2016-2017 A Season of Loss

This is my first post in six months. While I have been busy, I have also been putting this off because I didn’t know how to start it. On Christmas Day 2016 we lost a colleague and friend, Ken Reynolds. Since then the archaeology community in Newfoundland and Labrador has suffered several losses.

Ken began his archaeology field career in Red Bay in 1979 working with Dr. James Tuck on the Basque whaling site. Thus began a long career which took him all over Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ken in RB 1979
Red Bay archaeology field crew in 1979. Ken is in the back on the left wearing a green jacket (Rob McLaughlin).
Ken helping to drain the pond on Twin Island in Red Bay, 1984 (Mills).

Checking through the records here in the Provincial Archaeology Office, starting in 1994, Ken was issued 103 archaeology permits throughout his career. In the archaeology site database, he is listed as having found 93 sites on the Island and three in Labrador. He revisited 56 known sites on the Island and 14 in Labrador. Of course, those numbers do not include other projects that he worked on but was not the primary permit holder. For example, he assisted Marianne Stopp in 1992 when she led the Labrador South Coastal Survey in finding or revisiting nearly 90 sites.

Sites
Sites (pink dots) found or revisited by Ken Reynolds.

Ken also participated in other large and productive archaeology projects in the Province including Red Bay, Ferryland and the Beothuk Project. One of the outcomes of the Beothuk Project was the discovery of the important Recent Indian-Beothuk site at Boyd’s Cove.

Ken’s passion, certainly in the later stages of his career, was looking into the Beothuk and their history, particularly along the Exploits River. Over the last several years he was in charge of the Directed Research Program which saw either the discovery of or relocation of nearly 30 archaeology sites along the Exploits River. More than 20 of the sites have a Beothuk component and many of these sites had not been visited by an archaeologist since the 1960s. Just last summer the program funded a survey which found a new, undisturbed Beothuk housepit – the first such discovery since Boyd’s Cove in the early 1980s.

I personally worked with Ken for nearly 20 years and came to know him as a very kind and intelligent man. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of Newfoundland and Labrador history and archaeology in particular that we came to rely on. His knowledge and good nature are missed every day. The Provincial Archaeology Office Review Volume 15 for the 2016 Field Season was dedicated to Ken.

On March 30, 2017, Christopher L. Nagle, a North American archaeologist who specialized in lithic analysis, GIS, and archeometry, and did his most important work in the Arctic, passed away (Dr. Susan Kaplan).

He began his archaeology career in Alaska before transitioning to work with William Fitzhugh in Labrador. He was a key member of the 1977-78 Torngat Archaeological Project, a joint Bryn Mawr College-Smithsonian Institution archaeological survey of central and northern Labrador. In the 1980s he focused on archaeological and archaeometric studies of soapstone, chert, and nephrite artifacts, and conducted field and laboratory studies identifying their geological sources. With chemist Ralph O. Allen he published papers on rare earth element analysis of Labrador soapstone quarries and identified the likely source of a Dorset lamp found in the Norse smithy at the L’Anse aux Meadows site in Newfoundland. Following his Torngat Project work, he organized the first computerization of the Smithsonian’s anthropology collections (Kaplan).

His graduate work at Brandeis University supervised by George Cowgill stimulated his career focus in archaeological informatics and led to his 1984 dissertation, “Lithic Raw Materials Procurement and Exchange in Dorset Culture Along the Labrador Coast.” This cutting-edge analysis of Dorset culture trade and exchange of Ramah chert and soapstone along an 800-mile Labrador coast is one of the most detailed applications of “down-the-line” exchange models in archaeology (Kaplan).

Chris also spent a couple of seasons investigating the Fleur de Lys Soapstone Quarry on the Baie Verte Peninsula.

Dr. Nagle at the Fleur de Lys Soapstone quarry in 1997 (Dr. John Erwin).

Unfortunately, on April 4th Dr. Peter Pope passed away. Peter completed his M.A. (1986) and Ph.D. (1992) work on seventeenth century Ferryland.

Peter began teaching in the Department of History at Memorial University of Newfoundland but later joined the Archaeology Department, eventually becoming Head of the Department and an Honorary Research Professor. He was also director of the Newfoundland Archaeological Heritage Outreach Program. In 2001, he was awarded the Memorial University President’s Award for Outstanding Research in recognition of his achievements in uncovering the past and preserving it for future generations.

Dr. Peter Pope

Starting in 1986, Peter was issued 17 archaeology permits throughout his career. In the archaeology site database, he is listed as having found 108 sites on the Island and revisited a further 27 known sites. He focused mostly on English sites on the Avalon and French sites on the Northern Peninsula. Those archaeology sites range in age from 16th-century migratory fishermen sites all the way through 20th-century farming, fishing and settlement sites. According to our records, Peter was the author or co-author on more than 100 archaeology and or history reports based on his research and fieldwork. These were both published and unpublished reports and papers.

Sites (pink dots) found or revisited by Dr. Peter Pope.

Peter’s career in archaeology and historical research led to many awards and he contributed significantly to our understanding of early modern life in Newfoundland and Labrador. He conveyed its importance locally and abroad, notably as director of the Newfoundland Archaeological Heritage Outreach Program and a member of the Royal Society of Canada. He was an award-winning author as well, earning praise for his books Fish into Wine and The Many Landfalls of John Cabot. I learned from his obituary that he was also a poet, playwright, puppet-maker, woodworker, architect, saxophonist, farmer, gardener and antique auto fan.

Finally, earlier this month I learned of the passing of a friend of mine from Bird Cove on the Northern Peninsula, Royal Gibbons. The Bird Cove Archaeology Project began in 1997 and has been running pretty much ever since. In my opinion, there were three local guys who spearheaded that project, certainly first and foremost is Dale Kennedy. The other two were Lawrence Caines and Royal Gibbons. Lawrence and Royal worked in the field during the 1997 & 1998 seasons and as field crew chief I got to know them pretty good. Both were excellent hands at archaeology and loved working in the field. In 1998 I stayed with Royal and his wife Christine while I excavated North Cove, a site in the Bird Cove area as part of my Master’s Thesis with the assistance of several crew members including Royal and Lawrence. For three weeks Royal and Christine’s home was my home. Royal was a father, husband, fisherman, musician, river guardian, bus driver, jack of all trades and certainly an archaeologist at heart.

Royal Gibbons (Kerry M. Fillatre’s Funeral Home)

This has been a very difficult period for our small archaeology community. Collectively we have lost a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience. But more than that we have lost close friends and family. Hopefully, 2017 improves.


References

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5 thoughts on “2016-2017 A Season of Loss

  1. It is always sad when an academic, a scholar or anyone seriously interested in the work of academia or scholarship and facilitates these activities passes on. However after reading the above blog entry I can sympathize with the bad luck etc… when several pass on within short time spans between their passing as the “normal” grieving timeline(s) are conflated to put it mildly heightening for many their griefs. I love archaeology and especially historical archaeology as I am an historian. Yes let us hope that the digging of 2017 will turn up wonderful things that all these people were associated with. Best wishes, John

  2. Our daily lives are usually full and busy, and everything seems secure and regular until a death upends everything and makes us remember that life is fragile. People involved in archaeology help us look back across large spans of time to how people lived in the remote past, and their work will be remembered after they pass away. They will also be remembered and missed by those who know and love them. I was lucky enough to have known Ken Reynolds and Peter Pope in passing, and followed their work with interest.

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