By the Numbers

There are nearly 5000 recorded archaeological sites in Newfoundland and Labrador.   Before you start adding up the numbers in the bar graph above to get the exact number of archaeology sites you need to know that the number of sites will not equal the number cultures represented at those sites.  The reason is sites can have more than one culture.  For example, Ferryland, the 17th century English colony founded in 1621 by George Calvert, later Lord Baltimore, has an English, French, Dutch and a Beothuk cultural component.

For the Island there are ~ 1700 known sites, while in Labrador there are about ~3100 recorded sites.

Notice the breakdown of cultural components of the Labrador archaeology sites above and those of the island portion of the province below.

Looking at the ~ 1700 sites from the Island portion of the province I was surprised that there were so many European cultural components, and even more surprised when I realized the Newfoundland European cultural components out-number the Labrador European cultural components nearly 2 to 1.

Any other observations?  Is there anything in the graphs that you were surprised to learn?

Of the ~5000 sites for the Province nearly half, or 2634,  have a Precontact component.  By Precontact I am referring to the period before prolonged exposure of Aboriginal people to Europeans.  The time period after that is Postcontact and for Newfoundland and Labrador the cut off is generally seen as ~ 1497 a.d..

Of the ~5000 sites,  3131 have a Postcontact cultural component.  Some of these numbers may be questioned.  For example, many Mi’kmaq believe their ancestors were on the Island in the Precontact period.  I am not trying to refute that claim.  I am just stating that there is no archaeological evidence of Precontact Mi’kmaq sites.  Hence the Mi’kmaq are only represented on the Postcontact graph.

You’ll also notice that in both the Precontact and Postcontact graphs I have included a category titled ‘Undetermined’.  For example, some sites are comprised of a loose arrangement of stones that obviously didn’t form naturally but whose origin is not clear.

For a different perspective on these numbers see the following distribution maps.

Do you have a site, a culture or time period you are interested in that you would like to see a post about?

If you have a request for a blog post you can send me a message.


6 thoughts on “By the Numbers

  1. This is interesting. Do you think we could read something about relative population size for the different Precontact cultures into the numbers? The different groups would have lived here for different lengths of time, but there still seem to be significant differences in the number of sites that the different cultures left behind.

  2. That is an interesting idea; maybe you could do that but I would put very little weight into any numbers derived. There are too many factors that affect the number of sites recorded.

    As you say one factor would be the length of time the culture existed. Looking at the first graph you may be led to think that Thule having 104 cultural components and the Beothuk having 103 may have had population numbers that were similar. But the Thule were in Labrador for between ~500 to ~800 years, the historic Beothuk only existed for ~300 years.

    The mobility of the group is another factor. A more mobile group will tend to move more frequently and they may have more sites than a less mobile group. On the other hand a more mobile group may have more sites but by their mobile nature their resulting sites may be more ephemeral and as a result their sites won’t preserve well and thereby be under represented in the archaeological record.

    Another factor is archaeologist bias. For example I know that during early archaeological survey work in Labrador many archaeologists did not record recent historic period European & Inuit sites.

    1. Thanks Scott.
      I’ll have to think about how to approach that one – part of the problem is that the data I have access to has all of the rc dates for the archaeology sites lumped together under the site rather than by each culture at the site.

      What I mean is, for example, my list shows a date of 1000 years ago for site A, but that site has a Dorset and a Recent Indian occupation, both of whom lived in the area 1000 years ago. So there is some confusion there. I am intrigued by your idea and I would like to try to post something like that.

      If you can suggest some solution or another idea please feel free to do so.

  3. Another factor is the varying frequency of diagnostics. Palaeo-Eskimo assemblages include a large number of diagnostic types, and cultural affiliation is more likely to be identified, even from small survey collections.

    The “Undetermined” category is thus likely to include relatively few Palaeo-Eskimo sites. However, it probably includes many MA/II/RI sites.

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