Beyond Indian Point: History and Archaeology of the Northeast Arm of Red Indian Lake, Part 4

This final post dealing with the history and archaeology of Red Indian Lake will deal with the archaeology sites that have been found based on the historic documentation discussed in the previous post.

The Archaeology of the northeast arm
The archaeology of Red Indian Lake I or Indian Point was already covered in two previous blog posts, here and here. Unfortunately the knowledge we have gathered through archaeology for the rest of the northeast arm is even more limited than that of Indian Point. Once again this lack of knowledge is because of the industrialization of the lake which has altered it’s topography and destroyed some of the sites in the process. The area (outside of Indian Point) has also suffered from a lack of formal archaeology conducted on those sites.

Despite this, artifacts have been recovered, mainly along the eastern shore, but also at one location on the western shore. Again, as with Indian Point, their discoverer was Don Locke, the avocational archaeologist from Grand Falls. The following is what we know of the four sites discovered by Locke.

 Don Locke sketch.
Don Locke sketch of sites found on the northeast arm.

Red Indian Lake II (DeBd-02)
Red Indian Lake II and Site “A” Indian Point are two names given to this site by Don Locke. Its official name in the Provincial Archaeology Office database is the Three Wigwam site, so named by Callum Thomson and Don Locke in 1987.

Mr. Locke stated that on a field trip in 1968 further east of Indian Point he came across a tractor route to the lake from which he collected large quantities of caribou bone, a clay pipe stem, a stone scraper and a few parts of a large trap from the surface. On the beach he collected trap parts. He also dug two test pits in the area of the track. In the first he found part of a hearth, fire-cracked rocks, and pockets of charcoal, a folded tin bowl and a stone arrowhead. In the second test pit he uncovered a metal button and large fragments of well-preserved caribou bones. His book Beothuk Artifacts illustrates two iron axes from this site. He stated that the site had been disturbed by logging activities and concluded that this site was a small outpost of the main Indian Point site. On an early edition topographic map of the area Locke located this site at about 1km northeast of Indian Point. This would place it in the general area of a brook locally named One Mile Brook. However, Locke makes no mention of a brook in his short report on the site.

Axe head recovered from DeBd-02 by Locke.
Axe head recovered from Red Indian Lake II (DeBd-02) by Locke.
Button recovered from DeBd-02 by Locke.
Button recovered from Red Indian Lake II (DeBd-02) by Locke.

In 1981 during Jane Sproull Thomson’s field season at Indian Point she searched for Red Indian Lake II. It was relocated when crew members surveying the shoreline east of Indian Point found fire-cracked rock and charcoal in one test pit, burnt bone and a small core fragment of opaque grey chert in a second. Later a 1m² unit was tried in an area full of caribou bone seen at the surface. The bone extended to a depth of 11cm, and fire-cracked rock, burnt bone, some charcoal and one glass fragment were recorded. When Don Locke visited this dig he confirmed that they had found his Red Indian Lake II site and he also showed them the location of his Red Indian Lake III (to be discussed below). Sproull Thomson estimated that Red Indian Lake II was located 500 metres northeast of Indian Point.

JST DeBd-02 test sq. showing depth of caribou bone
Jane Sproull Thomson test unit at DeBd-02 test unit showing caribou bone scatter (Sproull Thomson).

In 2011 Gerald Penney undertook an historic resources impact assessment on a large-sized multi-cabin development project whose western boundary was approximately 900 metres east of Indian Point. A field investigation of the project area was undertaken because the possibility existed that Red Indian Lake II, as well as other sites, including the three wigwam site as shown in Shawnadithit’s sketches 1 and 3 (see the previous post), may have been in the cabin development boundaries. However, no historic resources were found. Penney surmised that DeBd-02, Red Indian Lake II, lay just outside the project area to the southwest. In respect to Shawnadithit’s three wigwam site where Beothuk were surprised by Buchan in 1811 it was either at the northeast extremity of the project area and now destroyed by rising lake levels or just outside the project area nearer to Millertown.

An earlier survey from Indian Point to Millertown in 1980 conducted by Jane Sproull Thomson, Callum Thomson and Dr. Ralph Pastore also failed to locate any historic resources relating to Red Indian Lake II.

Red Indian Lake III (DeBd-03)

Don Locke sketch of Red Indian Lake III.
Don Locke sketch of Red Indian Lake III.

This site was found by Locke in 1974 during a low water event. It was rediscovered in 1981 by Alfred and Ingeborg Marshall during a visit to the Sproull Thomson excavations at Indian Point. Their survey, which took in most of the eastern shoreline towards Millertown, located Locke’s Red Indian Lake III about halfway between Indian Point and Red Indian Lake II. They concluded that the site was partly destroyed through the collapsing of the bank. However, some caribou bone and a piece of iron material were found, probably in situ at the site’s eastern portion. Sproull Thomson shows this site, as well as Red Indian Lake II, on a sketch in her field notebook. The site is labeled “Kill’ site due to the amount of caribou bone uncovered in a test pit dug by the Marshalls.

Erosion of the bank at Red Indian Lake III.
Erosion of the bank at Red Indian Lake III.
Iron deer spear recovered from Red Indian Lake III.
Iron deer spear recovered from Red Indian Lake III (DeBd-03) by Locke.
Iron artifacts recovered from Red Indian Lake III.
Iron artifacts recovered from Red Indian Lake III (DeBd-03) by Locke.

In 1987 Don Locke revisited the lake with Callum Thomson and showed him Red Indian Lake III, which they renamed June’s Cove. As we have seen earlier (in the previous post) John Cartwright’s maps place June’s Cove at the head of the northeast arm at present day Millertown. So why did Thomson and Locke think that the site Locke had found was Cartwright’s June’s Cove? In the opening of Locke’s report on Indian Point (Red Indian Lake I) and Red Indian Lake II he writes “John Cartwright’s report on his trip to Red Indian Lake was some help to me in locating the Indian Point site“.

Looking at Red Indian Lake III (right side of photo) from Indian Point showing erosion of the shoreline (Thomson).
Looking at Red Indian Lake III (right side of photo) from Indian Point showing erosion of the shoreline (Thomson).

The following paragraph from Cartwright’s journal most likely convinced them of its location.

The morning following, having left another man behind to mend his shoes, the rest of us, being only five of the original fourteen went to view the lake; and walked about halfway to the bottom of June’s Cove which was found to answer the description of such a place given by the Indian boy June, where he said his father dwelt. By his account it was the residence also of a great part of his tribe which might have been very true for, reaching about a quarter of a mile within the beach, that was cleared of timber, and covered with old marks of an Indian settlement, now gone entirely to decay, and almost hid with young woods and high weeds which flourish here in great luxuriance, the soil being fruitful. From the circumstances of its large extent; being well filled with habitations; being cleared of wood and thrown open to the north west winds, as if for air and coolness; I should be inclined to think that it might have been a settlement for all seasons; the studded houses making it sufficiently warm in winter, without the shelter of the woods, could a method be assigned whereby the Indians might be able to procure their summers subsistence in such a place. But that appears improbable except that the lake abounds in fish and fowl; the latter of which from appearances must I believe be very scarce.”

Obviously then time didn’t allow Cartwright to walk to the bottom of the northeast arm, as he stated that they left the lake around noon and started their trek back down the river to the coast. If he had explored more of the lake shore he would have reached Mary March Point and would have drawn the brook entering the lake on the north side, not the south. We hypothesize that June’s Cove was the area formed by Indian Point jutting out into the lake and running to the bottom of the arm. Indian Point is nearly halfway between the outflow of the Exploits and Millertown where the lake ended until 1925. This is the distance Cartwright said he traveled. So we believe that Locke and Thomson were correct when they concluded that the area visited by Cartwright in 1768 was the same location that contained the archaeological sites Indian Point (DeBd-01), June’s Cove (DeBd-03) and likely the Three Wigwam site (DeBd-04).

Six photos stitched together showing Indian Point in 1985 after the leveling of the site in 1982. This photo is taken from the same general area as the Sproull-Thomson photo in 1981. Completely gone are the small bushes, trees and small hills on the right side that held Devereux's various site localities (Thomson 1985).
Six photos stitched together showing Indian Point (on the right) and Red Indian Lake III (June’s Cove, on the left) in 1985. The two sites are currently separated by the dirt road but essentially they were one large site (Thomson 1985).

Sketches drawn by Mr. Locke place this site in the cove formed by the sand spit that is Indian Point. Basically, as shown by Locke, June’s Cove and Indian Point was one continuous site (see sketches above). Though in his publication, Beothuk Artifacts, Locke shows Red Indian Lake III a short distance past Indian Point.

While Locke never wrote about Red Indian Lake III others did. In 1987 after visiting the site with Locke, Thomson wrote the following in a memo.

At the east end of the site, i.e. between Indian Point and Millertown there used to be a massive extension of the habitation area. This used to be a shallow bay known as June’s Cove, and was occupied during Buchans’ visit in 1811 (Thomson field sketches show June’s Cove at the same location as Locke’s). Locke showed me several areas of firecracked rocks and artifact deposits where wigwams or outdoor hearths were situated, and pointed out where other housepits had been on a now-eroded bank. There remains great potential in June’s Cove for future excavation. Although lake action has moved much of the surface material about there will probably be in situ deposits below the surface. A small crew of 4-6 people could map this 1-2 hectare area out with surveying instruments, pinpoint activity areas, and excavate the remains over the course of a summer if the water level remains low next year. The site may produce as much information again as we now have from this most significant area. Apart from Beothuk material Locke has also obtained prehistoric Little Passage and Beaches, Micmac and European artifacts from the surface of the site.

William Gilbert who reevaluated the material culture found on Recent Indian sites in the Exploits River-Red Indian Lake area stated “The surprising thing about June’s Cove is the large amount of historic material recovered from the site. A total of 281 artifacts of European manufacture were recovered from June’s Cove (McLean 1990) compared to 31 from Indian Point. Clearly, of the two sites, June’s Cove contains the more substantial late historic Beothuk occupation.” The reference to McLean refers to the cataloging of Don Locke’s artifact collection done by Mr. McLean and evaluated in a subsequent paper by Mr. Gilbert.

From Locke’s Red Indian Lake II (DeBd-2) to Millertown no further artifacts or sites have been found.

Don Locke sketch.
Don Locke sketch.

Red Indian Lake North (DeBd-04)
This is the final site on the lake that has conclusive evidence of past Amerindian use. Again it was found by Don Locke during a low water episode. Several archaeologists have searched for this site since Locke’s initial discovery with no luck. Locke told Sproull Thomson in 1981 that the site had been between 90 to 125 metres east of Warford’s Brook but was now eroded and drowned by the lake (see Locke sketch above). This would have placed the site very near Mary March Point at the end of the arm. Locke collected five iron artifacts and two stone artifacts indicating that the site was both precontact and historic in nature.

Iron axe head recovered from Red Indian Lake North.
Iron axe head recovered from Red Indian Lake North.

Several surveys, starting with Sproull Thomson in 1981 (see also McLean 2013 and McAleese 2013-2014), involved searching the northern shoreline of the northeast arm from Warford’s Brook to Miller’s Point without success. This is likely due to the flooding of the lake in 1925 when the sites shown on Shawnadithit’s sketches, including Demasduit’s and Nonosabasut’s campsite and burial ground, were drowned. Whatever sites were on Mary March Point, Red Indian Lake North and much of what has been discovered on the south of the lake has suffered the same fate. However, we do now have a better understanding of the importance of the shoreline around Indian Point. It seems conclusive that this area was the location of June’s Cove and a strong case could be made that its shoreline also contained the three wigwams shown in Shawnadithit’s sketches as well.


References
Gilbert, William

1996 The Recent Indian Occupation of the Exploits River/Red Indian Lake Region: A Reevaluation of the Archaeological Evidence.

Howley, James P.
1980 The Beothuk or Red Indians.

Locke, Donald
1974 Beothuk Artifacts.
1975 Historic And Prehistoric Site Indian Point Site #1.

Marshall, Alfred and Ingeborg
1981 Report on a survey of part of the shore of Red Indian Lake.

Marshall, Ingeborg
1997 A History and Ethnography of the Beothuk.

McAleese, Kevin
2013 Red Indian Lake Survey – Final Report.
2014 Preliminary Report DeBd-07 Andersen Point.

McLean, Laurie
1990 Inventory of Artifacts, Obtained By Newfoundland Museum From Don Locke Jr.
2013 An Archaeological Survey of the Northeast Shore of Red Indian Lake, Newfoundland.

Penney, Gerald
2010 Red Indian Lake Cabin Development Historic Resources Impact Assessment.

Sproull Thomson, Jane
1980 Red Indian Lake – Indian Point Survey – June 20-21, 1980.
1981 Field Notes.
1981 Investigations at Red Indian Lake.

Thomson, Callum
1987 Field Notes from First Locke Survey October 1987.
1987 Memo: Archaeological Survey of Red Indian Lake and Exploits River with D. Locke 1987 10 27-29.

Beyond Indian Point: History and Archaeology of the Northeast Arm of Red Indian Lake, Part 3

In the previous two posts (part 1 is here and part 2 is here) we looked at Indian Point on Red Indian Lake. This time we turn our attention to other sites and historic occurrences at various other locations on the northeast arm of Red Indian Lake. This post was written by a colleague who is much more familiar with the history and archaeology of this area than I am.

Historically, the northeast arm was a narrow, linear stretch of the lake beginning at the outflow of the Exploits River which, prior to flooding in 1925, extended to the northeastward for approximately 6.5km; its pre-flood width is difficult to estimate. The lake ended at the inflow of Mary March Brook, now the location of Millertown. The north shore of the arm extended from this locale to what is today known as Miller’s Point, which lies directly across from the mouth of the Exploits. First in 1900 and again in 1925 dams were constructed across the outflow of the Exploits River. Pictures of Millertown prior to 1925 show little change in the water level of the lake. However, once the 1925 dam was constructed the lake’s shoreline changed dramatically. In fact the entire town of Millertown had to be moved from the shoreline and along Mary March Point to a much higher location on the shoreline.

Millertown in 1900-1901 prior to heavy flooding. On the left foreground is the stack associated with the lumber mill, the point of land beyond that is likely Indian Point. The houses extend well out into the lake and were built on Mary March Point. All of the buildings had to be moved up the shoreline above the mill prior to flooding in 1925. (virtualmuseum.ca)
Millertown in 1900-1901 prior to heavy flooding. On the left foreground is the stack associated with the lumber mill, the point of land beyond that is likely Indian Point. The houses extend well out into the lake and were built on Mary March Point. All of the buildings had to be moved up the shoreline above the mill prior to flooding in 1925 (virtualmuseum.ca).
Looking in the opposite direction from the previous photo. Showing Mary March Point covered in houses, the photo show just how narrow the lake was historically.
Looking in the opposite direction from the previous photo. Showing Mary March Point covered in houses, the photo show just how narrow the lake was historically (virtualmuseum.ca).
1901.5
Looking at the lumber mill with Mary March Point directly behind the photographer. All of the buildings along the shoreline shown in the previous photos were move higher on the shoreline, likely to near the level of the white building on the left of this photo. Looking down Red Indian Lake, the point of land in the background is likely Indian Point (virtualmuseum.ca).
Water wheel from the lumber mill shown at low water in 2005.
Water wheel from the lumber mill shown at low water in 2005. Notice how far back from the water all the houses are located (virtualmuseum.ca).

The English History of the Northeast Arm from 1768 to 1820
Historic documentation derived from various sources including Lieutenant John Cartwright’s expedition up the Exploits River to the lake in 1768, Lieutenant, then Captain, David Buchan’s two expeditions in the 19th century and John Peyton Junior’s ill-fated 1819 trip demonstrate the Beothuk use of the arm. Their documents, along with some of Shanawdithit’s sketches of the northeast arm, shed some light on the importance of this locale to the Beothuk.

John Cartwright’s Visit in 1768
As far as we know the first European visitor to the lake was John Cartwright. He set off from the mouth of the Exploits River in August of 1768 with 14 companions to ascertain the feasibility of traveling overland from the east coast of the island to the west coast via the Exploits River and Red Indian Lake. Cartwright also wanted to acquire a better understanding of the Beothuk and, if possible, meet with them with the intention of establishing friendly relations.

On the evening of the sixth day of travel Cartwright reached the lake, which he named Lieutenant’s Lake after his rank. At that time he recorded two points of land which he named Tacamahacca Point, after the Balsam Popular which was growing there, and Sabbath Point. Their locations are shown on a second sketch that Cartwright submitted in 1773 (see below), reproduced in Marshall 1996 A History and Ethnography of the Beothuk. The first sketch drawn for his report in 1768 also the names these points, but the actual points are not shown. The 1768 sketch was reproduced in Howley’s Beothuk or Red Indians.

Tacamahacca Point was located on the east side of the outflow of the Exploits, while Sabbath Point was a couple of hundred metres further to the east. The image below shows what remains of the two points today and the small cove that they created. Cartwright recorded at least two conical wigwams at Tacamahacca Point and a rectangular house at Sabbath Point. Unfortunately these structures are probably long gone due to the industrial activity along the lake’s shoreline.

Showing Tacamahacca Point and Sabbath Point as they appear today.
Showing Tacamahacca Point and Sabbath Point as they appear today.

Cartwright’s main task during the half day that he was on the lake was to discover the location of the settlement where the Beothuk captive, Tom June, had told Cartwright his father dwelt. Cartwright shows this location on both sketches. The 1768 map shows June’s Cove on the south side of the northeast arm situated at the bottom of a small cove with a view up the lake to the west. The 1773 sketch also places June’s Cove at the bottom of the arm. However, he shows the brook (now called Mary March Brook) entering the lake on the south shore instead of the northeast end of the lake, which would indicate either that the mouth of the brook migrated northward from 1768 or Cartwright never reached the end of the arm and drew it based on what Tom June had told him. Neither of his sketches shows Indian Point nor do they show Mary March Point. Cartwright’s maps only show the northeast arm of the lake because he did not explore the rest of the lake and while he was there the lake was heavily shrouded in fog making it impossible to see the southwest end of the lake.

Cartwrights sketch showing Point and Sabbath Point, June's Cove and what we believe is meant to be Mary March Brook.
Cartwrights 1773 sketch showing Tacamahacca Point and Sabbath Point, June’s Cove and what we believe is meant to be Mary March Brook.

David Buchan’s First Visit in 1811
Lieutenant David Buchan, accompanied by 23 men and one boy from the HMS Adonis and three furriers working as guides traveled up the Exploits River in January of 1811 to attempt to open communication with the Beothuk. After 11 days of travel he and some of his crew surprised a group of Beothuk living in three wigwams (mamateeks) on the south shore of the northeast arm. Unfortunately neither Buchan’s narrative nor his plan of the lake (shown in Marshall, 1996) contains much geographical information on the location of this small village other than it was on the south shore and not far from the outlet of the Exploits River. His 1811 plan doesn’t show the end of the northeast arm. Buchan did state that two of the wigwams were found close together while the third was about a hundred yards away. What we do know is that the three wigwams could be seen from the lake and that they were only a short distance inland from the beach on top of a bank overlooking the lake. The Three Wigwam site is mentioned again later by Buchan and sketched by Shanawdithit (See sketch 2 below). Buchan also mentions an old wigwam across the lake from where he found the Beothuk.

The Peyton Visit in 1819 and The Kidnapping of Demasduit
The third expedition to the lake was carried out by the settler John Peyton Jr., his father and eight of his servants, of which at least one, Thomas Taylor, had accompanied Buchan in 1811. With the permission of Governor Hamilton, they traveled to the lake in an attempt to regain their goods that had been stolen by the Beothuk and if possible capture one of them. Unlike the two previous trips to the lake, Peyton and his men left the Exploits River well below its outfall into Red Indian Lake and instead took an overland route to the lake. Peyton told James Howley during an interview in 1871 that he had surmised that this route would take him near the head of the northeast arm where he believed the Beothuk were camped.

At this time Demasduit was captured and her husband Nonosabasut was killed . Their baby died a few days later (Shanawdithit later claimed that Nonosabasut’s brother was killed as well). Shanawdithit’s sketches show these events, sketch 2 in particular (See below).

Little is known about the whereabouts of this camp site other than it was on the north side of the lake and nearly directly across from the three wigwams which Buchan captured in 1811.

Buchan’s Second Trip 1820
After only 10 months living among the English, Demasduit died in January of 1820. This led Captain David Buchan and 49 men, including John Peyton Jr. and some of his servants, to once again journey up the Exploits River to Red Indian Lake (which Buchan named Lake Bathurst) to return Demasduit’s corpse to the camp site where she had been captured by Peyton the year before.

Upon reaching the lake Buchan described seeing the frames of two wigwams while the third had been converted by the Beothuk into a burial hut containing Nonosabasut’s body. Buchan described the two wigwam frames and burial hut as being “…situated on the North-West side four or five miles from the North-Eastern extremity of the pond by which Mr. Peyton formerly entered and nearly opposite to where I found the natives” (Howley pg. 124). Buchan’s statement that the hut was four to five miles from the end of the pond is clearly an overestimation as the length of the northeast arm in Buchan’s day was slightly more than four miles.

The 1820 expedition supplied a superior map of the lake, including landmarks, to that of the 1811 expedition. From the reproduction in Marshall’s 1996 A History and Ethnography of the Beothuk the northeast arm is fairly well shown with certain geographical features evident. Buchan’s 1811 Lookout Point located at the eastern side of the outfall of the Exploits River is likely Cartwright’s Sabbath Point. Further to the northeast Indian Point can be identified but the name given to this point by Buchan is indecipherable. From here a dotted line crosses the arm to the northeast to the location of the 1819 Beothuk encampment. Back on the south side and further eastward of Indian Point, Buchan shows the location of the three Beothuk wigwams surprised in 1811. They are nearly opposite the 1819 camp site. Slightly past the Three Wigwam site the map shows a cove a little west of the end of the lake. This cove no longer exists though it is possible that its location can still be inferred (see air photo below). Buchan named the brook running into the lake at the northeast end Indian Brook. One of the things we can confirm based on Buchan’s map is that the Three Wigwam site was located between Indian Point and the above mentioned cove.

Aerial image of the northeast arm of Red Indian Lake (Bing).
Aerial image of the northeast arm of Red Indian Lake (Bing).

On the north side of the lake west of Indian Brook, Warford’s Brook can be clearly seen, followed by a point and a slight cove where Demasduit’s camp and burial site were located. Further westward was another small point, which along with the previous mentioned point, formed the cove where the Beothuk had wintered. This point is likely Anderson’s Point. The last landmark in the northeast arm is Miller’s Point directly opposite the outflow of the Exploits. According to Buchan’s map Demasduit’s and Nonosabasut’s 1819 camp site was in the eastern edge of a cove just slightly west of Warford’s Brook. See the see air photo above for a possible location for this camp ground.

Captain Buchan's 1820 map from Marshall 1996.
Captain Buchan’s 1820 map from Marshall 1996.

Shanawdithit’s Sketches relating to Red Indian Lake
Shanawdithit, the last known Beothuk drew three sketches of the lake which recorded her perspective of the expeditions mentioned above.

Sketch #1
This sketch deals exclusively with Buchan’s expedition of 1811. On the east side of the lake at the outflow of the Exploits River, Shanawdithit shows both points named by Cartwright, Tacamahacca and Sabbath Point. Further to the east she has drawn Indian Point and between it and Mary March Point she shows the three wigwams captured by Buchan. Shanawdithit was living in the most westerly of these structures. Nearly directly across the lake and to the west of Warford’s Brook, Demasduit’s cemetery is shown.

Shanawdithit sketch 1 (Howley 1915)
Shanawdithit sketch 1 (Howley 1915)

Sketch #2
This sketch deals with the events of 1811 and 1819. Again Indian Point is clearly shown as are the three wigwams captured in 1811 by Buchan. The three wigwams on the north shore of the lake are also shown, these became the burial huts for Nonosabasut and Demasduit, however in this sketch they are shown more to the westward than in sketch #1 and they align more with the cove and shoreline directly east of Indian Point.

Shanawdithit sketch 2 (Howley 1915)
Shanawdithit sketch 2 (Howley 1915)

Sketch #3
Shanawdithit’s final drawing of the lake shows much of Red Indian Lake. It details Buchan’s 1820 expedition to return Demasduit’s body and his subsequent exploration of the lake. In this sketch Shanawdithit shows three wigwams located at the outflow of the river, likely at Cartwright’s Tacamahacca Point. Further east at Indian Point, she drew one wigwam at the base of the cove formed by the point and nearly directly across to the northeast she shows Nonosabasut and Demasduit’s cemetery. The wigwam at Indian Point is the first drawn at this location. Shanawdithit drew a line from this house to the west end of the lake. This was the site of the encampment of all the tribe after being discovered by Buchan in 1811. This line leads to the conjecture that the location of Shanawdithit’s wigwam, the most westerly of the three, was situated somewhere in the cove formed by Indian Point and not further to the east as shown in her previous two sketches.

Shanawdithit sketch 3 (Howley 1915)
Shanawdithit sketch 3 (Howley 1915)

In the next blog post we’ll explain how all this documentation has been used to record several archaeology sites in the northeast arm.


References

Howley, James P.
1980 The Beothuk or Red Indians.

Marshall, Ingeborg
1997 A History and Ethnography of the Beothuk.

Archaeology and the Beothuk at Indian Point, Red Indian Lake: Part 2

This post is part two of ‘Archaeology and the Beothuk at Indian Point, Red Indian Lake’ continued from two weeks ago. The previous post can be seen here.

In 1980 the Historic Resources Division, Department of Culture, Recreation and Youth began a multi-year project simply entitled the Beothuk Project. The purpose of the early phase of the project was to locate, test, delimit and document Beothuk (and other) archaeological sites. To my knowledge, other than issuing permits to previous archaeologists who worked at Indian Point, this is the first time the Provincial Government is directly involved with Indian Point.

As part of the Beothuk Project, Jane Sproull-Thomson directed an investigation of Indian Point in 1980 and 1981. In 1980 her intention was to ‘…assess recent damage to the site by both human and natural agencies, and to estimate the potential for future archaeological excavation‘ (Sproull-Thomson 1980). Over the course of two days Sproull-Thomson and her crew excavated five one metre square units and completed a new survey map of the site.

Like Marshall, Sproull-Thomson noted a lot of ongoing erosion and destruction of the site. ‘Erosion has removed part of the bank on the northern side of the site, Marshall’s camp area (the sand beach) is partly underwater and forms in part a sandbar, the road is washed away at the point by the pond and the low point is under approximately 20 cm. of water. As well, the bulldozed section of the site seems to have been expanded.’ Her plan for the two days of work was to ‘…locate the cultural areas of the site reported by Locke and Devereux, and to identify Devereux’s excavations.’ To her surprise she found a lot of surface material which to her suggested intact levels below. She was able to test Devereux’s A4 locality and found an intact hearth in the area with burned bone and precontact artifacts. Testing in Devereux’s A3 south locality revealed intact occupation levels and precontact artifacts. She also thought she had located a midden ~18 metres SW of Devereux’s B5 locality. She concluded her report stating ‘The Indian Point Site, although severely damaged by logging and related activity, artifact hunting and erosion, still contains significant archaeological material of probably contact period Beothuck origin. In view of this, it remains a highly important site and one which may offer considerable insight into the Beothuck problem‘ (Sproull-Thomson 1980).

Sproull-Thomson returned to the site July 1 – July 18, 1981 with the intention of assessing the potential of the site then excavate it. She opened eight one metre squares; the sole diagnostic artifact recovered was a corner-notched projectile point. Despite this, she did make some interesting observations. To her it seemed the portions of the site nearest the water appear to be mostly precontact, and those farthest back in the woods were historic Beothuk. She speculated that this was a reasonable expectation considering most Beothuk people wanted to remain hidden from Europeans (Sproull-Thomson 1981).

Despite finding few precontact artifacts she did locate a new historic housepit south of Devereux’s B5 locality. The housepit had a distinct circular hearth and a possible sleeping hollow. Charcoal collected from the hearth produced a date of 150±70 B.P. (Beta-3677). Test excavations through the hearth and wall comprising four one metre squares yielded two artifacts, an iron pot fragment and a nail (Sproull-Thomson 1981).

Testing of new housepit. Wall of the housepit can be seen in the photo (Sproull-Thomson).
Testing of new housepit. Wall of the housepit can be seen in the photo (Sproull-Thomson).

One of the concluding paragraphs of her reports states the following: ‘Our conversations with concerned people and an illustrated talk given in Millertown led the Red Indian Lake Development Association to seek help from Historic Resources in applying for a federal grant to begin development of the Indian Point site as an interpretive park. At this writing, funds have been awarded and work has begun on cleanup of the site and repairs to the access road. It will be an enormous satisfaction to see this aboriginal settlement take its rightful place in the Province’s history(Sproull-Thomson 1981).

View to the SW in 1981. The main areas of Devereux's work localities A3, A3 South, A4 and B4 were located to the right in the photo among the trees and bushes on the small hills. Marshall had camped on the opposite side of those bushes in 1978 on the exposed lake side of the point (Sproull-Thomson 1981)
View to the SW in 1981. The main areas of Devereux’s work, localities A3, A3 South, A4 and B4 were located to the right in the photo among the trees and bushes on the small hills. Marshall had camped on the opposite side of those bushes in 1978 on the exposed lake side of the point (Sproull-Thomson 1981).
Jane Sproull-Thomson's map of Indian Point showing, Locke's features and Devereux's features. The previous photo was take with the photographers back to the cove looking down the site to the SW. (Sproull-Thomson 1981)
Jane Sproull-Thomson’s map of Indian Point showing Locke’s features and Devereux’s features. The previous photo was taken with the photographers back to the cove looking down the site to the SW (Sproull-Thomson 1981).

From this point on, no more in depth archaeological work occurs at Indian Point and the site has periodic visits by various archaeologists. In 1982 Callum Thomson conducted an archaeological survey from Red Indian Lake to Grand Falls along the Exploits River from May 29 to June 19. Before they started the survey they stopped at Indian Point where the Red Indian Lake Development Association was preparing the site for its future use as a park and interpretation centre. Thomson noted, in particular, that ‘We were relieved to note that the few intact parts of the historic and prehistoric site had not been endangered in the clean-up process.‘ On June 19th they returned to Indian Point, ‘Here we were devastated by the new appearance of the Indian Point site. One or more members of the Red Indian Lake Development Association had authorized bulldozer stripping and leveling of parts of the remaining cultural deposits, resulting in the partial destruction of habitation structures, middens, hearths and the scattering of artifacts, animal bones and charcoal, with a consequent loss of archaeological context and information. This grossly negligent act underlines the absolute necessity for developments of this kind to be approached slowly and carefully, under the constant supervision of a professional archaeologist. While ultimate responsibility for this type of destruction is accepted by the Historic Resources Division, which approved the original plans, it will continue until more staff and resources are made available for the immense volume of work generated by the Historic Sites and Objects Act‘ (Thomson 1982).

Six photos stitched together showing Indian Point in 1985 after the leveling of the site in 1982. This photo is taken from the same general area as the Sproull-Thomson photo in 1981. Completely gone are the small bushes, trees and small hills on the right side that held Devereux's various site localities (Thomson 1985).
Six photos stitched together showing Indian Point in 1985 after the leveling of the site in 1982. This photo is taken from the same general area as the Sproull-Thomson photo in 1981. Completely gone are the small bushes, trees and small hills on the right side of the photo that held Devereux’s various site localities (Thomson 1985).

Callum Thomson and Don Locke conducted another survey of Red Indian Lake and Exploits River in 1987 to inspect several archaeological sites that were known to Locke. Once again they started at Indian Point noting the location of disturbed and eroded habitation areas. Despite this Thomson notes ‘There are still, however, several known areas of intact deposits and probably some unknown areas.‘ He does not state where these areas are located. They also inspected the area east of the main site at Indian Point which Locke had found in the 1960s. More archaeological material was found here. In fact it appears as though Indian Point would have extended over most of the point and well into the cove to the east. Unfortunately, most of this portion of the site has eroded (Thomson 1987).

Cove to the east of Indian Point (right side of photo) showing erosion of the shoreline (Thomson).
Cove to the east of Indian Point (right side of photo) showing erosion of the shoreline (Thomson).

In 1992 Fred Schwarz conducted a major archaeological survey of the Exploits Basin from where the Exploits River empties into the Bay of Exploits back to Red Indian Lake. While he did visit the site he did no actual work there (Schwarz 1992).

Charles Burke, representing Parks Canada’s Atlantic Service Centre, visited Indian Point in 2002 in order to assess the extent of purported damage to the site. Parks had learned that a parking area had been constructed in the area of Helen Devereaux’s excavations, essentially bisecting the site. Burke also observed damage due to shoreline erosion.

In 2009 archaeologist Laurie McLean was hired to conduct an impact assessment at Indian Point for the installation of a Hydro-Meteorological (Hydromet) Station. A total of 27 test pits were dug where the station was to be installed and three more were dug in a line on the beach, following the route for a buried cable which was to run from the station to Red Indian Lake. The test pits on the beach were sterile while five of the 27 test pits dug on the level terrace above the beach contained badly waterworn stone artifacts.

Finally, Provincial Archaeology Office (PAO) staff has made several visits to Indian Point over the years. Mostly these were brief visits to check on the site’s condition. In 2012 PAO staff made a visit to the site while in the area on other business. While we did not find in situ remains, we did find plenty of fire-cracked rock on the surface and reason to believe the site may yet have in situ deposits.

Fire-cracked rock seen at Indian Point in 2012.
Fire-cracked rock seen at Indian Point in 2012.

There is also a local group called the Red Indian Lake Heritage Society who try to monitor the site. In 2009 they had a series of interpretive panels installed on the point (the PAO tested the location of the panels prior to their installation). The panels tell the story of the Beothuk who inhabited the Red Indian Lake region. The society did such a good job with the panels that they were awarded the Manning Award by the Historic Sites Association in both the National Category and the Overall Winner for 2011.

Interpretive panel at Indian Point.
Interpretive panel at Indian Point.

In the end what have we learned from Indian Point?  In the very least we learned that the site was used in the precontact period and the historic period by both the Beothuk and their precontact ancestors. While living at the site in mamateeks (or wigwams) they had been processing caribou and making tools from stone and iron. It also appears that they may have been applying ochre to a canoe. These are all good things to know, however, Indian Point has much more to teach us. To paraphrase an archaeologist who helped me with the post, the history of this site is nearly allegorical, symbolizing all over again the end of the Beothuk, and, once again, our helplessness in the face of forces that no one could control (1829 all over again). What can we take away from the story of Indian Point? Is there a lesson-learned component to it? Has it led to any particular action by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador? These are open questions that we can all try to answer. I know the Provincial Archaeology Office (PAO) now consists  of four people who collectively have more than 100 years of archaeology experience, this places the PAO much farther ahead of the Culture and Heritage Division in 1982 when Callum Thomson was asking for more staff. I know since 2003 the PAO has reviewed more than 1500 Land Use Referrals per year, in the last four years that number has risen to more 2500 per year on average. So a land use referral for something like an interpretive park, such as was proposed for Indian Point in 1980, would be closely scrutinized by PAO staff. I also know that when a development, such as an interpretive park, is proposed in an area with archaeological potential or a known archaeological site the PAO will implement mitigative measures whether it be require an archaeological assessment, monitor construction, require buffers, etc. While these improvements are not a direct result of Indian Point, hopefully they will prevent another Indian Point.

Have we learned the lessons of Indian Point? I hope so.


McLean, Laurie
2009 Preliminary Report for Permit 09.48 a Stage 1 HRIA at Indian Point, Red Indian Lake.

Schwarz, Fred
1992 Archaeological Investigations in the Exploits Basin: Report on the 1992 Field Survey.

Sproull-Thomson, Jane
1980  Red Indian Lake ‑ Indian Point Site Survey ‑ June 20‑21, 1980.

1982  Investigations at Red Indian Lake. Archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador 1981, Annual Report No. 2. Edited by Thomson, J.S. and C. Thomson; Historic Resources Division, Government of Newfoundland, pp 174-189.

Thomson, Callum
1982  An Archaeological Survey of the Exploits River from Red Indian Lake to Grand Falls   May 29- June 19, 1982.

1987  Archaeological survey of Red Indian Lake and Exploits River with D. Locke 1987 10 27-29.

Archaeology and the Beothuk at Indian Point, Red Indian Lake: Part 1

The history of Red Indian Lake is intimately tied to the aboriginal occupation of the Island of Newfoundland. Based on artifacts recovered we know the site was used by Archaic, Palaeoeskimo and Recent Indian period peoples. As well, there is plenty of evidence for Beothuk and Mi’kmaq use of the lake in the historic period. Evidence for most, if not all of these peoples was found at or near Indian Point on the northeast arm of the lake, just southwest of the town of Millertown. In fact the Beothuk occupation was thought to be so significant that in 1978 the site was designated a National Historic site by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

Initially I planned to write a single post on just the Beothuk occupation of the point, but the more I looked at it the more I realized what a long relationship the point has had with archaeology. The post became more of a history of research at Indian Point than about just the Beothuk occupation. What follows is the first half of this history, the second half will be posted in two weeks.

Unofficially, archaeology began at the point with Frank Speck in 1914. I say unofficially for two reasons. First Speck was actually an American ethnographer, not an archaeologist, who, in his own words, made a ‘…pilgrimage, to Red Indian Lake and Exploits river, the country of the Beothuk, in the hope of resurrecting some traditional or material traces of their existence.‘ Because of his focus on ethnological work, Speck spent very little time at Indian Point. He did record seeing at least seven, what he called, ‘…wigwam-pits…’ at the point. The second reason I wrote that archaeology unofficially began with Speck is because he recorded that the Mi’kmaq told him they would ‘…frequently dig in these Red Indian wigwam-pits and find curious iron implements – knives, axes, traps, and the like…‘ (Speck 1922).

By 1914 the site was probably already damaged by logging and the construction of a dam at the head of the lake on the Exploits River. Both of these activities were initiated by Louis Miller, the founder of Millertown (Taylor n.d.).

Lookout Tree.
The Lookout Tree. According to Speck the Beothuk used the large tree in the middle of the photo as a look out point, to watch for approaching caribou. This story must have been told to him by locals or the Mi’kmaq. Cut logs from the Millertown logging operation can already be seen on the beach near the tree (Speck 1922).

In 1925, eleven years after Speck’s visit, the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company finished the construction of a much larger dam at the junction of Red Indian Lake and the Exploits River. In the late 1960s, archaeologist Helen Devereux interviewed several of the older residents of Millertown. None of them could recall the look-out tree referred to in the photo above. The dam had altered the water level of the lake so that the tree and portions of Indian Point were flooded and eroded (Devereux 1970).

In 1962 the site was rediscovered by local avocational archaeologist Don Locke.  Locke was knowledgeable and genuinely cared about understanding the Beothuk. He did his ‘testing and excavation’ with the best of intentions, including the building of a replica Beothuk village and interpretation centre. Without Locke’s early work our knowledge of Indian Point would be considerably less than it currently is. His first investigation of the point came in 1967; he excavated parts of the point over three summers. During his work he recovered thousands of lithic pieces (mostly flakes) and numerous historic artifacts. He also identified what he thought were five long houses, 11 housepits and two rock fire beds (I believe these were fireplace middens). He thought the site was much larger but had been heavily impacted by erosion and heavy equipment that had been on the point to build landing skids for tug boats that had been on the lake. He also found cultural material east of the pond/road on the map below.

Locke's map of Indian Point features (1975).
Locke’s map of Indian Point features (1975).

J. Garth Taylor, an anthropologist and ethnologist, surveyed parts of Red Indian Lake and the Exploit’s River for the National Museum of Canada in July and August of 1964. The focus of this project was the archaeological identification of the Beothuk. The project was under the direction of Miss Helen Devereux of the Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto (Taylor 1064).

Taylor interviewed Mr. James Beaton of Badger about the change in the water level of Red Indian Lake. Mr. Beaton was more than eighty years old at the time of the interview and had traveled the lakes and streams of the region for the better part of his life. He felt very strongly that any Beothuk encampments that may have been on the shore of Red Indian Lake could not possibly have survived the construction of the Exploits Dam. Unfortunately, I think Taylor allowed the opinion of Mr. Beaton to influence his opinion on what remained of Beothuk sites in the area (Taylor 1064).

In reading Taylor’s report he seems to have put very little effort in to looking for Beothuk sites. During a visit to Indian Point in July of 1964 Taylor writes the visit ‘…confirmed everything that Mr. Beaton said. Only a gravel shoal remains to remind the observer of what was formerly an important Beothuk campsite. Nothing suggestive of former occupation could be found, either on the exposed portion of the shoal, or in the seven test-pits dug along the top of the bank which was once the base of the Point‘ (Taylor 1964). Compare this with the fact that two year prior Don Locke found a massive site with several house features and middens.

With Don Locke showing her the location of the site, Helen Devereux became the first archaeologist to conduct work at Indian Point in 1969. She returned to the site for full scale excavation from June 26 to August 27, 1970. Her work focused on the origins and relationships of the Beothuk. One of the first things she noticed was the level of destruction that had taken place from construction, erosion and looting, stating ‘…artifact collectors have visited the site and dug for artifacts for the last 50 years‘ (Devereux 1970).

Devereux seems to have done an excellent job of assessing and excavating portions of the site. Just as importantly her report is very well written with a lot of detail. Part of her goal was to identify who occupied the site and when it was used (i.e. precontact period, historic period or both). In the end she does clearly identify that the site had both a precontact Beothuk ancestor occupation and an historic Beothuk occupation. In fact she recovers enough charcoal from locality A3 to produce an early historic period Beothuk date of 1595±100 AD (I-6562). She goes to great lengths to explain her excavation methodology and explains in detail her reasoning for why she felt some features were precontact while others were historic. Fortunately for us, most of her work was concentrated in the now eroded north end of the site, this area of the occupation is now totally gone. What follows are some of the more important features investigated.

devereux
Map showing the location of Devereux’s various localities at Indian Point (1970).

Area A3 contained an historic Beothuk hearth feature which was seven feet long and two feet wide and contained a concentration of fire cracked rock, charcoal and bone mash, all of which was about three inches deep. They recovered a piece of iron, perhaps part of a trap in the hearth (Devereux 1970).

Area A3 also contained precontact features including two hearths and three dense concentrations of fire-cracked rock, one fire-cracked rock concentration and one unburned bone concentration. One of the two hearths contained two small corner-notched projectiles, two chert flakes and one hammerstone. Other features in this level also contained other precontact artifacts (Devereux 1970). Today, corner-notched projectile points are diagnostic of the archaeologically recognized Little Passage complex, the people of that cultural complex are the direct precontact ancestors of the Beothuk.

A3 South contained an incomplete circular embankment, the outside diameter of which was about 26 feet. Unfortunately, the south and east sides of the embankment were not discernible. Either it was originally incomplete or had been more recently removed. Devereux recorded that the embankment itself is smoothly rounded, about five feet across, and has a maximum elevation of about 18 inches above the surrounding natural surface. In the centre of the feature were a number of definite lumps and hollows. Unfortunately she did not have a lot of time to thoroughly investigate the feature. The interior had fire-cracked rocks, flakes and bone. Devereux speculated the feature was the remains of a precontact circular housepit or perhaps subsurface storage pits (Devereux 1970).

Locality A4 contained an historic Beothuk hearth, which was about four feet in diameter and contained fire-cracked rocks, charcoal, bone fragments and several metal artifacts. A small plain brass button was also recovered in this locality (Devereux 1970).

Locality A4 also contained precontact features including one small hearth, two concentrations of fire-cracked rock, of which one was disturbed, a diffuse midden of fire-cracked rock with calcined bone, and a concentration of broken rock with a chert core and flakes (Devereux 1970).

a4
Map showing the location of Devereux’s various localities at Indian Point (1970).

One of the precontact concentrations of fire-cracked rock consisted of a compact tightly interlocked fire-cracked rock crust with chert flakes. Below the fire-cracked rock lay a three inch layer of black humic soil containing fire-cracked rock, chert flakes, and burned bone. According to Devereux, the distribution of materials in this feature indicates that burned bone and chert are distributed concentrically and exclusively, except in a limited transition area. Burned bone occurs centrally and chert peripherally in the feature and beyond it. Based on the description it seems the bone was dumped in the fire while flint-knapping (chert tool making) occurred on the outer edges of the fire (Devereux 1970).

Devereux’s B5 feature was an historic Beothuk hexagonal housepit which measured 25 feet by 20 feet with the long axis oriented east-west. The pit portion of the house had a maximum depth of 1.5 feet below the surrounding surface. She describes the pit as: ‘The side walls lie below the natural level of the ground and are represented by smooth slopes 9 in. in height. Their top edge is flush with the natural surface of the ground: there seems to be no mounding up or fill around the perimeter of the depression. The walls slope downward and inward so that the perimeter of the depression is greater at the top edges of the walls than at the base. The wall slope is less discernible in the area of what is probably the doorway.‘ Inside the house she found a large central hearth with fire-cracked rock and burned bone concentrations. She also recovered one piece of iron, and identified a red ochre patch inside, and identified several exterior concentrations of fire-cracked rock and caribou bone (Devereux 1970).

Devereux's B5 hexagonal Beothuk housepit (1970).
Devereux’s B5 hexagonal Beothuk housepit (1970).

The B5 locality also had a precontact occupation as indicated by the presence of a dense concentration of fire-cracked rock covering an area eight feet long and six feet wide. This deposit also contained flakes and burned bone (Devereux 1970).

B4 was another precontact feature consisting of an extensive deposit of fire-cracked rock with a lower red ochre deposit. According to Devereux the whole feature was the richest source of artifacts on the site which was dug by an artifact collector several years previously. The collector recovered projectiles, knives, scrapers, stone hammers, chert flakes and cores. The red ochre deposit consisted of two parallel but irregular lines oriented northeast-southwest. ‘The eastern line of red ochre stain was longer and more intense in colour than the west line. It was 22 feet long and about 16 inches wide. Two feet to the west, the west line measured about eight feet long and 18 inches wide.’ Devereux speculated the ochre stain ‘…would be congruent with the plan of an upturned canoe‘ (Devereux 1970).

In locality D4 there was a feature containing a large concentration of fire-cracked rock (more than 4000 pieces) as well as stone tools and flakes. The whole feature measured approximately 10 feet in either direction and was roughly triangular in shape (Devereux 1970).

In 1978 Ingeborg Marshall made a brief stop at Indian Point ‘…to see previously excavated sites and get an idea of the terrain.’ She noted a lot of destruction and looting to the site including that the Price (Nfld.) Pulp and Paper company was using the small lagoon at the north end of the point ‘…to tie up company boats. An access road to the lake and a launching pad have been bulldozed across the site.’ Further she noted that the various dams built at the head of the lake had raised the water level which had continued to erode the shoreline by as much as 30-60 metres inland. ‘Also the use of Red Indian Lake for transportation of logs destined for the paper mill has led to the accumulation of stray logs on the shores. When the water level rises, such as happens in spring, the logs pound against the banks of the shore and cause them to collapse.‘ Marshall also found that the site was still suffering from looting. Despite all the erosion and looting Marshall still found a stone point and several small flakes (Marshall 1978).

Photos from Marshall 1978 showing ongoing erosion at the site.
Photos from Marshall 1978 showing ongoing erosion at the site.
Pulp logs on the shore of Red Indian Lake the constant movement of which helped destroy large areas of the site. (Sproull-Thomson)
Pulp logs on the shore of Red Indian Lake the constant movement of which helped destroy large areas of the site (Sproull-Thomson).

Artifacts found at Indian Point over the years.

In 1980 the Historic Resources Division, Department of Culture, Recreation and Youth began a multi-year project simply entitled the Beothuk Project. The purpose of the early phase of the project was to locate, test, delimit and document Beothuk (and other) archaeological sites. The rest of the Indian Point story will be told in the next post in two weeks.


Devereux, Helen
1970  A Preliminary Report on the Indian Point Site, Newfoundland ‑ A Stratified Beothuck Site.

Locke, Donald
1975  Historic and Prehistoric Site ‑ Indian Point Site #1.

Speck, Frank G.
1922 Beothuk and Micmac. Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York.

Taylor, Albert
n.d.  Indian Point.

Taylor, J. Garth
1964 An Archaeological Survey of Red Indian Lake and the Exploits River.

The Archaic site at Forteau Point, southern Labrador

Residents of southern Labrador and areas of the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland were well aware of the archaeological sites in their presence long before Diamond Jenness and William J. Wintemberg conducted preliminary surveys in those areas in the late 1920s. In 1949 and 1961 Elmer Harp conducted more archaeological fieldwork in those areas aided, no doubt, by the knowledgeable locals and the records of Jenness and Wintemberg.

During Harp’s 1949 and 1961 work he found and or excavated nearly 20 precontact sites. Among that number are several very well-known sites including Pinware Hill, currently the oldest recorded site in the province. One of his lesser known sites was Forteau Point (EiBf-02), Harp named it Forteau Bay 1 (it was renamed by McGhee & Tuck in the early 1970s). He classified Forteau Point as a major occupation site which he described as having:
. . . the appearance of significant occupations, possibly of long duration, and they spread over areas that may reach an extent of three or four acres. The material obtained from them is characterized by a high degree of uniformity (Harp 1951).

Forteau Point.
Forteau Point (Martin).

Harp returned to Forteau Point in 1961 collecting more cultural material. In his 1963 article detailing his survey and excavation work in the province he records that he recovered 73 artifacts from the site including: 13 points, 24 knives, 8 scrapers, 8 adzes, 1 gouge, 3 ground slate implements, 15 indeterminate fragments and 1 core. Forty-five of the artifacts were made of chert, 15 of quartzite, 11 of silicified slate, 1 red jasper and 1 was made of andesite. It is not clear if the total number of artifacts was from both years (1963). Unfortunately most of the site was ‘. . . marked by poorly stabilized dunes and scarred by deep systems of blowouts‘ (Harp 1951). So, much of the cultural material collected by Harp was out of cultural context.

Artifacts from Forteau Point shown in Harp's 1951 publication.
Artifacts 4, 5, 6 and 7 are from Forteau Point shown in Harp’s 1951 publication.
Artifacts from Forteau Point shown in Harp's 1963 publication.
Artifacts from Forteau Point shown in Harp’s 1963 publication.

James Tuck and Robert McGhee spent several field seasons in the early 1970s in southern Labrador revisiting some of the sites found by Harp and surveying other areas looking for new sites. In 1973 they revisited Harp’s Forteau Bay 1, renaming it Forteau Point. Like Harp, they found the site to be eroding but they did surface collect more cultural material including: ‘. . . a few notched or expanded stem projectile points, many flakes of slate, felsite and quartzite and a large slate bayonet, and a probable felsite prismatic blade‘. They were also able to find a small area of the site that was undisturbed which they excavated, recovering flakes and a small sample of wood charcoal (Tuck & McGee 1973).

In June of 1974 Tuck and McGhee returned to southern Labrador focusing their work on several sites including Forteau Point. Once again the site produced cultural material, most of which was surface collected from the deflated sand dunes. However, they were also able to find two small areas of in situ deposits. Through their surface collection and excavations they noted that:
Material appears to be concentrated in a series of areas, each a few metres in diameter, arranged in a linear pattern along the flat surface of the point. The distinctiveness of this pattern, as well as the high proportion of ground stone tools and the scarcity of chipping waste, suggests that this may not have been an occupation site but may have served a ceremonial function.’ (McGhee & Tuck 1975).

To add to the idea of a ceremonial function for the site, over several years of revisits 18 large bifaces were recovered from the area ranging in size from 29 cm to 38 cm in length. Clearly, such large bifaces were not meant for hunting. Tuck 1993 states ‘The four largest specimens were found in a single cache and the others in association with large patches of red ochre . . .‘ Tuck speculates that these 4 bifaces formed part of a precontact ‘lithophone’ which would have functioned similar to a xylophone.

As stated above Tuck made several revisits to the site. During those revisits he found more bifaces and more charcoal and ochre deposits.

All of the charcoal recovered from the site resulted in two radiocarbon dates. The first, 5399 ± 58 BP, came from material submitted by Harp. The second date of 5035 ± 65 BP came from a biface cache recovered by McGhee and Tuck. Both dates clearly indicate the site is Archaic in origin.

Archaeologists believe the Archaic people who moved into Labrador did so in two major waves, the first came just after the glaciers left the land. We first see their cultural remains at sites in southern Labrador like Pinware Hill and Cowpath ~9000 to 8000 years ago. Their cultural remains are found in the province up to ~3500 years ago. Archaeologists have recently started to refer to these people as the Labrador Archaic, when I learned about this group in University they were called the ‘Northern Branch’. Around 6000 years ago a second wave of people moved in to southern Labrador and are archaeologically referred to as the Maritime Archaic, when I learned about this group in University they were called the ‘Southern Branch’. Their cultural remains are found in the province up to ~3000 years ago. The major difference between the two can be seen in their stone tools. Labrador Archaic spearheads tend to be nipple based transitioning to a stemmed base. Maritime Archaic spearheads tend to be notched in some way. Based on the stone stools recovered by Harp, McGhee and Tuck, both Archaic groups appear to have made use of the sandy beaches at Forteau Point.

In 1986 the site was revisited by Reginald Auger and Marianne Stopp during their survey conducted from the Quebec-Labrador border north to Cape Charles. They noted considerable ongoing erosion and that a ditch had been dug through the site in that summer which was accelerating the erosion (Auger & Stopp 1986).

More recent visits have noted ongoing erosion and a considerable growth in alders. No cultural material beyond flakes has been recovered by an archaeologist from the site recently. After nearly 70 years of yielding secrets to archaeologists the site may finally be finished.


Auger, Reginald & Marianne Stopp
1987 1986 Archaeological Survey of Southern Labrador- Quebec-Labrador Border to Cape Charles.

Harp, Elmer
1951 An Archaeological Survey in the Strait of Belle Isle Area.  American Antiquity, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 205-220.

1963 Evidence of Boreal Archaic Culture in Southern Labrador and Newfoundland.  Paper No. 5. National Museum of Canada, Bulletin

McGhee, Robert & James Tuck
1975 An Archaic Sequence from the Strait of Belle Isle, Labrador. National Museum of Man Mercury Series, Archaeological Survey of Canada, Paper No. 34, Ottawa.

Tuck, James & Robert McGhee
1973 1973 Fieldwork in the Strait of Belle Isle Region.

1974 Report on Canada Council Grant #S-75-1613 Archaeology of the Strait of Belle Isle Region, Labrador.

Tuck, James
1976 Newfoundland and Labrador Prehistory. National Museum of Man.

1993 Interpreting L’Anse Amour and Southern Labrador Prehistory.

Other Basque sites, the Newfoundland edition

When you mention the word Basque in this Province the minds of most people go to the UNESCO Word Heritage site at Red Bay and the remains of the very well preserved 16th century Basque whaling industry represented there. People are often surprised when they learn there are more than 30 other registered Basque sites in Labrador. Basque sites are also present on the Lower North Shore of Quebec. The Basque occupation of the Lower North Shore was part of the focus for the St. Lawrence Gateways Project run by Dr. William Fitzhugh of the Arctic Studies Centre, Smithsonian Institution. There are also 11 Basque sites recorded on the Island of Newfoundland. The Island sites seem to differ from those in Quebec and Labrador because they seem to have been fishing rather than whaling and they are dated later than those in Quebec and Labrador (Barkham 1989).

Of those 11 recorded sites they are either on the west coast, including the Northern Peninsula, or the south coast. Starting in the east, there are two sites in the Placentia area with Basque evidence, the first being Fort Louis. While the archaeological evidence for a Basque presence is slim here, limited to just red roofing tiles, there is documentary evidence stating that the Basque were using Placentia as a fishing base.

The second Placentia site that has Basque material culture is actually the graveyard of St. Luke’s Anglican Church. The cemetery has several very old headstones; three in particular were collected and stored in the church in the late 19th or early 20th century. They are now in the O’Reilly House Museum in Placentia. The headstones are inscribed with Basque text and date to the 17th century. The text is ‘…all pure Basque with the exception of one word which is French…’, according to the Rt. Rev. Bishop Howley (PDF). According to Bishop Howley, one of the stones reads:

” Here lies dead (or having died)
(on) The first of May 1676
John De Sale Ce—ana
The Son (or heir) of (the House)
of Sweetest Odour.”

Basque headstones.
Basque headstones. (Christopher Newhook)

In 1971, there was an attempt to locate the foundation of the original 17th century church. Given the location of the burials it was thought the original church was somewhere near St. Luke’s Anglican Church.

Heading west from Placentia there is a shipwreck in Placentia Bay that was found by a local dive club in the mid-1980s. The wreck consisted of a ballast pile, at least two cannons and some ceramics all visible on the ocean floor. Some of the ceramics suggested the wreck may have been of Basque origin.

On the west coast there is a considerable European occupation recorded in historic documentation for Ile Rouge off the west coast of the Port au Port Peninsula. A preliminary archaeological survey was conducted on the island in 1992. While the survey resulted in the discovery of a significant French occupation dating from the 18th-20th centuries including former house foundations, cemetery and garden enclosures, there was no definitive Basque material culture recovered. Despite this the island was known to have been used by the Basque. The island shows up as Isla de San Jorge on early maps and was ‘…used as a fishing station by Basques in the 16th and 17th centuries…’ (Jacques Whitford Environment Limited (JWEL) 1993:1). ‘The first reference to Ile Rouge in historic sources is a will written by a Spanish Basque ship’s captain for a dying member of his crew as they lay at anchorage by the island, then known as “San Jorge”. This event took place in 1632…’ (JWEL 1993:5).

View south over south eastern corner of Ile Rouge to mainland (JWEL 1993).
View south over south eastern corner of Ile Rouge to mainland (JWEL 1993).

In 1994, Fred Schwarz led an archaeological survey further north on the west coast, in the Bay of Islands which located several Basque or Basque related sites including Sword Point, Little Port 1 & 2 and Woods Island Harbour 1 & 2 (Schwarz 1994).

At Sword Point he found eight features including a low L-shaped mound, several circular depressions, several rectangular depressions and a subrectangular mound with a central depression (Schwarz 1994:22).

Little Port 1 contained a number of mounds, one is 1 metre high and roughly rectangular, measuring 100m2. Just behind this mound is another, smaller mound. Artifacts recovered from these features included a number of small sherds of
manganese-glazed redware, and one large piece of a small handled bowl with tin-enamel and cobalt blue interior decoration. Coarse earthernwares included a shoulder fragment of a jar with an unglazed body, fabric impressions on the exterior, and traces of tan glaze trickling down from the rim onto the interior and exterior surfaces. Two additional sherds have interior green glaze: one is from a thick-walled vessel with muddy brown-green interior glaze, and the other is similar, but thinner-walled, with a deep emerald interior glaze. This assemblage lacks the characteristic English wares of the 18th-19th centuries, and though it is only a survey collection, it is sufficient to indicate that the site is distinctive, probably French or Basque, and probably dating ca. A.D.1600-1800 (Schwarz 1994: 19-20).

Little Port 2 consisted of a linear arrangement of small, rocky mounds measuring 20m x 10m in all, rising from a somewhat boggy field. During testing Schwarz recovered many brick fragments, some sherds of an unidentified burnt grey stoneware, and also a number of nails and a large, twisted-shank fishhook. The assemblage Schwarz collected suggests a 19th-century occupation, though the artifacts reported by local residents suggest earlier material (A.D. 1600- 1800) (Schwarz 1994:20).

The artifacts collected from Woods Island Harbour 1 & 2 suggest both sites were made up of 19th or 20th century occupations. However, both are listed as having a possible Basque component because Woods Island Harbour is referred to as a 17th century Basque fishing station in documents and on maps as referenced in Barkham 1989.

The final area of the Island of Newfoundland with a recorded Basque site is further up the west coast on the Northern Peninsula on Old Ferolle Island. The island has been used as a fishing station from the Basque period of the late 16th century until the present day. In June, 1993, at the request of Thomson Heritage Consultants, Jacques Whitford Environment Limited conducted a preliminary archaeological survey of the island and undertook a program of informal interviews with local residents. The survey resulted in the discovery of structures found on and near the drying beaches on the island. The structures have been interpreted as pathways, building foundations, ovens, fish storage areas, wharf foundations and gardens, all probably related to the 18th century fishery. Hunting blinds were also found, probably dating to the 19th and 20th centuries. Three tent rings at the site also suggest a brief Inuit occupation, perhaps during the 18th century. It is evident from analysis of the artifact sample collected that the assemblage includes 18th century material, some of which was from the French Basque region and certainly from Normandy, and some 19th century material from England. While no definitive Basque features were found the site may contain a Basque occupation based documents and on maps as referenced in Barkham 1989.

While the physical archaeological evidence of the Basque occupation on the island of Newfoundland is scant; the documentary evidence is certainly present. A read through Selma Barkham’s book The Basque Coast of Newfoundland certainly attests to their presence. Perhaps there needs to be a more intensive search for the Basque occupation of Newfoundland.


Barkham, Selma
1989 The Basque Coast of Newfoundland.

Jacques Whitford Environment Limited
1993  Preliminary Archaeological Survey of Old Ferolle Island, St. Barbe District, Newfoundland.

1993 Report on a Preliminary Archaeological Survey of Ile Rouge, Port au Port Peninsula, Newfoundland.

Schwarz, Fred
1994 Archaeological Investigations in the Bay of Islands, Western Newfoundland September October 1994.

The Maritime Archaic occupation of South Brook Park

The South Brook Park site (DgBj-03) was originally found by David Reader in 1993 while he was surveying portions of the Bay of Islands and surrounding environs. At the time of its discovery Reader recorded the site as being badly disturbed by the construction of a water pump house and related piping and a road. The site had suffered considerable natural erosion as well. Despite this Reader returned to the site over the course of three years (1993, 1994 & 1998) and recovered a considerable amount of cultural material and charcoal for a radiocarbon date, all of which made the South Brook Park site the second oldest known Maritime Archaic occupation on the island.

South Brook Park site, showing the water pump house to the right and the dirt road in the foreground. The main site area was behind the pump house and around the large evergreen tree.
South Brook Park site, showing the water pump house to the right and the dirt road in the foreground. The main site area was behind the pump house and around the large evergreen tree.

In 1993, the site was in the privately owned South Brook Park, on the southwest shore of Deer Lake, approximately 35 km inland of the Bay of Islands. The site was on a palaeo-beach ridge that ran southwest-northeast parallel to the present shoreline of Deer Lake. The elevation of the site component on the ridge is 10.3 metres above the average water level of Deer Lake, translating to approximately 14.3 metres above sea level (Reader 1999).

2006 PAO excavation showing the three beach ridges. The first beach is down by the water, the second is under the road in the background and the third contains the site.
2006 PAO excavation showing the three beach ridges. The first beach is down by the water, the second is under the road in the background and the third contains the site.

In the first season, the beach terraces in the park were test-pitted after cultural lithic material was found on the surface of a nearby roadway. Much of the lithic material found at the site was modified quartz and quartzite. This material is available in quartz and quartzite cobbles and may be found naturally on the beach at Deer Lake, just below the site. Further testing revealed additional cultural material and the approximate site size was delineated. A 1m x 4m trench was excavated at the western extent of the site where lithic material was surface collected. An in situ cultural deposit was located here, from which a fully channeled ground slate gouge was excavated (Reader 1994).

Reader and crew excavating the 1x4m unit in 1993 (Reader).
Reader and crew excavating the 1mx4m unit in 1993 (Reader).
Reader and crew excavating the 1x4m unit in 1993 (Reader).
Reader and crew excavating the 1mx4m unit in 1993 (Reader).

Reader returned in 1994 and excavated a further 5.5 m2. During this season he recovered 15 quartz and quartzite core fragments, one quartzite biface, a quartz scraper and a large quantity of debitage from reduction activities. Five retouched chert flakes were also found. Perhaps the most significant lithic item recovered from this quartz and quartzite reduction area was a breccia hammer stone. According to Reader the hammer stone was found in direct association with the quartz and quartzite materials and indicates that Maritime Archaic inhabitants of this site were initially processing this locally available material by a means of direct and bi-polar percussion. In 1994 he also made note of the recovery of chert artifacts represented by a retouched flake and a retouched blade-like flake (Reader 1995).

Assorted chert and quartzite pieces from South Brook.
Assorted chert and quartzite pieces from South Brook.
Mar itime Archaic 1 thics from 1994 excavations at DqBj - 3 Top, left: retouc hed blade - l ik c chert flake Top, right biface , quar tz ite Cent r e: scraper, r ose colo ur ed quar tzlle Bot tom: hammers tone , breccia. Use-wear is visible at t h e poin ted ( l e f t) e nd o f the arte fact (Reader 1995).
Top left, retouched blade-like chert flake; Top right, biface, quartzite; Centre, scraper, rose coloured quartzite; Bottom, hammer stone , breccia. Use-wear is visible at the pointed (left) end of the artifact (Reader 1995).

In his 1999 report dealing with the 1998 excavations, Reader hypothesized that the site contained at least one early Maritime Archaic component (ca. 8800-6000 BP), based on the previous recovery of a full channeled ground slate gouge and a lithic assemblage dominated by quartz and quartzite. Such evidence is usually found on early Maritime Archaic sites. In 1998 he excavated a further 4m2 recovering, among other artifacts, two partial, triangular-shaped quartz projectile points and he identified the remnants of an ephemeral or disturbed hearth feature from which charcoal was recovered (Reader 1999). This returned an AMS date of 5140±50 BP (Beta-122766) making it the second oldest Maritime Archaic component on the Island of Newfoundland.

Reader’s description of the projectile points:
One point is apparently a finished specimen, while the other point is unfinished, with each point missing a lateral edge and distal tip. Both points are made from locally acquired and worked quartz. Both points have been bifacially worked, to varying degree, on the blade surfaces and edges. The finished point features a slightly concave base and basal thinning. The unfinished point features a level basal striking platform with clear indication of one larger and one smaller flake having been removed from the base in a technique similar to that of basal fluting. This bears a striking similarity to an early Archaic, incomplete triangular quartz point reported from southern Labrador by Tuck (1988:23). Again, both of the South Brook points are incomplete, but estimated maximum dimensions are as follow: basal width of 20 mm; length of 28 mm; thickness of 5 mm. (1999:5)

Despite the site being terribly disturbed, Reader was able to recover a lot of information about the Maritime Archaic occupation of South Brook. One of his theories about the site was that it contained multiple Archaic occupations. He speculated that if we accept that the two partial, triangular-shaped quartz projectile points and all of the associated quartz and quartzite debris were similar to those recovered from Pinware Hill (the oldest known site in the province) then South Brook had an approximate earliest occupation period of ca. 8800-8000 BP. The full channeled ground slate gouge also suggests a relatively early-middle Archaic occupation here, in the range of ca. 7000-6500 BP, based on dated contexts in southern Labrador and the Maritimes which have produced full channeled gouges. Finally he speculated that all the chert and the radiocarbon date of 5140±50 BP were a third occupation (Reader 1999).

Maritime Archaic projectile points from southern Labrador similar to the two found at South Brook Park (from McGee and Tuck 1975).
Early Maritime Archaic projectile points from southern Labrador similar to the two found at South Brook Park (McGee and Tuck 1975).

In 2005 the South Brook Park was sold to private developers with the intention of becoming a housing subdivision. Aardvark Archaeology was hired to conduct an historic resource impact assessment of the site. They excavated an additional 5.5m2 and several test pits elsewhere on the site. Aardvark Archaeology recovered 238 pieces of lithic material; all but one of them were flakes, including one retouched flake and a hammer stone. Sixty per cent of the flakes were quartz or quartzite while forty per cent were cherts. This ratio of quartz/quartzite to chert closely matches the findings from Reader’s investigations (Aardvark Archaeology 2005).

Area excavated by Aardvark Archaeology in 2005 (Aardvark Archaeology 2005).
Area excavated by Aardvark Archaeology (2005).
Retouched flake and hammer stone recovered by Aardvark Archaeology (2005).
Retouched flake and hammer stone recovered by Aardvark Archaeology (2005).

In 2006, the Provincial Archaeology Office (PAO) completed the excavation of this site. A total of 4m2 and seven test pits were excavated. Initially the PAO was encouraged with regard to recovering charcoal. One of the first units  opened had a large charcoal stain running through its centre which appeared to be in primary context with a large chunk of milk white quartzite just a few centimetres away. Upon completion of excavation of the four units and test pits no further artifacts beyond flakes and unfortunately the charcoal returned a very recent date of 140 +/- 40BP (Beta – 217827) (PAO Review 2007).

Charcoal stain in association with a piece of quartzite as excavated by the PAO.
Charcoal stain in association with a piece of quartzite as excavated by the PAO.
Looking out over the Humber River towards Deer Lake. Taken from the beach just below the site.
Looking out over the Humber River towards Deer Lake. Taken from the beach just below the site.

Aardvark Archaeology
2005 HRIA of the South Brook Park Site (DgBj-03).

Provincial Archaeology Office Review
2007 Volume 5 for 2006 Field Season.

McGhee, Robert & James Tuck
1975  An Archaic Sequence from the Strait of Belle Isle, Labrador.

Reader, David
1994 The Deer Lake-Upper Humber River Archaeological Survey 1993.

1995 Humber Valley Archaeological Project- Interim Report of 1994 Investigations.

1999 Revisiting the Maritime Archaic Component at South Brook Park (DjBl-09)- 1998 Archaeological Investigations.