New for 2011

Usually archaeology sites are found in Newfoundland and Labrador in one of four ways;

  • as a result of information that is provided to the Provincial Archaeology Office (PAO),
  • through research such as that carried out by university professors,
  • as a result of an impact assessment,
  • or found by the general public.

Impact assessments are usually carried out in areas where plans for land use are proposed in an area with archaeological potential.  Archaeologists who find new archaeological sites in Newfoundland and Labradorare required to complete a Site Record Form (SRF).   Along with other details the SRF records what was found at the site, the culture of the site, when the archaeologist visited the site and the titles of any reports they wrote about the site.  They are also required to complete a SRF for each known site that they revisit.  All of this information is a way for the PAO to keep track of the sites in the province.  Sites are also often found by members of the general public and reported to the PAO.  In this case the PAO will complete the SRF.  Not including those found through research, Information about sites found by the other  methods doesn’t often get publicized.  So, for this last post of 2011 I’m going to tell you a little about some of those kinds of sites that were found this year.

Several new sites were created at the PAO this past year based on new information.  In January a newspaper article was written about a shipwreck called the S.S. Ahern Trader.  The ship went aground in a storm in January of 1960 near Fredericktown.

S.S. Ahern Trader (The Beacon)
S.S. Ahern Trader (The Beacon)

Searching through Google Earth we stumbled upon another shipwreck.  With a little more research we found out that the ship was the HMS Calypso.  The Calypso was built by the Royal Navy in 1883 and served as a corvette until 1922.  She was one of the Royal Navy’s last sailing corvettes.  In 1902 she was sent to Newfoundland where she served as a training vessel for the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve before and during the First World War.  In 1922 she was sold and used to store salt; by 1968 she had outlived her usefulness and was towed to a coastal bay near Embree and burned to the waterline.

HMS Calypso (Google Earth)
HMS Calypso wharf-side at St. Johns.

Late in 2010 the PAO was told about a Ramah chert biface that had been found in St. John’s in the 1960s by a member of the general public.  Turns out that this biface may be Maritime Archaic in origin, and is therefore at least 3200 years old.  The biface constitutes one of only a handful of such Maritime Archaic sites on the Avalon Peninsula.

Ramah chert biface (Skanes)

A site visit to Change Islands in June allowed a PAO employee to visit a local museum known as The Olde Shoppe Museum.  The artifacts on display included material culture from the Maritime Archaic, Palaeoeskimo, Recent Indian, Beothuk and European.  All of this material culture came from either the north or south side of the Change Island Tickle and had been collected by local individuals over the course of decades.

An impact assessment at proposed cabin sites in the Smith Sound area of Trinity Bay resulted in the discovery of two sites.  The first site, Thoroughfare 1, was a small area with early to more recent European occupation including the ruins of at least seven structures (including dwellings, cellars, and a herring factory), and a garden.  The second site, Thoroughfare 2, contained a mixture of European and Dorset Palaeoeskimo artifacts.

Dorset endblade from Thoroughfare 2 (Penney)

Two more sites were found during an impact assessment of two proposed cottage development areas on Birchy Lake.  The first site, Birchy Lake 10, consists of just a single stone flake which indicates precontact aboriginal use of the area in the past.  The second site, Birchy Lake 11, contains much more cultural material and holds research potential.  Impact assessment testing recovered a probable hearth with a layer of calcined bone and precontact artifacts.

Artifacts from Birchy Lake 11 (Schwarz)

Separate impact assessments in Labrador, one very near the Quebec border, another in the town of Forteau resulted in the discovery of 2 precontact sites.  MorleyLake 1 is based on the discovery of two stone tools while Sesame Street 3, in Forteau, likely a Maritime Archaic site, is based on the presence of flakes and one stone tool.

Another assessment in northern Labrador resulted in the discovery of 8 different sites.  Six of the sites have historic Inuit occupations including several with tent rings and another with a house depression.  Tent rings would indicate a warm or cold season transient occupation by the inhabitants while the house depression would indicate a long term stay in an area during the cold season.  House depressions are created when people dig out a depression in the earth over the top of which they build a house.  Such a depression results in a warmer structure.  Because of the energy used in construction such depressions  indicate the occupants stayed in an area for some time.

Slambang Bay 1 tent ring (Brake)
Slambang Bay 2 tent ring (Brake)
Kangekluasuk Bay 1 house depression. Measuring tape is spread across the house depression and the tap is in the entranceway (Brake)

Finally, another site may have been used by precontact groups as a stone quarry.  The site contains an outcrop of translucent, smokey quartzite which has clearly been exploited by humans.  Flakes of the material, which resembles Ramah chert were observed next to the outcrop.

Nutak 4 quartzite outcrop (Brake)
Flake from the Nutak 4 quartzite outcrop (Brake)

When it is released in the spring of 2012, the PAO Archaeology Review for 2011 will contain more detail on some of these sites.  Past PAO Archaeology Review issues can be seen here.


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