In a couple of previous blog posts, I told you about how important context was in archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador. In this post I’ll present you with lots of context but very little interpretation, that’s what I expect you to help me with.
Finding a ring of stones on an archaeological site in Newfoundland and Labrador is not uncommon. They are on precontact aboriginal, post-contact aboriginal and European sites. On the aboriginal sites, the rings are usually interpreted as hold down rocks for a tent ring. Essentially, they functioned as tent pegs around the outer edges of the tent, holding down the tent edges. On European sites, they may have had more diversified roles. Regardless of culture, usually these rings of stone were constructed of one or two tiers of rock.
In June of 2007, a colleague was told of a ring of stones by local informants. The site is located approximately 4.5 kilometres inland from Northern Bay, Conception Bay.
The site lies within the Maritime Barrens forest eco-region. Vegetation, at lower elevations, is comprised of a mixture of Larch (Larix larcina), Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) and Alder (Alnus crispa) intermingled with berry bushes and other low-lying bushes and shrubs. At about 3.5 kilometres from the coast and at an elevation of around 150 masl the country opens into a barren ground of stunted Alders, Junipers, Partridgeberry and other low ground cover. The terrain at both lower and higher elevations is rocky and dry.
Late in the fall of 2007 we were guided by two locals to the site which we briefly investigated. It is approximately 210 masl and near a pond called Cod Looter Pond. The ring is constructed of dry laid, medium to large, lichen covered, flat and rounded fieldstones.
Overall the structure is sub-rectangular and the exterior measurements are 5m north-south by 4.20m east-west. The interior dimensions were 2.94m north-south by 2.27m east-west, giving a living space of about 6.67m². The interior is oval and may have been covered either by skins or canvas depending on the site’s age. The walls are not typical “hold-down-stones” as they are several tiers high, approximately 40 cm in height and about a metre in width.
Vegetation in and around the feature consists of caribou moss, berry bushes and stunted alders and juniper. Small to medium sized rocks made up the living floor of the majority of the interior. However, there were large stones which appeared to be in situ. Some of the smaller to medium sized rocks located in the northern quadrants of the feature had been removed by pot hunters who had discarded them on top of the wall; these were replaced as best as possible at the end of the investigation. Other rocks appear to have slumped from the walls both to the inside and outside of the feature. Turning over of stones near the centre of the structure uncovered charcoal flecks and possible fire-cracked rocks, some of which were quartz, which is common throughout the area. A forest fire had gone through the region in the early 1960’s, though the presence of fire-cracked rocks would point to human activity being responsible for the charcoal. Usually forest fires do not burn hot enough to split rocks.
A possible exterior feature was noted at the north-west corner of the feature where a partially buried, upright stone surrounded by at least four other flat laying stones was observed. This of course could be a natural event, though the appearance of the stone as a post support deserves comment.
In the end, it was concluded that the feature was made by someone, though by whom and how long ago could not be determined; this is where you come in. This is a task faced by archaeologists on a regular basis; what was this structure? It is substantial for being in the middle of the Bay de Verde Peninsula, hinting at long-term use but with no apparent function. Someone went through considerable effort to construct this ring from several hundred rocks. What do you think this structure was? Keeping in mind that the site is:
- 4.5 km inland
- ~200 masl
- 4×5 m in size with interior space at ~6.6m2
- walls were ~40 cm high and in places nearly 1 m wide composed of several tiers of rock in an area with very little loose rock
Thank-you very much to the informants and guides. This site is in such an unusual location that it likely would never have been found without the cooperation of the general public. If you think you have found an archaeological site or artifact you can contact me though this site or someone at the Provincial Archaeology Office.