The pictograph site called DgKl-2 Sabaskong Bay, Lake of the Woods, Ontario, Canada © Alicia Colson 2001′

I’d like to talk about DgKl-2, a pictograph site in Sabaskong Bay, Lake of the Woods. It is one of the twenty seven pictograph sites found on cliff faces and inside caves during a fieldwork season of three and a half months. It has new red aerosol paintings superimposed on and beside the older ochre paintings. Some of the paintings occur under the overhang and in close proximity to what are called ‘offerings’ in the Lake of the Woods. The aerosol paintings and ‘offerings’ indicate that these sites are not simply part of the archaeological record, the ‘prehistory’ of the region. The sites are part of the everyday life of our contemporaries. This site was first recorded by Selwyn Dewdney in 1962 and Georgine Pastershank in 1987, neither of whom noted the existence of offerings, much less the red aerosol paintings. The pictograph sites were examined to (a) identify a possible vocabulary of images, (b) determine whether combinatory rules exist, (c) reconstitute the life history of each site, and to (d) ascertain whether the images were related to other indigenous images to determine whether the latter could throw some light on the pictographs. The ‘classic’ theoretical and analytical approaches used by archaeologists were applied in a well-defined sequence. The images are as sources of information in the same way as traditional archaeological artefacts [canonical ones]: the lithic, the bone, and the pot-sherd. But they must be understood in context, their physical outline, form, and structure must be identified before the thorny issue of ‘meaning can be brought into play. 

This work indicates that an examination of these archaeological artefacts demands "thinking out of the box" to a greater degree than usual. It entails rigorous analysis of information, demanding an interdisciplinary approach. It requires the humility to accept that it might never be possible to determine their original intended meaning(s). Firmly integrated into the everyday lives of local communities they are integral to the archaeological record of this Region and North America. Alicia Colson,

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