Paul Sweetman

Date award received: 

Paul was born in Toronto some 90 years ago, the grandchild of an Irish immigrant. Following a notorious career at Runymede Collegiate, he attended the University of Toronto, University College, and obtained a B.A. Paul then graduated from the Ontario College of Education and began his career as a high school music teacher. His first experience in archaeology occurred in 1948, when he was invited to participate on the Ossossané Ossuary excavation by Ken Kidd, then of the Royal Ontario Museum. There he met the famous avocational archaeologist, Frank Ridley, and a young student of archaeology named Bill Taylor. Frank undertook a variety of field surveys and site inspections at the behest of the Ontario Archaeological and Historic Sites Board during the 1950’s and 60’s; many of them in remote areas of Northern Ontario. Paul assisted Frank on many of these surveys, honing his field skills on canoe trips along the Michipicoten and Moose Rivers.
Paul joined the nascent Ontario Archaeological Society in 1954 and became President during 1957 and ’58. It was during his tenure that the first printed reports were produced - Frank Ridley’s Boys and Barrie sites. In 1959, Paul joined Frank on a Canadian delegation to mainland China, which was a diplomatic coup and aired as a documentary on the CBC. He was able to visit famous sites at Loyang and the “Peking man” discovery site. They returned via Moscow and were able there to visit the National Museum. Paul continued his work with Frank, but was developing a reputation of his own. There were precious few professional archaeologists working in Ontario at the time, so that universities, museums, and the Ontario government often turned to the expertise of avocationals to investigate reported finds. So it was that Professor McIlwraith, chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, asked Paul to document some petroglyphs in the Peterborough area. This famous site was subsequently protected as a provincial park, based on his report. The 1950’s provided numerous opportunities for fieldwork, and it was in 1957 on the Ault Park site that Paul met a young Bruce Trigger, establishing a friendship which continues to this day.

During the 1960’s, Paul undertook numerous field surveys in the Trent valley and Prince Edward County. His reports to the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board remain in the Ontario Archives and have provided guidance to subsequent researchers. His record of publication includes 12 articles in journals, such as Ontario History, Ontario Archaeology, and Pennsylvania Archaeologist. Perhaps, his most famous article was published in 1967, concerning the Bristow site on Thorah Island in Lake Simcoe. William Ritchie visited Paul in the company of Frank Ridley to view his Thorah Island assemblage and ended up citing Paul in his seminal volume, Archaeology of New York State. Finally, Paul also offered a Saturday morning archaeology class at Northern Secondary School - the first “public archaeology” program in Ontario; graduates of which include Frances Stewart and Roberta O’Brien.


Bill Fox