Around the Medicine Wheel
We welcome you to virtually travel back in time to a pre-contact, 16th-century Iroquoian longhouse. A time kept alive by the oral histories of the descendant people of the Eastern Woodlands and the archaeological record that serves as a reminder of the communities for who’s lands we now reside.
Longhouses are majestic testaments to the power of family and community. They are a visual reminder to visitors and community members alike, that a longhouse cannot survive without the cooperation and mutual respect of its residents. That the strength of the community comes from the generations of brothers and sisters, children, parents and grandparents, and the extended family, all under the watchful guidance of the head Mother, who navigates her immediate community through the seasons.
This virtual representation is one of the multiple interpretations of longhouse visualization. It represents an archaeologist’s point of view while providing options to reinterpret, mix and create new notions of longhouse living. So by no means is this a static representation. It is a jumping point in which to discuss, compare and contrast the known, the unknown and the constructed knowledge. Like the longhouse itself, this visualization is meant to support community building by providing a framework that is respectful of the past, present and future.
Not one, but many Communities
The specific virtual longhouse you are about to enter is an accumulated (re)visualization of pre-contact longhouses that were located in what is now just northwest of London, Ontario off of Attawandaron Rd. This place is maintained by the Museum of Ontario Archaeology and sits on the large pre-contact Neutral Iroquoian Lawson site, a sprawling and once prosperous 40+ longhouse city with an estimated population of 1900 people.
It is also based largely on the archaeological data retrieved from over 400 excavated longhouses located in what is now Southwestern Ontario. Recent finds such as the Jean-Baptiste Lainé Site, a massive coalesced Iroquoian City, just north of what is today Toronto, with its 50-100 longhouses and a population of 1750-2000 people inspired the look and feel of the virtual longhouse that has been created.
More than just a mere representation of the archaeological data, this visualization is a culmination of multiple sites, qualitative data, historical writings and most importantly, the oral histories of the descendant communities. Like a physical longhouse itself, it is a manifestation of multiple communities of archaeologists, historians, and descendant communities contributing to the current and ever-expanding knowledge that creates one of many virtual visions of longhouse life.