The 1995 Trinity Bight Archaeology Project

In several previous posts, I have told you about archaeological surveys from all over the province and sites found during those surveys on posts such as Don’t Forget Your Shovel: Archaeology Surveys and the two year project the Labrador South Coastal Survey. Sites found during surveys include those from the survey of the Bird Cove area such as Hot Rocks and the Maritime Archaic: Heat Treating Chert or the adventures of lucky Larry at Stumbling Through The Past.

This post will focus on a survey conducted in 1995 in the area of Trinity Bight and directed by archaeologist Roy Skanes. The project had three primary objectives:

  • to conduct a detailed archaeological investigation of the Lester/Garland Premises;
  • to continue field research at the eighteenth/nineteenth century military fortifications at Fort Point and construct an interpretative trail around the site; and
  • to commence a comprehensive archaeological survey of the entire Trinity Bight, concentrating initially on the Trinity Harbour area.

The project found or conducted fieldwork at 25 sites, including several that I have told you about before such as Fort Point as well as the Lester/Garland Premises.

1995 Trinity Bight survey area (Skanes).

Admirals Point-Fort Point is the site of a major English fortification built in 1745/46. The structures that made up the fortifications were abandoned and reused several times up to about 1815. The site also has a Dorset Pre-Inuit component. Various European structures and earthworks, including a storekeeper’s hut, gun batteries, a gunner’s hut and the remains of a stone military foundation have been identified. This site has recently become the focus of a MUN archaeology graduate student.

The site of the Lester/Garland Premises consists of the remains of a three storey Georgian style brick house constructed around 1819-1821. Within and under the ruins of this house is the foundation of the Lester house constructed in 1760.

Of the 25 sites found or revisited, all have European or more recent Newfoundlander occupations: six are listed as having 18th and 19th century occupations, four have occupations from the 18th to the 20th century, only one is listed as 19th century and fourteen are listed as having 19th and 20th century evidence of occupation. One has an unidentified precontact occupation and one has a Dorset Pre-Inuit occupation.

The six sites with 18th and 19th century occupations include Admirals Point-Fort Point (mentioned above) and Fox Island, an English civil fort constructed during Queen Anne’s War 1702-1713. Most likely first occupied during the winter of 1709, it includes house and out-building remains (approximately 23 earthen berms, two vegetable gardens and one area where the ground had been modified for an unknown purpose) and earthen parapet measuring up to 150 m in length. This site was looked at by Roy Skanes in 2018 when he cleared the site of vegetation and produced a beautiful drone map that was used as a cover for volume 17 of the PAO Review for the 2018 Field Season. This site is also being looked at by a MUN archaeology graduate student.

The Fox Island site is located on the flat terrace near the centre of the photo.

The four sites with 18th, 19th and 20th century occupations include the Lester/Garland Premises mentioned above and the Admirals Beach Hill site overlooking Trinity Harbour. It had the remains of three or possibly four house foundations or supports of cut stones and concrete. The area was known to have been occupied into modern times. Eight out of nine test pits dug in this area revealed evidence of 19th and 20th century occupation. One test pit, however, produced a quantity of Bristol-Staffordshire and Westerwald stoneware sherds, white with blue-lined tin-glazed earthenware, scratch blue stoneware and sherds of what appear to be London Brown stoneware. The presence of these materials could indicate an eighteenth century occupation. These earlier artifacts did not appear to be associated with any of the visible house remains. 

The lone site that has evidence for just a 19th century occupation is known as Moose Bed and is located on the east side of Northwest Arm. The site is in a clearing that had obviously been used in modern times as a dump.

One test pit excavated at this location produced four pipe stem fragments, a section of a smoking pipe bowl, a quantity of refined earthenware and animal bone. A preliminary analysis of those materials suggests that it is exclusively 19th century. No structures or features of any description were identified from surface indications.

Finally, there were fourteen sites that had 19th and 20th century occupations, such as the Chimney Site located in the same area as the Admirals Beach Hill site. The five test pits excavated here produced just 19th and 20th century artifactual material. The remains of at least three structures were also recorded, including the foundation of a house that was apparently demolished in the 1960’s.

The site of Green Island Cove also had evidence for 19th and 20th century occupations. The area tested is an extremely large meadow containing what appear to be a number of vegetable gardens. As well, the clearly defined outline of one possible house or root cellar was noted. The lack of any safe anchorage and the very high banks above the beach probably rendered this cove somewhat unsuitable as a living site for anyone pursuing livelihood fishing. However, its proximity to Dunfield and other communities points to its possible usage as a gardening and perhaps a livestock grazing area for that community. The site was revisited and tested in 2016. The recovered evidence confirmed that most of the site and field shows signs of agricultural and/or pastoral usage. At the southern end of the site (Coleman’s Point), there were signs of landscape modification (platform, possible outhouse pit) and evidence of two phases of occupation: (1) early 19th century and (2) later 19th, possibly into 20th century. Documentary and family history data suggests an additional early 20th century presence at the site.

Testing of the Green Island Cove area in 2016 (Penney).
Contents of test pit in the Green Island Cove area in 2016 (Penney).

Penney, Gerald
2016 Green Island Cove, Trinity Bay HROA Archaeological Investigation Permit #16.21.

Skanes, Roy & Ken Reynolds
1996 The Trinity Bight Archaeology Project 1995 Interim Report 95.16

2 thoughts on “The 1995 Trinity Bight Archaeology Project

    1. The precontact component was a single chert flake found at one. It is not culturally diagnostic.
      The Dorset occupation was found at the Admirals Point-Fort Point site. The occupation is composed of just artifacts, no features such as fireplaces or tent structures were found during the work. The Dorset level was badly disturbed by the subsequent fortifications.

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