Don’t forget your shovel: archaeology surveys

Currently, there are about 3500-recorded archaeology sites in Labrador and just over 2000 on the Island, many of which were found during archaeological surveys. Archaeology surveys, in various forms, have been ongoing in the province since the late 19th century, conducted by university professors, museum staff, archaeology consultants, government employees, and graduate students from various places throughout Canada, the United States, and Europe. Usually, one or two senior archaeologists lead archaeology surveys; they have a team of junior archaeologists and a local crew working under them. During a survey, archaeologists will record just about anything they find related to the human occupation of an area. Over the years, I have told you about several large-scale surveys in the province such as the 1991-1992 Labrador South Coastal Survey directed by Dr. Marianne Stopp. It covered more than 600 kilometres of previously unexamined Labrador coastline and resulted in the discovery of around 150 sites. I also told you about the 1993 and 1994 Katalisk Archaeological Survey led by archaeologist Gerald Penney on the southwest coast of the island of Newfoundland. The surveys described below are in roughly chronological order.

T. G. B Lloyd visited Labrador looking at artifacts in the late 19th century; he was followed shortly thereafter by Diamond Jenness, Alfred Kidder, W.J. Wintemberg, and William Duncan Strong in the early 20th century. In the early 1930s, Junius Bird and his wife visited a number of sites in the Hopedale area during their Honeymoon! Elmer Harp worked in the Labrador Straits area in the late 1940s and early 1960s. Many of these archaeologists such as Lloyd, Jenness, and Harp also worked on the Island. Lloyd saw artifact collections from several sites all over the Island. Jenness found and visited half a dozen sites in the Notre Dame Bay and White Bay areas. Elmer Harp, starting in 1949, visited and excavated at more than 20 sites on the Northern Peninsula, the most important of which was the huge Dorset Pre-Inuit habitation site at Phillips Garden, Port au Choix.

In the mid to late 1960s, Helen E. Devereux did survey work on the island of Newfoundland for the National Museum of Canada from 1964-1969. She had planned to use this material for her doctoral thesis but she never completed that project. During her time on the Island Helen surveyed and found or revisited nearly 30 sites from Bonavista Bay to White Bay to the Exploits River in the south. This work laid the foundations for what we know of the archaeology of the Beothuk.

The Helen E. Devereux archaeological survey (Blue dots are sites found during the survey, red dots are other recorded sites)

Dr. William Fitzhugh of the Smithsonian Institute and Dr. Richard Jordan of Bryn Mawr College led the Torngat Archaeological Project in the late 1970s. The survey covered more than 500 km of Labrador coastline and resulted in the recording of nearly 400 archaeological sites. This project resulted in the completion of several Masters and Doctoral theses. This project and Fitzhugh’s survey of Hamilton Inlet for his doctoral thesis, which located nearly 80 sites, served as the first large scale synthesis of Labrador’s history.

The Torngat Archaeological Project archaeological survey (Blue dots are sites found during the survey, red dots are other recorded sites)

In the 1970s, Memorial University Professor Dr. Jim Tuck conducted surveys on behalf of Parks Canada in Gros Morne and Terra Nova National Parks. In Gros Morne, Jim found 15 sites, several of which became the basis of Masters’s level graduate work. In Terra Nova, his survey resulted in the discovery of nearly 30 sites. Again, several of these became the basis of Master’s level graduate work.

The Jim Tuck Gros Morne archaeological survey (Blue dots are sites found during the survey, red dots are other recorded sites)
The Jim Tuck Terra Nova archaeological survey (Blue dots are sites found during the survey, red dots are other recorded sites)

Memorial University’s Dr. Priscilla Renouf or her students surveyed large areas of the Northern Peninsula from the early 1980s to the early 2000s resulting in the discovery of more than 100 sites and numerous Master’s theses and at least 2 doctoral theses. Much of Priscilla’s work focused on the important Pre-Inuit sites in the Port au Choix area.

The Priscilla Renouf Northern Peninsula archaeological survey (Blue dots are sites found during the survey, red dots are other recorded sites)

Dr. Reginald Auger and Dr. Marianne Stopp conducted another large survey in the mid-1980s along the Straits shore of Labrador, one of the province’s oldest settled areas; it covered around 100 km of coastline and resulted in the discovery of around 100 sites.

The Labrador Straits Archaeological Project archaeological survey (Blue dots are sites found during the survey, red dots are other recorded sites)

Perhaps one of the most prolific archaeologists in the province was Gerald Penney. As I said above he carried out the large Katalisk survey in the early 1990s but before that he did survey work along the south coast for his Master’s thesis. That survey resulted in the discovery of more than 20 sites including the L’Anse à Flamme site, the type-site for the Little Passage complex. That cultural complex we know now is the direct ancestor of the Beothuk. In the mid-1980s, he also carried out a large survey in Western Notre Dame Bay and Green Bay finding more than 50 archaeological sites.

The Gerald Penney South Coast archaeological survey (Blue dots are sites found during the survey, red dots are other recorded sites)
The Gerald Penney Western Notre Dame Bay archaeological survey (Blue dots are sites found during the survey, red dots are other recorded sites)

Dr. Fred Schwarz surveyed the area around Gambo, Gambo Pond, and Terra Nova Lake in the late 1980s discovering 20 sites. This work shed light on interior Indigenous adaptations not previously recognized on the island. In the early 1990s, a number of local heritage organizations hired Fred to conduct surveys in various places on the island including the Bay of Exploits and Exploits River up to Red Indian Lake. This survey resulted in the discovery of nearly 50 sites. A few years later, he surveyed part of the Bay of Islands and the west coast recording 13 sites.

The Fred Schwarz Gambo, Gambo Pond, and Terra Nova Lake archaeological survey (Blue dots are sites found during the survey, red dots are other recorded sites)
The Fred Schwarz Exploits archaeological survey (Blue dots are sites found during the survey, red dots are other recorded sites)
The Fred Schwarz Bay of Islands archaeological survey (Blue dots are sites found during the survey, red dots are other recorded sites)

In conjunction with a local heritage organization, Laurie McLean has conducted numerous surveys in the Bonavista Bay area for decades finding some very important sites such as the large Rhyolite quarry at Bloody Bay and revisiting the important Beothuk site at the Beaches. He also did survey work in the area on behalf of the Provincial Archaeology Office. In total, nearly 140 sites were found. Laurie also conducted a couple of smaller surveys in the eastern Notre Dame Bay area on behalf of the Provincial Archaeology Office finding more than 60 sites.

The Laurie McLean Bonavista Bay archaeological survey (Blue dots are sites found during the survey, red dots are other recorded sites)
The Laurie McLean Notre Dame Bay archaeological survey (Blue dots are sites found during the survey, red dots are other recorded sites)

Without a doubt, the largest surveys in the province have been in Labrador and carried out for academic work or for Historic Resource management. For example, the Muskrat Falls-Churchill River power project, much of which was led by Dr. Fred Schwarz, resulted in the survey of a huge area from the Churchill River to southern Labrador and the discovery of around 270 sites. Many of the sites on the lower end of the river near Churchill Falls contain Intermediate period occupations (~3500 years ago – ~1000 years ago) and have added a tremendous amount of new information to our understanding of this period. This is perhaps the period in the province’s past for which we know the least, but one that we now have considerably more data ready for further analysis.

The Muskrat Falls-Churchill River power project archaeological survey (Blue dots are sites found during the survey, red dots are other recorded sites)

One of the most heavily surveyed areas of the Island is Notre Dame Bay. From Fogo Island in the east to the eastern side of the Baie Verte Peninsula and south end of the Bay of Exploits, there are nearly 350 sites in this area. Some of the archaeologists who have worked in the area include:

  • Helen Devereux conducted survey work in this area in the mid-1960s (From Ontario working on behalf of the then Canadian Museum of Man).
  • Dr. John Erwin has done survey work in the area for Historic Resource management or with the Provincial Archaeology Office.
  • Dr. Donald Holly conducted survey work in the Fogo area finding 14 sites for part of his doctoral thesis work.
  • Diamond Jenness was in the area in 1927 working for the Survey of Canada.
  • Donald MacLeod surveyed in the Twillingate area in the late 1960s for the Canadian Museum of Man.
  • Dr. Ingeborg Marshall surveyed in the area gaining insight into the Beothuk for what she would eventually use towards her Master’s thesis and her definitive 1996 book on the Beothuk A History and Ethnography of the Beothuk.
  • Memorial University professorDr. Ralph Pastore surveyed large areas of Notre Dame Bay finding more than 20 sites, two of which, Boyd’s Cove and Inspector Island, are of utmost importance to our understanding of the Beothuk. Boyd’s Cove has since become a Provincial Historic site.
  • Ken Reynolds found more than 30 sites during his numerous visits to the area for his work with the Provincial Archaeology Office.
  • I have already mentioned the work done by Laurie McLean, Fred Schwarz, and Gerald Penney in Notre Dame Bay.
    Sites found in Notre Dame Bay (Blue dots are sites found during the survey, red dots are other recorded sites)

    As you can tell from this selection of survey work, archaeologists from various places such as MUN, government, the private sector, and several institutions and universities in Canada, the United States, and Europe have studied the province’s human past for the last 150 years. Numerous people from different places have held permits to conduct this work. While there is still much to learn, all of this work allows us to say we have a firm grasp on the major cultural occupations of the province.

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