The Samms’ site: A Groswater site in Norris Point

About a year ago I told you about my participation in the Northern Peninsula Heritage Inventory during the summer of 2000. I led the survey of a large area of the Northern Peninsula extending from Crémaillère Harbour in the south to Quirpon Island in the north and as far west as Raleigh. Prior to the start of that project I spent four weeks excavating units at the Samms’ site in Norris Point.

The site was on the property of a former private residence that had been converted to a Memorial University of Newfoundland Biology Field Station. In August 1999 a six-person archaeological crew under the direction of M.A.P. Renouf tested the field station lawn and potato garden and found a small number of Groswater Palaeoeskimo artifacts. In 2000 the testing was followed up with more intensive and longer-term testing. Our objectives were to test the site to determine the range of cultures present, the extent of any disturbance, and site size. Our results confirmed the presence of a Groswater Palaeoeskimo site, along with some 18th century and 19th century European material. However, the Samms’ site turned out to be extensively disturbed, and therefore no further excavation was warranted (Renouf, Bell & Hull 2001).

Norris Point is located in Bonne Bay, on the west coast of the island of Newfoundland. The site was located near the active beach on the southeast end of a peninsula that sticks out from the north shore of Bonne Bay. The peninsula divides Bonne Bay into the South and East Arm. Less than 200 metres to the west and at a slightly higher elevation than the Samms’ site is the location of a once-rich Maritime Archaic Indian and Palaeoeskimo site, known as Norris Point 1 (DjBl-02). While the Samms’ site was found by Renouf in 1999, Norris Point 1 had been known to archaeologists since the late 1920s. Unfortunately, like the Samms’ site, Norris Point 1 was heavily disturbed by European activities including looting (Renouf, Bell & Hull 2001). In fact the late Dr. Elmer Harp recorded in his field notes from 1949 that local boys would sell buckets of artifacts from the Norris Point site to tourists (Harp 1949). Interestingly, the Groswater Palaeoeskimo were first identified on the island of Newfoundland at Norris Point 1 by archaeologist Paul Bishop in 1973 (Bishop 1974).

Location of the Samms' site (DjBl-09) in relations to Norris Point 1 (DjBl-02).
Location of the Samms’ site (DjBl-09) in relation to Norris Point 1 (DjBl-02).
Looking over part of the Samms' site. The upper terrace in the back ground, to the left of the white house, contains the Norris Point 1 site (Renouf).
Looking over part of the Samms’ site. The upper terrace in the back ground, to the left of the white house, contains the Norris Point 1 site (Renouf).

Site testing took place from June 22 – July 14, 2000. The main objective was to test for undisturbed deposits which might warrant future full-scale excavations. With a crew of three, we excavated 21 mthroughout the property along a site grid. Initially excavation proceeded by troweling but as the extent of the site’s disturbance became apparent, we proceeded by shovel-shining. All backdirt was sifted through a 1/4″ screen. In almost all excavation units the levels were very badly disturbed. For example in one unit we recovered a white plastic egg at 34 cm below surface, a side-notched Groswater biface at 39 cm below the surface and a small piece of window pane glass at 43 cm below the surface. In another unit we recovered the base of a Groswater biface at 30 cm below the surface and the tip of the biface at 68 cm below the surface (Renouf, Bell & Hull 2001).

Tbe trowel is poinwg to a Groswater biface showing in the profile below a plastic egg and above a piece of glass.
The trowel is pointing to a Groswater biface
showing in the profile below a plastic egg and above a piece of glass.

A typical Groswater tool kit on the island usually consists of small and finely-made stone tools fashioned most often made from fine grained Cow Head cherts. It would usually include side-notched endblades (box-based), sideblades, scrapers (sometimes referred to as eared scrapers), microblades, side-notched bifaces and chipped and ground burin-like tools.

We recovered nearly 6000 flakes and 105 Groswater artifacts including microblades, bifaces, and chipped and ground burin-like-tools. The 105 artifacts were mostly made up of microblades, bifaces, and utilized flakes. Interestingly, the site contained just one endblade and two scrapers which is atypical for a Palaeoeskimo site. For example, the nearby Norris Point 1 site contained nine side-notched endblades, five side-notched endblade fragments and 30 scrapers (some of which may have been Dorset)(Bishop 1974). We also recovered a lot of chert cores and numerous primary, secondary and tertiary flakes. The predominant tools recovered suggest activities associated with animal butchering and other food-processing activities, while the chert cores and flakes suggest tool making activities and biface retouch and resharpening took place at the site as well. With this in mind we suggested that the Samms’ site was a low-lying and sheltered butchering station associated with the higher and more exposed main camp at nearby Norris Point 1. It is also possible that the two sites were occupied at different years or different seasons (Renouf, Bell & Hull 2001).


Bishop, Paul
1974  Final Report: 1973 Excavations at Norris Point, Gros Morne National Park.

Harp, Elmer Jr.
1949  Elmer Harps’s 1949 Journal Entries for Newfoundland and Labrador: Visited Areas and Sites

Renouf, Priscilla, Bell, Trevor, & Hull, Stephen
2001  Excavation of the Samms’ Site (DjBl-09): A Groswater Palaeoeskimo Site in Norris Point, Newfoundland.

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