Dr. Priscilla Renouf

Tags

, , , , , ,

Most people reading this post will be aware that Dr. Priscilla Renouf passed away last week. The community of archaeologists who work in Newfoundland and Labrador is very small and when one of our members passes, we all feel it. I had regular dealings with her and I worked for her for one summer. She was always pleasant, and happy to help. What I would like to do with this post is look at her archaeology career through some of the documents at the Provincial Archaeology Office.

A quick search of the sites database shows that her name is associated with nearly 250 sites in the province, more than 150 on the island alone, which means that she is listed as a permit holder or a co-holder with a graduate student or she wrote a report or published article about each of these sites. As such, her name is associated with nearly ten percent of the ~1800 known and recorded sites just on the island. In terms of these numbers, no other archaeologist at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) was as prolific as Priscilla.

One of my colleagues who went through the graduate program with me at MUN studied Palaeoeskimo culture in Labrador. I once jokingly referred to her as the Palaeoeskimo Princess, to which she asked ‘Why Princess?’ I replied ‘Because Priscilla is the Palaeoeskimo Queen!’ I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. But it might surprise you to know that of the more than 150 sites on the island her name is associated with, she is connected to almost as many European sites as Palaeoeskimo. Her name is associated with nearly 50 Maritime Archaic sites and 20 Recent Indian. She was a very influential archaeologist who has made a lasting impression on this province.

Sites that are somehow related to Dr. Renouf. Either they were found by her or one of her students or she wrote about the sites.

Sites that are somehow related to Dr. Renouf. Either they were found by her or one of her students or she wrote about the sites.

The first time her name shows up in Provincial Archaeology Office records it’s as a co-author on a term paper from 1971. The paper was written with another student as part of a field school held on the shore of Long Pond in Pippy Park. The site was composed of a midden belonging to a Church of England Orphanage.

Over the next few years she participated in the survey work being conducted by Drs. McGhee and Tuck along the Northern Peninsula and Strait of Belle Isle.

Excavation att he Cow Head site in the early 1970s. Left to right: Jim Tuck, Marcie Madden, Priscilla Renouf, Tip Evans and Gerald Penney. (Penney)

Excavation at the Cow Head site in the early 1970s. Left to right: Jim Tuck, Marcie Madden, Priscilla Renouf, Tip Evans and Gerald Penney. (Penney)

Out of this Strait of Belle Isle work came her Master’s thesis in 1976 through MUN, A Late Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic Sequence in Southern Labrador. Her thesis confirmed and clarified the late Paleo-Indian and early Archaic cultural sequence proposed for the Strait of Belle Isle by Drs. McGhee and Tuck. Her work focused on the early Archaic site of Cowpath and the related but smaller Cowpath East and Cowpath West, all three are located between the southern Labrador communities of West St. Modeste and Pinware. Dated to 8600±325 B.P., Cowpath is the second oldest known site in the Province.

Late Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic Projectile Point Sequence in Southern Labrador. Oldest to youngest, top left to bottom right. (Renouf thesis)

Late Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic Projectile Point Sequence in Southern Labrador. Oldest to youngest, top left to bottom right. (Renouf thesis)

Cow Path in 2008.

Cow Path in 2008.

In 1981, Priscilla completed her PhD dissertation at the University of Cambridge entitled Prehistoric Coastal Economy in Varangerfjord, North Norway. Then in 1984 she started the Port au Choix Archaeology Project which would continue up to and including last summer and will likely be continued by her former colleagues and students. The summer of 2014 would have been her 30th year running the project. Her first field season at Port au Choix ran from June 13 to August 18, 1984. Amongst her crew for that first year was Patty Wells. Patty would become a long time crew member for Priscilla, eventually completing her Master’s and PhD thesis under Priscilla’s supervision.

The first goal for that 1984 season was “…to assess the large Dorset eskimo site of Phillip’s Garden for potential future excavations.” That goal and the site of Phillip’s Garden became the focus of her research up to an including last summer. Priscilla would go on to produce nearly 30 reports, academic papers or books dealing with the former inhabitants of Port au Choix and the Province as a whole including the Recent Indians, Groswater Palaeoeskimo, Maritime Archaic Indians and the Dorset Palaeoeskimo whom she focused on most of the time. This list does not include the numerous reports, academic papers and books she co-authored with other academics and numerous students.

Panoramic shot looking over Phillip's Garden in 2014.

Panoramic shot looking over Phillip’s Garden in 2014.

Over the course of her nearly 30 years at Port au Choix, each time she went into the field she was accompanied by her students and a number of local workers. Depending on the research she would have a team of about six students assisting her. So, after nearly 30 years of work that would be 120 to 150 students she directly influenced with her field work. This doesn’t include students she had working in other areas of the Province off the Northern Peninsula like Tim Rast at Burgeo or Lisa Fogt at Cape Ray. It also doesn’t include the thousands of students she would have taught during her university teaching career. The impact she had on Newfoundland and Labrador archaeology just through her students is immeasurable. One of those students, Dominique Lavers is from Port au Choix and worked with Priscilla at Phillips Garden and completed a Master’s thesis under her supervision.

If there was archaeology on the Northern Peninsula, it was a good bet that Priscilla was involved, regardless of whether it was an Historic Resource Impact Assessment (HRIA), investigating spot finds or full blow surveys and research projects. She conducted HRIA’s of the road which connects the community of Main Brook to Route 430 and she surveyed the shores of Old Man’s Pond (midway between woody Point and Corner Brook). She investigated the spot finds of biface fragments at the Bragg and Regular sites on the Northern Peninsula. At the time, one of these sites provided some of the first evidence of the Little Passage complex on the Northern Peninsula. In 1990, she had some of her students investigate a boat wreck that had washed out of a bank at Shallow Bay, Cow Head.

Excavating the Stanford River wreck.

Excavating the Stanford River wreck.

Priscilla was involved in several archaeology surveys and research projects on the Northern Peninsula, sometimes they were ran by her students, sometimes they were projects that she supported and helped to start.  One of her students, Greg Beaton, conducted a survey and excavation in the Big Brook area. Among other discoveries that project may have found a very rare Intermediate Indian occupation on the Island. Other students including Carol Krol, Dominique Lavers and Robert Anstey did excavation and survey work at Broom Point, and St. Paul’s Bay. Another former student carried out a survey in the Conche-Englee area and found or revisited more than 20 sites. Yet another student (Mary Penney nee Melnik), used the results of this Conche-Englee survey to complete detailed excavations which was used to complete a Master’s thesis.

Maritime Archaic Indian Ramah chert biface found at Conche.

Maritime Archaic Indian Ramah chert biface found at Conche.

Priscilla was instrumental in starting the Bird Cove archaeology project in 1997. That project was run by her former student David Reader and I was the crew chief. Over the course of two summers we found 20 sites and test excavated several sites. One of the sites is one of the oldest Maritime Archaic sites on the island. Another site became the basis of my own Master’s thesis. This project continued under the leadership of Tim Rast, another one of her students, and Latonia Hartery. Another project she helped to start was the survey of the St. Lunaire-Griquet that I led in 2000. That summer I found more than 20 sites.

In 1996 she started collaborative work with Dr. Trevor Bell a Geographer at Memorial University of Newfoundland using his knowledge of post glacial sea level rise to predict where the ancient cultures of the Island would have camped. This collaborative approach using detailed sea level history was a first for the island. Along with Trevor’s help, Priscilla was the first archaeologist in the province to use survey methods such as ground penetrating radar and magnetometry in field work. Their collaboration spawned the newly formed CARRA Project. Coastal Archaeological Resource Risk Assessment (CARRA) is an applied research project that addresses the need to identify which coastal archaeological sites in Newfoundland and Labrador are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and how best to respond.

I am sure anyone who knew her and her work can look at this post and ask, well what about this project or that paper, unfortunately I can’t cover everything. Priscilla had her hands into so much, she will be influencing the archaeology in the Province for years to come.

Archaeology Review

In 1981 the Historic Resources Division of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador produced the first volume of Archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador. This journal quickly became a reliable source of information dealing with archaeology in this province. Printed copies of this journal were produced up to 1986. I have seen files that would suggest a volume for 1987 was in the works but was never completed.

In 1996 & 1997 there was an attempt to revive the journal in an online form; unfortunately that attempt was short lived.

In 2002 the Provincial Archaeology Office started their own version of Archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador. Initially it was intended to be a newsletter entitled the Provincial Archaeology Office Newsletter and the first few volumes reflect that intention being less than 20 pages. From volume 3 to volume 4 the newsletter jumped from being 30 pages to 70 pages. By the time volume 5 came out the name was changed to the Provincial Archaeology Office Review. Since volume 6 the Review has been more than 100 pages and has essentially replaced the Archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador journal.

Today the Provincial Archaeology Office released their largest volume of the Provincial Archaeology Office Review yet at 193 pages. This volume covers archaeology news from the 2013 field season throughout the province and includes a submission on archaeology in Quebec.

2013 PAO Archaeology Review

2013 PAO Archaeology Review

Archaeology & Tourism

Tags

, , , , , ,

The Provincial Archaeology Office (PAO) is part of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation (TCR), Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. The PAO is the regulatory agency for all archaeology conducted on provincial land within the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The PAO are responsible for archaeological site management and protection; archaeological permitting; review of land use applications; development of policy and procedures; consultation with various groups having archaeological interests and education about archaeology. While it is not explicitly stated as a responsibility or a goal of the PAO, we have a role in assuring that the Province’s archaeology tourism product is accurate. While archaeology has always been a part of Tourism in this province, I think it plays a significant role.

The Tourism Research Division of the Department of TCR maintains statistics and information on tourism in the province. Looking at the number of visits to archaeological sites by tourists in 2013 will give you an idea of the significance of archaeology to tourism: Ferryland, 15,800 visitors; Cupids Plantation 3,400 visitors; L’anse aux Meadows, 21,900 visitors; Port au Choix 7,000 visitors; Red Bay 7,700 visitors; Boyd’s Cove 8,100 visitors and while they are not archaeology sites The Rooms received 74,900 visitors and Labrador Interpretation Centre received 2,000 visitors.

In addition the recent Non-Resident Exit Survey (2011) implemented by the Tourism Research Division indicated that 16%  of the non-resident travellers reported a visit to an archaeological site during their stay. It is estimated that between May and October 2011 approximately 25,100 travel parties or 55,900 non-residents visited an archaeology site.

These visitors are more likely than average to be in the province for vacation/pleasure purposes, to be from Western Canada or the United States and report a higher than average length of stay as well as higher in-province per party and per person expenditures. For a full profile of the characteristics of those non-residents visiting an archaeology site please see the Non-Resident Exit Survey (2011).

So, if a tourist came to me asking what are some of the main archaeology tourism destinations in the province, I would answer with the following list – which is my personal opinion. Let’s assume you’ll start out in St. John’s, where would I recommend you go first? Obviously in St. John’s you would need to start with The Rooms, the Museum division in particular if you want to see archaeological interpretation. They have displays and interpretation for just about every culture that can be seen through an archaeological site, starting with artifacts and interpretation of the earliest Aboriginal people, right down to the most recent European immigrants.

Leaving St. John’s I would recommend you go to Ferryland. The site is one of the best preserved 17th century sites in North America. It was first visited by migratory fisherman in the 1500s and early 1600s.  Interestingly, the archaeologists in charge at Ferryland have found Beothuk cultural material in the same level as the migratory fishermen and have interpreted that as the Beothuk coming to the site after the fishermen, likely to take advantage of left over European goods.

Small chert arrowpoints and a large chopper or blank, associated with Beothuk Indian hearths dating from the early 1500s found in Ferryland.

The main occupation of Ferryland by Europeans began in the 1620s when Sir George Calvert purchased land on the Avalon Peninsula to set up a colony. In 1621 Calvert’s colonists set off for Ferryland under the leadership of Governor Captain Edward Wynne. The colony was later taken over by the Kirke family. Interpretation of all this history can be found in the excellent interpretation centre in Ferryland.

Excavated mansion house at Ferryland (Gaulton).

Excavated mansion house at Ferryland (Gaulton).

Excavated 17th century waterfront at Ferryland (Rast).

Excavated 17th century waterfront at Ferryland (Rast).

Still on the Avalon Peninsula, I would recommend you go and see the newest Provincial Historic Site in the Province, Cupids. This site contains the remains of Canada’s first English colony dating back to 1610. As at Ferryland, Cupids has a first rate interpretation centre/museum and the dig is open in the summer months so you can get a guided tour. While the archaeological site at Cupids is not as large as at Ferryland, because the colony was smaller, it is no less impressive and is excellently preserved. In recent years they have been uncovering new features including the stone base of a defensive wall. They have recently added a ghost structure over the main colony area which depicts the shell of the main colony building. This adds an interesting dimension to the site because many people have trouble understanding or seeing how the features in the ground relate to former structures.

Excavation of part of the defensive wall around the Cupids colony (Gilbert).

Excavation of part of the defensive wall around the Cupids colony (Gilbert).

The ghost structure built over the main colony buildings at Cupids (Gilbert).

The ghost structure built over the main colony buildings at Cupids (Gilbert).

On the Bonavista Peninsula, the town of Trinity contains several sites which make up part of the Trinity Provincial Historic Sites. “Trinity’s merchants were some of the wealthiest men on either side of the ocean and they made this town a capital in the salt fish trade in the 1700s.” This rich past means that the archaeology in the area is just as rich; in the Trinity-Trinity East area there are more than 30 registered archaeological sites. Those sites include shipwrecks, fortifications, houses, merchant’s premises and even some precontact Aboriginal material.

Excavation of the Lester-Garland premises in 1993 (McAleese).

Excavation of the Lester-Garland premises in 1993 (McAleese).

Lester-Garland Premises today. The lighter colour bricks are part of the original walls of the structure and are visible in the 1993 photo.

Lester-Garland Premises today. The lighter colour bricks are part of the original walls of the structure and are visible in the 1993 photo.

Our next stop on our archaeological tour of the province will be the Provincial Historic Site of Boyd’s Cove which is about a 30 minute drive north of Gander. This site has a really nice interpretation centre/museum and a beautiful walking trail that will lead you to the site of a Beothuk village. Boyd’s Cove was occupied by Beothuk ancestors starting about 1000 years ago. The historic Beothuk occupation of the site falls within the 1650-1720 A.D. period. If you visit the site today you’ll see an open grassy field with a series of round or oval depressions – each one is a Beothuk house pit.

Boyd’s Cove in 2012 showing some of the Beothuk house pits.

Boyd’s Cove in 2012 showing some of the Beothuk house pits.

Leaving Boyd’s Cove, I would suggest you also visit Fleur de Lys which is a small town on the tip of the Baie Verte Peninsula. Along with being a beautiful little town, Fleur de Lys is home to a large and well-preserved Dorset Palaeoeskimo soapstone quarry; the only known Dorset quarry of its kind. For nearly 100 metres along a bedrock outcrop there are soapstone pot removal scars from when the Dorset carved blocks of soapstone from the exposure. These blocks were eventually turned into soapstone pots and lamps ~1600 years ago.

Excavation of the quarry face at Fleur de Lys.

Excavation of the quarry face at Fleur de Lys.

From the Baie Verte Peninsula we’ll next head up the Great Northern Peninsula to the National Historic Site at Port au Choix. Part of the significance of Port au Choix is that every precontact aboriginal group that ever existed in on the Island seems to have lived here at one time or another. The best example of that can be seen at Phillip’s Garden, a large open field just outside the community. The field contains one of the largest Dorset Palaeoeskimo dwelling sites known anywhere. The site was used by the Dorset more or less continually from 2000 to 1200 years ago. In 2013 Christina E. Robinson finished her Master’s thesis research in which, using three non-intrusive survey methods including magnetometry, she increased the number of potential dwelling structures at the site from 68 to 198.

Aerial shot of Phillips Garden. Trees are visible at the bottom of the photo forming a ring around the site, with a view of the ocean at the top of the photo.

Aerial shot of Phillip’s Garden. Trees are visible at the bottom of the photo forming a ring around the site, with a view of the ocean at the top of the photo. Yellow dots are excavated house pits, red dots are unexcavated house pits. This is the old interpretation of the size of the site (Renouf).

From Robinson 2013, showing the same view of Phillp's Garden with the trees to the south and the ocean view to the north and all the probable dwellings.

From Robinson 2013, showing the same view of Phillip’s Garden with the trees to the south and the ocean view to the north and all the probable dwellings.

From Port au Choix it is a short drive up the Peninsula to the next National Historic Site and UNESCO World Heritage site at L’Anse aux Meadows. This site contains the only authenticated remains of a Norse village in North America. Along with all the Norse artifacts the site contains the remains of several halls, several huts and a smelting hut.

Map of the Norse site.

Inset from a Parks Canada map of the Norse site.
A. Large Hall, B. House, C. Hut, D. Hall, E. Hut, F. Leader’s Hut, G. Hut, J. Smelting Hut.

Heading across the Strait of Belle Isle to Labrador, I would next recommend you visit Red Bay. Red Bay was identified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013 because of the 16th century Basque Whaling station located there. The Basques came to Red Bay in the early 1500s in late spring/early summer from Europe to hunt for whales. When the whales were caught they would be dragged up on shore and cut into big chunks and the whale fat would be melted down in huge copper pots which sat on top of ovens called tryworks. The oil would then be stored in barrels to be shipped back to Europe. The foundations of buildings and the tryworks used for their large cooking pots are excellently preserved in the ground in Red Bay. This was a huge business and involved hundreds of men and numerous large sailing ships. At the end of the season almost all the men would go back to Europe with their ships filled with barrels of whale oil which was used in various products and as fuel for lamps.

Reconstructed tryworks at Red Bay (Civilization.ca).

Reconstructed tryworks at Red Bay (Civilization.ca).

Some of those ships sank in Red Bay Harbour. At least one was excavated which is believed to be the San Juan because of the court documents in Europe which indicate that the San Juan wrecked in Red Bay Harbour in the 1565.

Model of the San Juan based on the timbers recoverd by archaeologists from the bottom of Red Bay Harbour. (http://yusefjournal.blogspot.ca/2010/06/red-bay-ship.html)

Model of the San Juan based on the timbers recovered by archaeologists from the bottom of Red Bay Harbour.
(http://yusefjournal.blogspot.ca/2010/06/red-bay-ship.html)

Last but not least I would recommend you visit the Labrador Interpretation Centre at North West River, Labrador. This is a quote directly from their webpage:

At the Labrador Interpretation Centre you’ll discover the founding peoples of Labrador – Innu, Inuit, Metis and Settlers. In the permanent exhibition The Past is Where We Come From, you’ll hear the voices and see works of art and artifacts from each of our cultures. You’ll also explore our ancient Aboriginal history and see how we live our lives today. The exhibition is presented in Inuktitut, Innu-aimun and English.

Labrador Interpretation Centre.

Labrador Interpretation Centre.

This list of places to visit is by no means exhaustive. Many communities throughout the Province such as Norris Arm, Cow Head and L’Anse au Clair, for example, have their own museums/interpretation centres that interpret local archaeology. I would encourage you to visit as many as you can to learn as much as you can about the history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

References

Robinson, Christina E. 2014 What Lies Beneath?: Three Non-intrusive Archaeological Surveys to Identify Dorset Palaeoeskimo Dwellings at Phillip’s Garden, Port au Choix, Newfoundland.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 94 other followers