Archaeology, Kamestastin Lake & the Tshikapisk Foundation

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The Tshikapisk Foundation was created in 1997 by a group of Innu concerned with the disruptive consequences that the sudden change from a life based on the country (Nutshimit) to one based on permanent settlement in villages brought to the Innu. Their strategy looked to address the ensuing social difficulties by building a self-supporting economy based in the country (focused around Kamestastin Lake), and which utilizes and celebrates Innu knowledge and skills. In order to accomplish its mission Tshikapisk promotes the exploration of revenue generating activities both to provide employment to Nutshimiu Innut (country Innu) and to pay for experiential learning programs for Innu youth who had become increasingly disconnected from life on the land.

Location of Kamestastin Lake

Location of Kamestastin Lake

The Tshikapisk Foundation (TF) in conjunction with the Innu Nation, the Arctic Studies Center (ASC) of the Smithsonian Institution, the Provincial Archaeology Office (PAO) and more recently Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) have been working to protect the sites at Kamestastin Lake. On the ground, survey and excavation work have been carried out by Stephen Loring (ASC), Anthony Jenkinson (TF) and, most recently MUN grad student, Chelsee Arbour. Together they have recorded more than 100 sites in the area.

Kamestastin Lake in itself is an interesting geologic feature. The lake is the result of a meteorite impact which occurred ~36 million years ago. Among the evidence for the meteorite impact is volcanic glass which has been found around the lake. Thus far however, none of it appears to have been found in an archaeological context. However, tabular slabs of impact melted rock have been found in an archaeological context on two precontact sites.

My intention with this blog post is to give a brief introduction to just a few of the sites at Kamestastin Lake. At some point in the future I am hoping to get in to a little more detail on some of these sites in another blog post in conjunction with Stephen Loring, Anthony Jenkinson and Chelsee Arbour.

The more than 100 known sites around the lake represent the Maritime Archaic (Labrador Archaic) Indian , Intermediate Indian, Recent Indian and Innu cultures. There is even a site that consists of a single biface which has been interpreted as late Dorset Palaeoeskimo, a cultural group which is usually found along the coast. Very little archaeological work has been done on most of the sites beyond just identifying their existence which is part of the reason why many sites are listed culturally as just precontact or undetermined. The sites vary from small single artifact spot find sites, to possible burials, lithic scatters, possible quarries and various habitation sites with the remains of tent rings and fireplaces. The oldest sites are thought to be ~6000-7000 years old and the youngest sites are just a few decades old.

Knife of banded chert, from the one small Dorset/Tunit site discovered at Kamestastin during the summer of 2005. Photo: Anthony Jenkinson - Tunit, Dorset, Interior Dorset site, Labrador and northern Quebec

Possible late Dorset biface of banded chert, found at Kamestastin during the summer of 2005. (Jenkinson)

Kaniuekutat
The excavation of 24 m2 revealed an assemblage composed entirely of quartz and slate. Other lithic materials were absent. There are concentrations of charcoal and an elongated distribution of stones over ~5 to 6 metres in length but there was no defined hearth. Slate debitage was concentrated in 2 m2 around a partially completed but as yet unground celt. There are a number of what may be post holes or the organic stains possibly left by shallowly driven in stakes. What are likely wood working tools of white quartz and quartz crystal including awls and steeply bevelled block plane like items were found in a higher than expected ratio to quartz debris suggesting that many of these articles were brought to site as finished tools. This site has been radio carbon dated to ~2700 years ago (UCIAMS 134685). It is suspected the people at the site were making a canoe. You can read more about this site in Volume 10 of the PAO Archaeology Review.

Kaseukantshish
The site consists of a roughly circular or slightly oblong embanked structure, approximately 2.5 m by 3.5m in dimensions, with no discernable hearth rocks within. Within the structure there is a small patch of stunted willows growing out of the spot where a hearth would be expected. This feature has been interpreted as either a tent ring or possibly a fish smoke drying site. The point of land along the shore from the feature is an excellent char fishing spot and large fish can be readily caught from the shore on line and hook.

Kaseukantshish feature (Jenkinson)

Kaseukantshish feature (Jenkinson)

Nukash
The site lies in an old blow-out that is in the process of re-vegetating and stabilizing. The sand surface is now mostly covered with black lichen. The site was first noted because of two fragments of a black Ramah chert biface that were seen on the surface. A subsequent inspection of this site resulted in the recording of two more pieces of similar looking Ramah, although these could not be refitted with the first finds and were not obviously part of a tool. This site may relate to a Maritime Archaic occupation

Nukash biface fragments (Jenkinson)

Nukash biface fragments (Jenkinson)

Nukash site (Jenkinson)

Nukash site (Jenkinson)

Paseuet
This site consists of a spot find of a large Maritime Archaic Ramah chert stemmed point. The point was found next to a heavily used caribou path.

Paseuet site Ramah chert biface

Paseuet site Ramah chert biface (Jenkinson)

Punas Rich corner notched biface
Yet another find spot site, this biface was found in an area threaded by caribou paths and is the place where spring migrating caribou cross the low lands close to the lake before climbing out of the Kamestastin crater onto the barren highlands above. The biface may be from the Point Revenge, Recent Indians.

Punas Rich corner notched biface (Jenkinson)

Punas Rich corner notched biface (Jenkinson)

Uniam Quartz Quarry Site, Locus 1
The site consists of what is for Kamestastin a rare instance of a glacially transported boulder of grey quartzite which has been battered and now sits partially surrounded by reduction debris. The quartzite shatter and flakes have accumulated in particularly dense quantities in close adjacency to the boulder and in the “drip gully” which has formed around the perimeter beneath the boulder overhang.

Uniam site showing the boulder in situ

Uniam site showing the boulder in situ

Uniam site showing flakes spalled from the boulder in situ

Uniam site showing flakes spalled from the boulder in situ

Torngat Archaeological Project

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Last week I had the chance to see four graduate student thesis proposals at the Archaeology Unit at Memorial University of Newfoundland. They were great proposals and included one that will investigate several Inuit sites in northern Labrador, including sites found during the Torngat Archaeological Project (PDF).

The Torngat Archaeological Project (TAP) is the largest archaeological survey ever conducted in Labrador in terms of distance covered and number of sites found, ~450 km of coastline and just under 350 sites. The survey was conducted by Dr. William Fitzhugh of the Smithsonian Institution in conjunction with Bryn Mawr College in 1977 & 1978 and stretched from around Nain to the Button Islands. Prior to the TAP there were about 130 known sites in the same area. The project was to investigate the culture history of the area as well as the environmental relationships and processes of culture change which have affected Inuit, Indian, and European settlement (Fitzhugh 1980).

Torngat Archaeological Project

Torngat Archaeological Project – yellow dots are archaeological sites

The 1977 season focused on survey work while the 1978 season focused on full scale excavation. Despite being brief, just 33 days, the 1977 survey resulted in the discovery of 250 sites located, mapped, and tested. The plans for 1978 were to establish four person field crews at Nachvak, Seven Islands Bay, Home Island, and Killinek. However, logistic and equipment problems resulted in the crews spending several weeks in Seven Islands Bay. Despite all the issues the project resulted in 16000 cataloged artifacts, a large volume of faunal elements, written and photographic documentation on sites ranging in time from early Maritime Archaic ~6000 years ago to the present day (Fitzhugh 1980).

At the ~350 sites there are:
150 Inuit occupations
143 Dorset Palaeoeskimo occupations
65 Maritime (Labrador) Archaic occupations
50 Pre-Dorset Palaeoeskimo occupations
26 Thule occupations
14 Groswater Palaeoeskimo occupations
9 Intermediate Indian occupations
5 Recent Indian occupations

Some of the more significant sites found include:

Avayalik Island 1 (PDF): This is a major Dorset (early, middle and late) site with habitation structures and frozen middens that have excellent organic preservation. In fact the organic preservation is so good that a piece of muskox wool cordage found on the site is thought to show evidence of Dorset-Norse interaction.

Aerial view of Avayalik 1 (Sutherland)

Aerial view of Avayalik 1 (Sutherland)

Ballybrack 11: A Maritime Archaic site dated to 7770 BP with evidence of a longhouse, hearths, red ochre stains and scatters of lithic debitage.

Harp Isthmus 1: This site has Pre-Dorset structures and a possible Maritime Archaic longhouse. It also has two 19th or early 20th century Inuit sod houses.

Hebron 1: This site has evidence of Maritime Archaic, Palaeoeskimo and Inuit occupations. It is also the site of a Moravian Mission.

Moravian Mission at Hebron (Brake)

Moravian Mission at Hebron (Brake)

Hilda Creek 1: This is one of several sites in the Ramah Bay area that relates to the use of the Ramah Bay quartzite quarries. This particular site has Maritime Archaic and Palaeoeskimo components.

Johannes Point 1: This is a large Inuit-Thule site that has at least 14 sod houses, storage houses, middens, tent rings and graves.

Nachvak Village: This is another large Palaeoeskimo and Inuit-Thule site that contains between 15 and 17 sod houses, middens, caches and burials.

Nachvak Village. Getting set up for excavations at Nachvak Village (IgCx-3) (Whitridge)

Nachvak Village. Getting set up for excavations at Nachvak Village (IgCx-3) (Whitridge)

Nulliak Cove 1: This is probably one of the largest known sites in northern Labrador. It contains Maritime Archaic, Palaeoeskimo, Recent Indian and Inuit-Thule evidence. It has up to 27 Maritime Archaic longhouses, a caribou drive fence, caches, cairns, burial mounds and Inuit (potentially Thule) houses.

Ramah Bay Mission: This is another large site with evidence for Palaeoeskimo and Inuit occupations as well as a Moravian mission.

 Moravian Station at Ramah, ca. 1900

Moravian Station at Ramah, ca. 1900

Shuldham Island: This island is home to numerous sites but perhaps the most significant was Shuldham Island 9. The site has evidence for Maritime Archaic, Palaeoeskimo, Recent Indian and Thule use. It has up to eight sod houses, seven tent rings, 12 caches, a possible burial and midden. Perhaps it is best known for the tiny soapstone figurines carved by the late Dorset occupants of the island. There are carvings of Polar Bears, human beings, seashells, birds and a possible seal or walrus. While the site was found as part of the TAP, the figurines were found during the excavation of Shuldham Island 9 by Callum Thomson in the early 1980s.

Shuldham Island 9 soapstone polar bear

Shuldham Island 9 soapstone polar bear

Shuldham Island 9 soapstone person (Rast)

Shuldham Island 9 soapstone person (Rast)

These are just s select few of the nearly 350 sites recorded during the Tornagat Archaeological Project. The sites found during this project have led to several PhD & MA thesis and numerous publications. The amount of knowledge gained from this project is almost immeasurable.


FITZHUGH, William 1980 Preliminary Report on the Torngat Archaeological Project. Arctic, 33(3): 585-606.

Guns and gun parts on archaeology sites

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On November 6, 2014 Cultural Resource Program Manager, Eva Jensen working in the Great Basin National Park (USA) noticed an object leaning on a Juniper tree. Getting a closer look she discovered that the object was a rifle. Further inspection and research revealed that it was a Winchester Model 1873 Rifle.
The rifle leaning against the Juniper tree.

The rifle leaning against the Juniper tree. The Great Basin National Park Facebook page has more great shots of the rifle

This story got me thinking about guns and gun parts that have been found on archaeology sites in Newfoundland and Labrador. Of course many sites in the province have cannons, cannon balls, discharged shell casings, gun flint and lead shot. But I was thinking more about hand-held guns, rifles and muskets etc.

Cannon found at Mortier during the Burin Peninsula Heritage Inventory (Barnable)

Cannon found at Mortier during the Burin Peninsula Heritage Inventory (Barnable)

Gun Flints, copper casing found in Greenspond

Gun Flints, copper casing found in Greenspond

For example, in 1998, Jacques Whitford Environment Limited archaeologists found the barrel and brass side plate from a flint lock musket during the Churchill River Power Project Environmental study on the shoreline of Atikonak Lake. The barrel appeared to contain a touch hole, indicating a flint lock rather than a percussion action. The breech plug was intact, minus the associated barrel tang. The contour of the barrel suggests the exposed upper portion of the breech was finished in a partially faceted design, while the lower portion, which would have been hidden by the stock, possessed a plainer, rounded contour. Although generally difficult to date owing to the widespread use of multiple variations of the motif throughout the period, the fine definition of the scales and other details of this particular side plate suggests a variant dating from ca. 1800 to the 1830s or 1840s (JWEL & IED 2000:208).

Searching through files and reports I was able to find an assortment of gun parts and gun related tools from sites throughout the province.

I also sent out a request to my archaeology colleagues to see if they had stories or photos of guns and/or gun parts found on archaeology sites. I received a great sampling of artifact shots.

Dr. Barry Gaulton of Memorial University of Newfoundland sent me a couple of pictures of gun locks that have been found at the Colony of Avalon at Ferryland.

Gunlock from Ferryland

Gunlock from Ferryland

Gunlock from Ferryland

Gunlock from Ferryland

The Colony of Avalon website also have some examples of gun parts found in Ferryland.

TOP-Lock from a 17th-century "snaphaunce," so called because its action resembled the pecking of a chicken. First half of the 17th century. BOTTOM-An English "dog lock," so called because a small dog, or catch, held the cock in place and prevented the musket from discharging accidentally.

TOP-Lock from a 17th-century “snaphaunce”, so-called because its action resembled the pecking of a chicken. First half of the 17th century.
BOTTOM-An English “dog lock,” so-called because a small dog, or catch, held the cock in place and prevented the musket from discharging accidentally.

Dr. Michael Deal, also at Memorial University of Newfoundland, sent me several photos of guns and gun parts that came from aircraft wrecks from the island portion of the province.

In 1943 a Lockheed Ventura (CjAe-61) was going out on an anti-submarine patrol when the plane crashed and burned. It was carrying, among other things, loaded 50 cal. machine guns. When the plane crashed and burned some of the bullets exploded.

In 1945 a B-24M Liberator (DgAo-01) being deployed to England crashed Northeast of Gander. Because the plane was being ferried to England it carried no bullets but it did have its armament of 50 cal. machine guns. Shown in the photos is one of the 50 cal. machine guns that was found on the edge of the debris field. There is also a shot of the same gun in the lab and another shot of the gun propped against one of the B-24 turrets. The officers on board had hand guns (45 cal. pistols) and Dr. Deal found one of the 45 cal. gun clips (shown in conservation) and several bullets and casings (one shown in situ).

Jamie Brake, the Nunatsiavut Government Archaeologist, was very helpful and gave me a good example of a gun part found on an archaeology site.

In 2012 at the site of Middle House Cove 1 in Double Mer Jamie and his colleague Tony Wolfrey found a gun barrel eroding out of a bank. The remains of a buried house foundation are in a clearing just back from the shore, and, as can be seen in the photos, the gun barrel was found in front of the clearing.

Jamie also told me an interesting story about a musket ball found in a piece of wood which was cut by Tyler Pamak behind his cabin in Tikkoatokak Bay. The piece of wood with the ball was brought to Nain. Last summer a dendrochronology grad student named Jay Maillet happened to be working in Nain. He did a preliminary analysis on the wood and believes the ball was shot into the tree around 1884!

Musket ball lodged in the tree (Pamak)

Musket ball lodged in the tree (Pamak)

Yet another interesting story from Jamie was regarding a soapstone musket ball mould. The object appears to be one half of a musket ball mould and was recently picked up in Nain and shown to Jamie. If you look closely at the object in the photo below you can see two small grooves (two arrows on bottom) that may be for lines that would be used to hold strings which would hold the two halves of the mould together. The single arrow on the left points to what may be a funnel in to which molten lead was poured to make the ball.

Soapstone musket ball mould

Soapstone musket ball mould

To support the possibility that this is a musket ball mould Jamie found the following reference:
On the inside of the flap of the woman’s duffle dicky of the east coast of Hudson bay and Ungava there is a little line of pewter ornaments which jingle as she walks. These are made of old spoons obtained from the Hudson’s Bay Company, and termed pi’xo-tit. The spoons are melted and the fluid metal poured into a mould made of two slabs of steatite (Hawkes 1916:39).

 


Hawkes, E.W.
1916  The Labrador Eskimo.

Jacques Whitford Environment Limited/Innu Economic Development Enterprises Inc.  (JWEL/IED)
2000 Churchill River Power Project, 1998 Environmental Studies. Final Report, HROA, Labrador Component 98.22

 

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