Stanley Wortner is an avocational archaeologist extraordinaire. As a young lad growing up on the outskirts of Chatham, he was fascinated with the people and cultures before his time. His very first artifact he possessed was from a trade in 1939 in the form of an orange for an arrowhead.
This fascination increased with the growing years of Stanley. At the age of 18, the Detroit Sunday Times, dated September 1947, documents the finds of a rare specimen near Chatham. Pictured in the article is the young Wortner with his best friend and fellow archaeological enthusiast, Neil Coppieters. Shovels in hand, the two lads were venturing on their bikes down to the McGeachy site.
The 1930s, 40s and into the 50s was an era of avocational archaeologists working hand in hand with such renowned academic archaeologists, such as Kidd and Ritchie. From 1948 through to the 1970s, Stanley corresponded prolifically with Kenneth E. Kidd at the Royal Ontario Museum, including Stanley’s excavations at the Krieger site. On February 7, 1951, Stanley received a certificate from the Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology acknowledging his contribution to their collection.
In 1949, William S. Ritchie in his book The Archaeology of New York State(pg. 235) credited Stanley and Neil on their discovery of the William Site located on River Road in Howard Township in Kent County.
Stanley assisted on many archaeological investigations including the Meredith-Goodall Site where he worked with Harry Bosveld in 1963/4 and the Van Houste Site, where Stanley worked closely with local students, taking the time to properly train them on the techniques of excavation. At the Caron Site in the spring of 1968, Stanley assisted in the surface collection and salvage excavation ahead of the bulldozer as they were removing the large sand deposit. In an interim Field Report on the Caron 2 Site written by Harry Bosveld for the Hiram Walker Historical Museum May 1968 “Special thanks goes to Mr Stan Wortner of Bothwell who reported the site to us, supplied us with much of our background information and assisted us in the course of the excavations.”
Stanley remained very active in the field of archaeology, documenting and recording archaeological sites within the County of Kent (now the Municipality of Chatham-Kent), Elgin County and Southwest Middlesex, including the Depencier/Shaw site in 1968 located outside of Thamesville.
One of the most significant contributions Stanley has contributed to the discipline of Ontario Archaeology is the meticulous excavations he conducted at the Hind site with Bill Donaldson from May 1968 to 1977. This site is still sited today as the most well documented glacial kame cemetery within Ontario. Without the hours of painstaking work of Stanley, very little information would be known about this late Archaic transition period. Stanley presented his findings at the Ontario Archaeological Society, London Chapter meeting in 1978.
Stanley was also instrumental in the discovery of the Nettling point in Ontario archaeology. This distinctly serrated projectile point is a fine example of a well made middle Archaic projectile point from southwestern Ontario.
Stanley’s work has continued into the 21st century with the discovery and the excavation of the Edithsmith site jointly with Dr. Christopher J. Ellis. Stanley has continued to assist in other major research projects within southwestern Ontario, namely the excavations of the Green Hill and Davidson sites, late Archaic/early Woodland campsites.
A long-time member of the Ontario Archaeological Society and a founding member of the London Chapter, Stanley has certainly contributed to the discipline of archaeology through his various discoveries, his meticulous excavations of very important archaeological sites and working with students, teaching them the importance of archaeology.
Photo courtesy of Rudy Fecteau