Onondaga Chert

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Class Natural Material
Type Stone

Other Names

Similar Materials

Bois Blanc Formation Chert
Selkirk Chert
Ancaster Chert
Haldimand Chert



Eley & von Bitter 1989:17-18

  • Colour: Light to dark grey, bluish grey, brown or black
  • Lustre: Dull to vitreous
  • Patina: Yellow or buff, always lighter than chert
  • Fossils: Rugose corals, tabulate corals and crinoid columnals
  • The three members cannot be differentiated macroscopically.


Eley & von Bitter 1989:18


Onondaga chert often smells of petroleum when knapped.

Geologic Context

The Middle Devonian Onondaga Formation (Detroit River Group) has three members: Edgecliff, Clarence & Moorehouse. Chert deposits of varying thickness, colour and quality can be found in these members.



  • Eley and von Bitter (1989:17) identify eight source locations (Locs 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 & 13), primarily along Lake Erie in the Niagara Peninsula.
  • Exposures along the Grand River may also have been exploited during high water phases (Parkins 1974).


  • Large inland deposits of glacially 'rafted' Onondaga chert were potentially deposited during high post-glacial Lake Agassiz (11,000-10,500 ya), and/or the Nipissing 1 (5500 ya) and Nipissing 2 (4500 ya) uprisings (Parkins 1974:15-16).
  • Onondaga chert is readily available in the Thames River gravels (Wilson 1994).

Map of Source Locations and Relevant Sites

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Red Dot: Source of Onondaga Chert; Green Dot: Site assemblage that contains Onondaga Chert
Note: In the interest of protecting our shared cultural heritage from those who would do it harm, intentional or otherwise, only approximate site locations are provided here.

Archaeological Contexts

Technological Notes

Heat treatment of Onondaga chert typically has no effect on its knappability or degrades the quality of the stone (Long 2004; Cowan 1987).

Material Culture

The following material culture types are known to be made on Onondaga Chert:

Digital Resources

  • A summary of the macro- and microfauna in numerous Onondaga Chert samples is provided by the PaleoBiology Database.



Cowan, Frank L.
1987 Heat-Treating Experiments With Onondaga Chert: Preliminary Results. Accessed from http://wings.buffalo.edu/anthropology/Lithics/Files/thermal.pdf on 8 January 2013.
Eley, B.E. and P.H. von Bitter
1989 Cherts of Southern Ontario. Publications in Archaeology, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario.
Ellis, C.J., J.A. Fisher and D.B. Deller
1988 Four Meadowood Phase Lithic Assemblages from Caradoc and Delaware Townships, Southwestern Ontario. Kewa 88(8):3-19.
Ellis, C.J., I.T. Kenyon and M.W. Spence
1990 The Archaic. In The Archaeology of Southern Ontario to A.D. 1650, edited by C.J. Ellis and N. Ferris, pp. 65-124, Ontario Archaeological Society, Occasional Publication of the London Chapter, No. 5, London.
Lennox, Paul A.
1995 The Juniper Site: A Springwells Phase Component, Essex County, Ontario. Kewa 95(4):2-19.
Long, Daniel
2004 A workability comparison of three Ontario cherts. Kewa 04(7/8):??.
Parkins, William G.
1974 Source of Chert from Welland River Archaeological Sites. BSc Thesis, Department of Geology, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario.
Wilson, J.
1990 The Boresma Site: A Middle Woodland Basecamp in the Thames River Valley. MA Thesis, Department of Anthropology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.
Wilson, J.
1994 The Racher Site (AfGi-141): More Evidence Concerning Large Riverine Middle Woodland Sites along the Middle Thames River Drainage. Kewa 94(4):2-17.
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