Pictographs of Fairy Point, Ontario

August 14, 2018

Fairy Point Panorama (1)

Rick_Main Pictograph Panel Close-up (1)

August 2018 Viewer's ChoicePhotographers: Rick Stankiewicz; Gord Pollock
Summary Author: Rick Stankiewicz 

While on an annual fishing trip to northern Ontario with friends in June of this year I remembered that the lake we were on (Missinaibi Lake) was not only known for great fishing but some of the best examples of ancient rock painting (pictographs) in eastern Canada.

Missinaibi Lake, in northeastern Ontario, is the source of the Missinaibi River. The panoramic image above shows the rugged shoreline of Precambrian type rock of the Canadian Shield (mainly granitic and hybrid igneous rocks). This view looks northward toward Fairy Point, where the pictographs are found. While the age of the Fairy Point pictographs isn't known, the name of the river on which they're found indicates that the images have existed for more than 200 years (but maybe 2,000 years). Missinaibi is thought to be an English version of the Cree word for pictured waters. When European traders first arrived at Missinaibi Lake, in 1777, the name was already in use.

Pictographs are traditionally constructed of red ochre paint, made of a soft anhydrous iron oxide (hematite), mixed with animal fats (bear grease) or fish oils and are often protected from the elements by their application on vertical rock faces with finger width strokes. There are also two white colored symbols (crosses or stars, not shown here), a true rarity in North America.

Rick_On Shore Pictograph Inspection (1)Sometimes referred to as spirits on stone, the certainty of the meaning for these pictographs have been lost with time and their creators. Pictographs were used by the Cree and Ojibwa (now the Oji-Cree) likely for both sacred and secular purposes. I always feel a sense of respect and awe when I’ve been fortunate enough to see them at dozens of locations in Ontario over the years. The inset photo shows me on the shoreline inspecting one of the main panels of pictographs, but not touching them. The bottom image is a close-up of this panel. Photos taken on June 18, 2018. 

Photo Details: Top - Camera: OLYMPUS TG-860 Exposure Time: 0.0016s (1/640); Aperture: ƒ/6.0; ISO equivalent: 125; Focal Length (35mm): 21. Bottom - same except: Software: Windows Photo Editor 10; Exposure Time: 0.0063s (1/160); Aperture: ƒ/5.1; Focal Length (35mm): 66. Inset - Camera: Panasonic DMC-TS4; Software: Windows Photo Editor 10; Exposure Time: 0.0010s (1/1000); Aperture: ƒ/3.3; ISO equivalent: 400; Focal Length (35mm): 28.