Scarborough's Mound of Bones: The Taber Hill Ossuary

1956

Taber Hill

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In August 1956, the mound in Taber Hill Park in Scarborough was in the early stages of being flattened for a subdivision when demolition crews noticed bones popping up from the dirt.

Tabor Hill, 1960s, courtesy Scarborough Historical Society

These bones turned out to be part of an estimated 523 ancestral Huron-Wendat individuals who were buried in the mound between 1250 CE and 1300 CE.

Taber Hill is considered an ossuary; a term used to describe a secondary burial pit where the bones of individuals are placed after they have been removed from their primary burial context to create a community of the dead. Taber Hill ossuary is roughly 0.34 hectares in size, 15.24 m long, 2.13 m wide and 0.3 m deep. The ossuary featured two burial pits that contained the mingled skeletal remains of many people. Archaeologists also discovered a few bundles — each containing the remains of an individual.

The proposed development was instead turned into parkland to protect the area. A reburial service was performed by Six Nations chiefs in the 1950s and subsequent events included a plaque presentation, a Feast of the Dead ceremony and official site designation through the Ontario Heritage Act. Today, Taber Hill can be found on the northeast side of the park, along with a large plaque to commemorate the site.

By Claire van Nierop

Tabor Hill, 1960s, courtesy Scarborough Historical Society View the image gallery