I have been using ArcGIS in my day-to-day work now for about 10 years. It is an amazing piece of software that is capable of so much that even after 10 years of use I am constantly learning something new about it. Despite having used it to plot the archaeology sites in the province for the last 10 years I still occasionally, see something in the site plots that reminds me that these are more than just dots on maps. For example, 2 weeks ago I told you that I was preparing a lecture for a MUN archaeology class. In preparing for the lecture, which was about the Recent Indian Tradition of Newfoundland and Labrador, I produced the following maps for the Early and Late Newfoundland and Labrador Recent Indians.

Early Labrador Recent Indians

Early Labrador Recent Indians sites

Late Labrador Recent Indians

Late Labrador Recent Indians sites

Early Newfoundland Recent Indians

Early Newfoundland Recent Indians sites

Late Newfoundland Recent Indians

Late Newfoundland Recent Indians sites

For the most part, I think these maps are what you would expect from a group of people who practiced a generalized settlement subsistence economy. You can see use of various environments including coastal resources, interior resources and use the resources that are on exposed headlands, islands and the bottoms of sheltered bays. However, what intrigued me about these maps was on the Early Labrador Recent Indians map, or rather what was lacking on the map. It appears that they made little to no use of the interior.

Based on radio carbon dates it appears that the Early Labrador Recent Indians may be ancestral to the Early Newfoundland Recent Indians. Current dates suggest the Early Lab Recent Indians came into existence ~1900 BP and the Early Newfoundland Recent Indians came into existence slightly later around the same time ~1800 BP or even 1900 BP if we accept early dates from the sites of Cape Cove 2 & Cape Cove 3 (dates that were initially rejected by the excavators). If we don’t accept those dates the Early Newfoundland Recent Indians started ~1500 or 1600 BP.

 Therefore, we have a reasonably good idea of when they came into existence but I don’t think we know for sure where the Recent Indians came from. Several archaeologists have suggested that the Labrador Recent Indians are the result of an in situ evolution from some part of the Intermediate Indians. The Early Labrador Recent Indians map above seems to point to the same conclusion. If the Labrador Recent Indians were the result of a new group of people moving into the area after the demise of the Intermediate Indians, I would expect that some Early Labrador Recent Indians sites would be found to the west or possibly along the south coast. Of course, all of this could simply be the result of more survey work on the coast than in the interior. However, I would think that at least one Early Labrador Recent Indians site would have been found in the interior by now, if they existed there.

 Another gap I noticed is during the Dorset Palaeoeskimo period. I can’t take credit for this one, other archaeologists have pointed it out before. Nevertheless, when the sites are displayed in ArcGIS it is very interesting.

Early, Middle & Late Dorset Palaeoeskimo sites

Early (Red circle), Middle (Yellow triangle) and Late (Green square) Dorset sites

Plotting Early, Middle and Late Dorset on a map shows a huge gap along the central coast of Labrador within the rectangle where there is more than 250 km of coastline (in a straight line). Why does this gap exist? Even when we add the other Dorset sites that are not recognized as Early, Middle and Late, the gap still exists. All we add are eight sites along the southern periphery of the rectangle.

All Dorset Palaeoeskimo sites

All Dorset Palaeoeskimo sites

To explain this gap archaeologists theorize that precontact ‘Indian’ groups occupied this area. Those precontact ‘Indian’ groups would be late Intermediate Indians and Recent Indians in Labrador.

All Intermediate Indian and Recent Indian sites

All Intermediate Indian and Recent Indian sites

Even when we plot all the Intermediate Indian and Recent Indian sites, the gap still appears to exist. Just 33 sites fill in the rectangle that takes up nearly 250km of coastline. Granted, a gap is not as evident as in the case of the Dorset sites but the gap is still there. The other side of the argument that ‘The Dorset avoided the area because there were precontact Indian groups there’ is that outside the rectangle the Dorset and precontact Indian sites are mixed with one another. Why would they just avoid that rectangle?

 There has to be something else that causes this gap. We cannot claim it is due to a lack of research in the area. A map of all known archaeology sites in the province fills in the gap with 289 sites.

All Archaeology sites

All Archaeology sites

Can you see any other patterns or gaps? For more maps of archaeology sites in Newfoundland and Labrador, you can go here.

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