicates that the outer palisade was constructed first. Posts, or tree trunks, pointed on the bottom, 4 to 5 metres in height, were driven into the ground. Earth was then scraped from both sides to support the structure leaving the present trench. The inner palisade consisted of a double row of posts, soil was again taken from around the base and put against the posts, braces were also used at intervals for additional support.
Visiting the site
Southwold Earthworks National Historic Site is near the town of St. Thomas, Ontario and is open year round to the public for self-guided visits. Learn more about the site’s location.
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