The Bank site, Terra Nova National Park: Part 2

This post is a continuation from two weeks ago dealing with the Bank site (DdAk-05) in Terra Nova National Park.

Parks Canada archaeologist Dr. Jenneth Curtis revisited several Terra Nova National Park archaeology sites in 2007, including the Bank site. During that visit three Dorset artifacts, six flakes and a single piece of calcined bone were surface collected from the eroding site (Curtis 2008). This disturbance prompted another excavation operation at the site that was to be conducted in 2008. The goals of the project were to excavate a wide strip along the eroding bank, to record as much information as possible about the cultural deposits, and to recover artifacts along with faunal and floral samples (Curtis 2009).

The 2008 work covered an area of approximately 20mand continued the excavation of the Little Passage hearth, Feature 1. As before, it consisted of scattered clusters of fire-cracked rock within a thin layer of black soil. One additional corner-notched point of Ramah chert was recovered. The excavated area of the hearth now has a length of 7.5m and continues into undisturbed portions of the site (Curtis 2009).

Excavation in progress at the Bank site in 2008 (Curtis 2009)
Excavation in progress at the Bank site in 2008 (Curtis 2009)

The 2008 season also continued the excavation of the semi-subterranean Dorset Palaeoeskimo dwelling (Structure 1) that was identified by Schwarz. The 2008 work revealed a portion of the eastern wall of this structure as well as a layer of orange soil mottled with ash, charcoal, and fire-reddened soil patches appear to represent the house floor. In total the house size was approximately 8 m wide and more than 5.5 m long to the edge of the eroding bank. The house was clearly larger in the past; half of it may have been lost to erosion prior to 1992. Curtis also continued the excavation of a layer of dark brown, gravelly loam which was rich in lithic artifacts and likely represents a Dorset Palaeoeskimo midden associated with Structure 1. Two samples of charcoal from within the midden were radiocarbon dated to 1493±38 BP and 1516±32 BP. These dates are consistent with the period of Dorset occupation in Newfoundland (Curtis 2009).

Fire-cracked-rock in ash on the floor of Structure 1 (Curtis 2009)
Fire-cracked rock in ash on the floor of Structure 1 (Curtis 2009)

The 2008 work also identified six new features at the site including a possible Recent Indian hearth which consisted of a distinctive deposit of uniform, pea-sized gravel capping a small hearth. The gravel was fire-reddened and contained small pieces of charcoal but little in the way of artifacts. A few fire-cracked rocks occurred around the edges of the hearth. No diagnostic artifacts were found within this feature, however a charcoal sample produced a date of 588±35 BP that calibrates to AD 1300-1415 placing it within the time frame of the Little Passage Complex (Curtis 2009).

A second hearth was found that consisted of a deposit of fire-cracked rock with charcoal that was roughly oval in shape and measured 80 cm in length by 70 cm in width. The cultural affiliation of this feature is not clear from its stratigraphic context, but a cluster of three corner-notched points found in Stratum 1 just north of the hearth may indicate a Little Passage Complex date. A sample of the charcoal from the hearth was radiocarbon dated to 256±48 BP however, and Curtis noted this date may relate to a forest fire (Curtis 2009).

Little Passage projectile points recovered during the 2008 work (Curtis 2009)
Little Passage projectile points recovered during the 2008 work. The Ramah chert point on the bottom left was recovered from Feature 1 (Curtis 2009)

Another feature consisted of a cluster of fire-cracked rock that was disturbed and obscured by a large stump. Charcoal was found beneath the stump, this feature was also likely a hearth (Curtis 2009).

The fourth new feature was either another hearth feature or a dump of material cleaned out of a hearth and consisted of a mounded deposit of fire-cracked rock in fired soil along with charcoal and burnt shell (Curtis 2009).

A lens of crushed shell made up yet another new feature. This deposit was high up in the stratigraphy of the site appearing just below the humus layer. Eighteenth-century European artifacts were associated with this feature (Curtis 2009).

The final new feature was a band of black organic soil running north to south through the centre of one unit. It measured 150 cm by 60 cm. A large rock abutted the north end and two fire-reddened slabs of stone bordered the western side. This feature was interpreted as a Palaeoeskimo axial feature (Curtis 2009).

Axial Feature before and after excavation (Curtis 2009).
Axial Feature before and after excavation (Curtis 2009).

Along with these features a number of artifacts from the Groswater, Dorset and Recent Indian occupations of the site were recovered. There were just three Groswater artifacts recovered; two sideblades and the tip of a burin-like tool. Numerous Dorset tip-fluted endblades, scrapers and microblades were found in the Dorset features. The diagnostic component of the Recent Indian assemblage recovered in 2008 was represented by the six projectile points shown in the picture above. The recovered European ceramic fragments suggest an early 18th century visit to the site. Three objects are represented: a coarse, red earthenware vessel with a green glazed interior; a finer, buff-coloured earthenware (surfaces were completely exfoliated); and a kaolin pipe (stem fragments) (Curtis 2009).

Groswater artifacts recovered in 2008 (Curtis 2009).
Groswater artifacts recovered in 2008 (Curtis 2009).
Dorset artifacts recovered in 2008 (Curtis 2009).
Dorset artifacts recovered in 2008 (Curtis 2009).
European ceramics recovered in 2008 (Curtis 2009).
European ceramics recovered in 2008 (Curtis 2009).

Curtis returned to Terra Nova and the Bank site in 2009 to complete the salvage excavation project begun in 2008. The layers excavated in 2009 related primarily to the Dorset Palaeoeskimo occupation and included a thick midden deposit. Curtis succeeded in salvaging areas along the front of the bank that were imminently threatened by erosion. Nonetheless, extensive and rich cultural deposits remain in situ at this site. In 2009 Curtis continued the excavation of Structure 1 and completed the excavation of the Little Passage Complex hearth that was radiocarbon dated to 256±48 BP and the Palaeoeskimo axial feature, both of which were uncovered in 2008. She also uncovered three additional features (Curtis 2010).

The first new 2009 feature was a small patch of black soil that may have been cultural or natural. The second feature was a narrow strip of ashy brown soil which may be related to the floor of Structure 1. The last new feature was a lens of greasy black soil within the dated midden referenced above. The feature included charcoal and fire-cracked rock and thus may represent a hearth or a dump of material removed from a hearth nearby. A sample of the charcoal was radiocarbon dated to 1599±30 BP (Curtis 2010).

patch of black soil and gravel
The first new feature from 2009, patch of black soil and gravel (Curtis 2010).
Midden
The last new feature from 2009, the lens of black soil within the midden that was dated to 1599±30 BP (Curtis 2010).

All of the diagnostic artifacts recovered in 2009 relate to the Dorset Palaeoeskimo occupation of the site. These consist of tip-fluted and triangular endblades along with tip-fluting flakes. Various microblades and scrapers may be attributed to the Palaeoeskimo period but not specifically to Dorset Palaeoeskimo.

Tip-fluted endblades, preforms and tip-fluting flakes recovered in 2009 (Curtis 2010)
Tip-fluted endblades, preforms and tip-fluting flakes recovered in 2009 (Curtis 2010)

In 2013 five Terra Nova National Park archaeology sites, including the Bank site, were revisited by another Parks Canada archaeologist, Dr. Marianne Stopp. The purpose of this revisit was to collect data such as GPS location, an assessment of site condition and disturbances, an assessment of potential threats and any threatened artifacts such as those from an active beach zone, or erosion zone. Stopp found the site to be in good physical condition although erosion at the site’s western end continues to wear away the terrace face and flakes were found eroding down the bank and at beach level (Stopp 2013).

Found by testing in 1979, the Bank site has turned out to be much larger and much more important that originally believed. Unfortunately, like many sites in Newfoundland and Labrador it continues to be threatened by coastal erosion and there is little that can be done about this. There is little that can be done to prevent such erosion but the site is periodically revisited and future excavation could be carried out.


Curtis, Jenneth
2008  Archaeological Site Monitoring, Terra Nova National Park.  Permit report TNP-2007-1301 on file at the Atlantic Service Centre, Halifax.

2009  TNP-2008-1511 Final Report Archaeological Excavations at the Bank Site, Terra Nova National Park.

2010 TNP-2009-2195 Final Report Continued Archaeological Excavations at the Bank Site (10A), Terra Nova National Park.

2013  Archaeological Monitoring in Terra Nova National Park 2010 & 2011 Permit Report for TNP-2010-6772 and TNP-2011-9093

Stopp, Marianne
2013 Archaeological Site Monitoring, Terra Nova National Park, 2013. Parks Canada Permit No: TNP-2013-14275

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