Two weeks ago I told you about the 1991 season of the Labrador South Coastal Survey (LSCS). This was a two year archaeology project which started in 1991 and covered more than 600 kilometres of previously unexamined Labrador coastline. The 1991 survey area was between Cape St. Charles and Seal Island, Labrador. It was directed by Marianne Stopp, she was assisted by Doug Rutherford and crew. The 1992 survey started at Seal Island and finished at southern Trunmore Bay. It was again directed by Marianne Stopp, and this time she was assisted by Ken Reynolds and crew. More than 60 sites were found or revisited in 1991 and nearly 90 sites were found or revisited in 1992 (Stopp 1995, 1997, Stopp & Rutherford 1991, Stopp & Reynolds 1992).
Like the 1991 season, the 1992 season was funded through the Labrador Comprehensive Agreement which was administered through the Historic Resources Division of the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, St. John’s, Newfoundland. Today this section of the division is known as the Provincial Archaeology Office and is part of the Department of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development.
The geography of the 1992 survey area was characterized by fewer large bays and inlets than in 1991, but had a greater expanse of low elevation, sub-arctic tundra. This meant that more coastline was available for testing. The original mandate of the LSCS was to finish at Rigolet, but because of the greater available coastline surveying, southern Trunmore Bay to Rigolet would require another four to five week survey (Stopp & Reynolds 1992).
The 1992 survey ran through July and August and resulted in the recording of 76 new sites and a revisit of several previously recorded sites. The top three most common cultural occupations at the sites were 21 European, 14 Palaeoeskimo and 11 sites where the culture was Undetermined.
One of the possible European sites found (it may also be Inuit) is Creek 2 (FkBe-18) which consists of a two-room stone house northeast of Hare Harbour and west of Isthmus Bay. Test pits yielded kaolin pipe fragments, pearlware sherds, lead sprue, and fish, seal and bird bones. A smaller structure may also be a house which uses the natural bedrock bank as its back wall. Spalling of the rock suggests the fireplace may have been against this wall. The contemporary eroding shoreline just to the southwest of the structures contained large amounts of bone, ceramic and iron. The two features measure 10.43 m x 5.22 m and 5.14 m x 3.38 m (Stopp & Reynolds 1992).
Curlew Harbour 1 (FkBd-11) is one of the 11 sites where the culture could not be determined. The site has two stone features that were recorded in a raised shingle beach that is on the point of land between Isthmus Bay and Curlew Harbour. One feature is a rectangular cache composed of beach shingles with two large lintel stones covering its top. The inner chamber is 24 cm wide and 1.9 m long. Outside dimensions of the feature are 2.1 m x 3.3 m. Rocks have slumped to the sides and into the interior. The other feature is a cobble pit cache in the beach, located 70 m north of the cache, with its interior floor (1.3 m in diameter) lined with small beach stones. The pit measures 3.5 m x 3.5 m with a wall height of 0.75 m (Stopp & Reynolds 1992).
Porcupine Strand 1 (FkBg-07) is an Intermediate Amerindian site found in the deep blowouts of sandy, southern Trunmore Bay. Site elevation is about 5 masl and wind deflation has eroded out great bowls in which cultural material is found at, or near, sea level elevation. The site has four loci. Lithic materials in those loci include Ramah & quartz crystal. Some calcined bone was also recovered (Stopp & Reynolds 1992).
Eagle (Grago) Island 1 (FiBa-01) is an Inuit or Innu site on the small island adjacent to the north shore of Eagle Island, in the Rocky Bay/Porcupine Bay confluence. It has a well defined oval tent ring (5.86 m x 4.4 m) alongside an equally well defined oval midden (2.5 m x 1 m). Tent ring test pits were sterile, while test pits in the midden yielded bird and fish bone, a European gunflint fragment, and 14 creamware sherds. These artifacts date the site to the late 18th or early 19th century, and the tent ring further suggests historic Inuit or Innu occupation.
The LSCS was significant for Labrador archaeology in terms of the amount of area covered and the large number of sites found. One of the more compelling sites is Huntingdon Island 5 (FkBg-03). In 1992 the site was made up of two sod houses on the north shore of the small island in the mouth of Indian Harbour, on the west coast of Huntingdon Island. The larger of the two houses (7.6 m x 6.5 m) has rocks protruding above vegetation and the walls are slumped. The smaller house (6 m x 5 m) has an “L” shape with rocks throughout it (Stopp & Reynolds 1992).
Like several sites found during the LSCS, Huntingdon Island 5 has been revisited several times and has had extensive archaeological work carried out on it, in this case by Dr. Lisa Rankin of Memorial University and her Graduate students. Carrying out more extensive research has allowed them to show that the site is a multicomponent site with late precontact Amerindian, Inuit and European components. In fact it contains at least five sod-walled houses and several tent rings. Full scale excavation of some of the sod-walled houses has shown that they contain distinct bench areas, sleeping platforms, and lamp stand areas. Dr. Rankin has had several graduate students complete their thesis on research at this site. You can learn more about this site in Volume 12 of the Provincial Archaeology Office Annual Review for 2013.
Stopp, Marianne 1995 Long term coastal occupancy in southern Labrador. Unpub. ms., on file, Historic Resources Division, Dept. of Tourism and Culture, 53 pp.
1997 Long-term coastal occupancy between Cape Charles and Trunmore Bay, Labrador. Arctic 50(2): 119-137.
Stopp, Marianne & Ken Reynolds
1992 Preliminary Report of the 1992 Labrador South Coastal Survey.
Stopp, Marianne & Doug Rutherford
1991 Report of the 1991 Labrador South Coastal Survey.
While writing my thesis on the Recent Indian period I had to read all the material I could find on that period of Newfoundland and Labrador’s past. That’s when I learned about the Recent Indian site on Saddle Island, Red Bay. I told you before about the various groups of people who had occupied Saddle Island in the past including the Maritime Archaic Indians, early & late Palaeoeskimos, Recent Indians, Thule/Inuit and various European groups including Basque whalers and later European fisherman.
While the Recent Indian site on the Island was carefully excavated, results of those excavations were not as thoroughly documented in published and unpublished references. The site was discovered and excavated in the mid-late 1980s and had at least 170 cobble hearths which contained fire-cracked rocks, charcoal and calcined bone. Associated with many of the hearths was a typical Recent Indian tool kit including projectile points, small bifaces, scrapers, knives and flakes from the manufacture of these tools. These artifacts were made from Ramah chert and various cherts from the Island of Newfoundland, including Port au Port, Cow Head and elsewhere. There were also several pieces of Native made pottery vessels which are unusual artifacts for Newfoundland and Labrador. The pottery was poorly fired and tempered with coarse grit and decorated with cord-wrapped paddle edge impressions. Some of the hearths also had Basque roofing tiles, burned European hardwoods and iron nails. Those items may indicate Recent Indian-European contact or that the Recent Indians scavenged the European portion of the site. Whether the two peoples ever had face-to-face contact is not indicated by the archaeological evidence.
The Recent Indian period in the province falls in the range of ~2000 years ago to European contact. By far, most of the lithics from the site were from the late Recent Indian period which generally falls into the time frame of 1000 years ago to European contact. Typically, early Recent Indian period tool kits are defined as having larger side-notched bifaces and the late Recent Indian tool kits are defined as having small corner-notched bifaces which trend towards stemmed bifaces closer to European contact. This is a general rule of thumb and is by no means a hard fact.
The lithics and ceramics from the site were in storage since shortly after their excavation in the 1980s. Last fall I was able to get photos of both the lithics and Native ceramics. Most archaeologists working in the province today have never had the chance to see these artifacts.
As I said earlier, Native ceramics are rare in Newfoundland and Labrador so truthfully I can’t say much about the ceramics beyond what I said above; they were low fired and tempered with coarse grit and decorated with cord-wrapped paddle edge impressions.
I am more comfortable discussing the lithics. One of the first things I noticed was that the collection includes a wide assortment of materials and I am pretty sure there is more than just Recent Indian material in the collection. This discussion comes with the caveat that it is difficult to say anything for certain about artifacts from just pictures. With this in mind, the 5th artifact from the top-left with its nice and even side notches, straight base and convex blade margins (possibly serrated) looks a little more Palaeoeskimo to me than Recent Indian, perhaps Groswater Palaeoeskimo. But the material is unlike something the Groswater typically use, it appears to be a coarse grain chert or quartz. With this is mind and the style the biface could be Intermediate Indian. On page 117 of the Provincial Archaeology Office 2013 Archaeology Review (PDF) there is a very similar looking biface from an Intermediate Indian site.
Photo 1 above also shows several diagnostic late Recent Indian projectile points such as the one in the centre of the photo (#740), or in the top row (#92), both of which are Ramah chert. The four bifaces in the top right (#s22, 85, 61 and the large black one) are all diagnostic late Recent Indian projectile points. Of interest is the base on the two-tone grey notched biface, second from the top on the right. The basal tangs are very thin with a deep concavity in the base; the artifact on the bottom left seems to be a similar base. The thin concave base is also seen on the middle artifact top row of photo 2. These bases seem unusual for late Recent Indian. Perhaps this is an example of variability within the Recent Indian period or perhaps these are a different group altogether.
Several of these artifacts (photo 1) appear to be made from Newfoundland chert. The grey and grey-tan mottled artifacts appear to be made from Port au Port chert while the brown and brown-grey mottled scrapers (right side) may be Cow Head chert.
In this photo (2) one of the first things I noticed, beyond the thin concave based biface, was the side-notched biface on the right. The milk white colour appears to be an example of burned Ramah chert. The two grey-tan bifaces may be Port au Port chert.
This photo (3) seems to show an assortment of mostly corner-notched late Recent Indian bifaces. As is normal for this period these bifaces appear relatively small and were likely used to tip arrows. However, on the right side is a large base from a side-notched biface that looks more like an early Recent Indian spear tip.
Once again there seems to be an assortment of cherts from the Island, Labrador and perhaps other sources.
Most of the artifacts in this photo (4) appear not to be Recent Indian. The three quartzite bifaces, two on the right, one on the far left are more likely Archaic (although the site is likely too low for an Archaic occupation) or Intermediate Indian based on style and material. The clear Ramah chert biface second from the left appears to be an Archaic arrowhead, while the thick grey biface, second from the right, may be a Palaeoeskimo knife.
This final photo (5) shows another assortment of mostly late Recent Indian bifaces and biface fragments. Once again several are made from Port au Port chert and Ramah chert, including the one in the top row, third from the right, which may be another example of burned Ramah chert.
This site presents an interesting mix of cultures, artifacts and lithic materials. Given the number of hearths at the site and the potential number of cultures represented in just the lithics seen in the photos it seems very likely that the site was used repeatedly over thousands of years by different cultural groups. It is too bad the site is not better understood.
ROBBINS, Douglas 1989 Island Dwelling, Isolation, and Extinction- The Newfoundland Beothuks in Northeastern Prehistory and History PHD Proposal.
TUCK, James 2005 Archaeology at Red Bay, Labrador- 1978-1992.
The Tshikapisk Foundation was created in 1997 by a group of Innu concerned with the disruptive consequences that the sudden change from a life based on the country (Nutshimit) to one based on permanent settlement in villages brought to the Innu. Their strategy looked to address the ensuing social difficulties by building a self-supporting economy based in the country (focused around Kamestastin Lake), and which utilizes and celebrates Innu knowledge and skills. In order to accomplish its mission Tshikapisk promotes the exploration of revenue generating activities both to provide employment to Nutshimiu Innut (country Innu) and to pay for experiential learning programs for Innu youth who had become increasingly disconnected from life on the land.
The Tshikapisk Foundation (TF) in conjunction with the Innu Nation, the Arctic Studies Center (ASC) of the Smithsonian Institution, the Provincial Archaeology Office (PAO) and more recently Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) have been working to protect the sites at Kamestastin Lake. On the ground, survey and excavation work have been carried out by Stephen Loring (ASC), Anthony Jenkinson (TF) and, most recently MUN grad student, Chelsee Arbour. Together they have recorded more than 100 sites in the area.
Kamestastin Lake in itself is an interesting geologic feature. The lake is the result of a meteorite impact which occurred ~36 million years ago. Among the evidence for the meteorite impact is volcanic glass which has been found around the lake. Thus far however, none of it appears to have been found in an archaeological context. However, tabular slabs of impact melted rock have been found in an archaeological context on two precontact sites.
My intention with this blog post is to give a brief introduction to just a few of the sites at Kamestastin Lake. At some point in the future I am hoping to get in to a little more detail on some of these sites in another blog post in conjunction with Stephen Loring, Anthony Jenkinson and Chelsee Arbour.
The more than 100 known sites around the lake represent the Maritime Archaic (Labrador Archaic) Indian , Intermediate Indian, Recent Indian and Innu cultures. There is even a site that consists of a single biface which has been interpreted as late Dorset Palaeoeskimo, a cultural group which is usually found along the coast. Very little archaeological work has been done on most of the sites beyond just identifying their existence which is part of the reason why many sites are listed culturally as just precontact or undetermined. The sites vary from small single artifact spot find sites, to possible burials, lithic scatters, possible quarries and various habitation sites with the remains of tent rings and fireplaces. The oldest sites are thought to be ~6000-7000 years old and the youngest sites are just a few decades old.
The excavation of 24 m2 revealed an assemblage composed entirely of quartz and slate. Other lithic materials were absent. There are concentrations of charcoal and an elongated distribution of stones over ~5 to 6 metres in length but there was no defined hearth. Slate debitage was concentrated in 2 m2 around a partially completed but as yet unground celt. There are a number of what may be post holes or the organic stains possibly left by shallowly driven in stakes. What are likely wood working tools of white quartz and quartz crystal including awls and steeply bevelled block plane like items were found in a higher than expected ratio to quartz debris suggesting that many of these articles were brought to site as finished tools. This site has been radio carbon dated to ~2700 years ago (UCIAMS 134685). It is suspected the people at the site were making a canoe. You can read more about this site in Volume 10 of the PAO Archaeology Review.
The site consists of a roughly circular or slightly oblong embanked structure, approximately 2.5 m by 3.5m in dimensions, with no discernable hearth rocks within. Within the structure there is a small patch of stunted willows growing out of the spot where a hearth would be expected. This feature has been interpreted as either a tent ring or possibly a fish smoke drying site. The point of land along the shore from the feature is an excellent char fishing spot and large fish can be readily caught from the shore on line and hook.
Nukash The site lies in an old blow-out that is in the process of re-vegetating and stabilizing. The sand surface is now mostly covered with black lichen. The site was first noted because of two fragments of a black Ramah chert biface that were seen on the surface. A subsequent inspection of this site resulted in the recording of two more pieces of similar looking Ramah, although these could not be refitted with the first finds and were not obviously part of a tool. This site may relate to a Maritime Archaic occupation
Paseuet This site consists of a spot find of a large Maritime Archaic Ramah chert stemmed point. The point was found next to a heavily used caribou path.
Punas Rich corner notched biface
Yet another find spot site, this biface was found in an area threaded by caribou paths and is the place where spring migrating caribou cross the low lands close to the lake before climbing out of the Kamestastin crater onto the barren highlands above. The biface may be from the Point Revenge, Recent Indians.
Uniam Quartz Quarry Site, Locus 1
The site consists of what is for Kamestastin a rare instance of a glacially transported boulder of grey quartzite which has been battered and now sits partially surrounded by reduction debris. The quartzite shatter and flakes have accumulated in particularly dense quantities in close adjacency to the boulder and in the “drip gully” which has formed around the perimeter beneath the boulder overhang.
When I first learned about the precontact history of Newfoundland and Labrador I was taught that there was no ceramic period in the province. In fact, when I was at Memorial University of Newfoundland learning this material, and if I recall correctly, I was told that the lack of ceramics here is one of the reasons we have different categories for our precontact past than the rest of the Maritime Provinces. For example, we do not have a Woodland period; ceramics are a culturally diagnostic element in Woodland collections.
In this week’s post I’ll discuss the instances of aboriginal ceramics that have been found in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador; right now there are just eight such instances that I am aware of. It seems most of these are either directly related to Recent Indian occupations or there are Recent Indian occupations near where the ceramics were found. Is the evidence enough to suggest the Recent Indian period in Newfoundland and Labrador should have ceramics added to their diagnostic “tool kit”? A diagnostic “tool kit” is made up of typical tools that archaeologists use to identify an occupation as Recent Indian as opposed to another precontact group. Before I get into the ceramics I will present a little background information.
The Recent Indian Tradition in Newfoundland and Labrador began approximately 2000 years ago on both sides of the Strait of Belle Isle. The connection between the Recent Indians and earlier precontact Indians of the province, such as the Maritime Archaic and Intermediate Indians, is not completely understood, if such a relationship existed at all.
Traditionally, the Recent Indian period on the Island was made up of the Cow Head (ca.1900-1000 B.P.), Beaches (early Newfoundland Recent Indian ca.1900-800 B.P.) & Little Passage complexes (late Newfoundland Recent Indian ca.800 B.P.-European Contact). The Cow Head complex appears on the Island around the start of the Recent Indian time period. Research suggests they are not part of the Newfoundland Recent Indian cultural continuum (Hartery 2001). The early & late Newfoundland Recent Indian complexes form this cultural continuum where the culture of the early complex slowly becomes the late complex. The Beothuk are not part of the precontact Recent Indian Tradition, but rather are descendants of the people of this tradition.
As on the Island of Newfoundland, the Recent Indian Tradition in Labrador is divided into an early and late period. The culture of the early Labrador Recent Indians (traditionally known as the Daniel Rattle complex ca. 2000 B.P. – 1000 B.P.) slowly becomes the culture of the late Labrador Recent Indians (traditionally known as the Point Revenge complex ca. 1000 B.P. – 350 B.P.). Archaeologists believe that these precontact complexes form a two thousand year old cultural continuum that represents the precontact Recent Indian Tradition in Labrador. There is not a consensus amongst archaeologists as to whether the Innu who live in Labrador today are descendants of the people of this tradition.
The first instance of possible precontact ceramics being found in the province is recorded by Junius Bird in 1934 at Avertok (Hopedale), Labrador. Bird described the piece as: “Lying directly on the surface of the paving stones at the inner end of the entrance tunnel to House 4 was a small grit-tempered potsherd of Indian manufacture. It is from the rim of a straight-lipped vessel, decorated on the inner edge with short diagonal incised lines and on the outer surface with an irregular row of indentations directly above a stamped impression showing parallel rows of small sharp indentations (Fig. 13). In section, it diminishes from an approximate thickness of 1/2 to about 1/4 inch at the upper edge, the inner surface curving outward.”
As far as we know, the Inuit culture in Labrador made no use of such ceramics. However, Stephen Loring who has seen the artifact noted that it was “…heavily encrusted (“saturated”) with what almost certainly is burned sea-mammal blubber –as is typically seen on steatite lamps and bowls.” (Loring, Pers. Comm.). Loring also speculates that a small precontact late Recent Indian component near this site (just over 100 m away) was likely the source for the ceramic (Loring 1992:279-280). Given that just about every other piece of precontact ceramic in the province was found in or near a Recent Indian component, as will be discussed below, Loring is probably correct in his speculation on the origin of this artifact.
In 1952, James Pendergast found several small grit-tempered ceramic sherds from a site he discovered near the airport at Terrington Basin in Goose Bay (Loring 1992:279). Unfortunately, nothing else is recorded about the site or the ceramics.
In 1975 near the community of Pinware, Labrador, James Tuck and Robert McGhee found “…a small sherd of dentate stamped pottery and two sherds of soapstone as well as small flakes of chert of a type characteristic of Dorset Eskimo assemblages.” (Tuck & McGhee 1975). Again, unfortunately, little else was written about the site or the ceramic. A nearby component of this site produced a hearth in association with flakes of Ramah chert, an end scraper, and charcoal. Based on current knowledge, it is possible this site was occupied by Labrador Recent Indians who relied heavily on Ramah chert.
During the excavation of the L’Anse à Flamme site in 1980, a member of Gerald Penney’s field crew, James Tillotson, found the rim sherd of a Point Peninsula pot. According to Penney 1981, this artifact was excavated in situ 35cm below the surface in a secure Dorset Palaeoeskimo context (1981:171). Penney goes on to describe the sherd: “J.V. Wright confirmed James Tuck’s initial identification and he estimated a manufacture date of A.D. 500. The single Dorset date for L’Anse à Flamme is A.D. 615 (S-1977:1335 +/- 115 B.P.). Wright describes the sherd (Figure 2) as being decorated with a sloppy form of dentate stamp that approaches a pseudo-scallop shell impression even though it superficially looks like cord wrapped stick. It has an incipent collar with an exterior chevron motif (personal communication, 23 September 1980).” (1981:171). The L’Anse à Flamme site has Maritime Archaic, Palaeoeskimo, Recent Indian and European occupations.
In 1982, Stephen Loring found ceramic fragments from a single pot while excavating Area II at the Recent Indian site of Kamarsuk. He described the sherds as: “The sherds, all from a single vessel, include one that contains a part of the rim, one that is from the portion of the vessel where the straight sides curve towards the conical base, and the remainder which are from the upper portion of the vessel close to the rim. They appear to be part of a small conical pot with smooth straight walls. The maximum thickness of the body sherds is 140 mm; at the rim the vessel’s walls have thinned to 88 mm. This is the first incidence of prehistoric ceramics recovered from an undisturbed context in Labrador.” (1985:128).
During the excavation of the extensive Basque site on Saddle Island in the 1980s a member of James Tuck’s crew recovered a piece of aboriginal ceramic between the roof fall and drain of a Basque structure. Tuck described the piece as: “It is the castellation (or “peak” on the rim) and is decorated with a design that is known to Iroquoian archaeologists and a “corn ear” motif. It is quite unlike the poorly-fired ceramics rarely produced by Recent Indians in Labrador and hints strongly that somebody from up the St. Lawrence visited Red Bay in the early contact period.” (2005:17).
This piece of ceramic was examined in depth by Claude Chapdelaine and Gregory G. Kennedy. They established the chemical composition of the piece and compared it to local clay sources in Labrador and selected samples from Saint Lawrence Iroquoian sites of the Quebec City area. With regard to the style of the sherd they write, “The Red Bay rim sherd is undoubtedly of Late Woodland style and it looks more like a Saint Lawrence Iroquoian vessel than any other Iroquoian ceramic tradition. However, the results of the neutron activation analysis seem to support the possibility that the specimen from the Strait of Belle Isle may well be a very good Algonquian imitation of a distinct Iroquoian pottery style.” However, with regard to the chemical composition of the piece they write, “The Saint Lawrence Iroquoians seem to have produced some pottery while away from their villages. Under these conditions, it is still possible that the rim sherd found at Red Bay was made by an Iroquoian potter during one of those journeys down the Saint Lawrence River.” (1990:42-43). So, the artifact was either made by an Algonquian potter imitating an Iroquoian style or an Iroquoian potter using unusual clay.
Again on Saddle Island, but this time in 1987, James Tuck’s archaeology crew recovered more aboriginal ceramic fragments, this time in direct association with Recent Indian hearths. Tuck describes the fragments as: “…tempered with coarse grit and appear to be underfired, for the thick walls are severely delaminated and friable. The sherds appear to pertain to small, thick vessels, possibly with conical bases. The more complete of the two has a castellated rim with exterior decoration consisting of three rows of horizontal impressed (?) lines on an incipient collar set off by from the neck by a horizontal row of oblique impressions. The neck is decorated by oblique plaits of cord-wrapped paddle (?) impressions (Figure 3). The second vessel has a row of oblique impressions below the rim, and oblique, cris-cross and horizontal incised lines on the neck.” (1987:7).
Tuck believed these pieces were similar to the material collected by Loring. “The underfired nature and thick paste of the vessels compare with ceramics reported by Loring (1985:128) from the central Labrador coast, although the central Labrador examples specimens lacked any trace of decoration. Whether these ceramics represent an incipient local tradition, or are imports from somewhere up the St. Lawrence, is not presently known.” (Tuck 1987:7-8).
Saddle Island has an extensive late Recent Indian and contact period Indian occupation. In fact, several Indian hearths have European artifacts in them suggesting some form of contact.
Based on information from Stephen Loring, Ponius Nuk from Sheshatshiu has found traces of a Recent Indian site near his cabin at Shipiskan Lake, a tributary of the Kanairiktok River. A shallow ephemeral camp-spot to one side of the cabin produced an assemblage of plain grit-tempered ceramics associated with Ramah chert debitage (Loring 2013:31).
At the Recent Indian component of the Gould site in 1999, then graduate student Mike Teal found 290 pottery sherds estimated to be from seven different pots in two areas; near a charcoal concentration and near a large depression. This is the largest concentration of ceramics found, thus far, in the province. Teal writes: “All the pottery is composed of a grit tempered clay that varies in condition from highly deteriorated and crumbly, to quite solid; most pottery sherds fall somewhere between these two extremes. Also, several sherds are encrusted with a hard black substance which is presumably related to food preparation. Sixty-one of the 290 sherds could be identified to sherd type, and these pieces constitute the sample that will be described and analysed in this section. They include: 15 rim sherds, 10 neck sherds, and 36 body sherds.” (2001:54).
He goes on to describe the shape of the vessel forms: “There are five different rim shapes or forms: squared, rounded, in sloping, concave, and collared (Figure 3.1). Four of the rim sherds are squared, three are rounded, two are in sloping, two are concaved, two are collared, and two have undeterminable rim forms…Ten of the fifteen rim sherds are decorated with at least one of three types of decoration: dentate stamping, dentate rocker-stamping, and incised linear lines…Sixteen of the 36 body fragments were decorated with dentate rocker stamping.” (Teal 2001:57-59).
The most recent discovery of aboriginal ceramics in the province comes from the archaeology work done by Fred Schwarz on the south side of Muskrat Falls. These ceramics were found at sites with radiocarbon dates that place their occupations in the very early part of the Recent Indian period, possibly even ancestral to the Cow Head complex Recent Indians. Ceramic fragments, a total of 34 pieces plus 23g of crumbled clay fragments, were found at three different sites. The sherds were described as “…a low‐fired, thick‐walled grit‐tempered ware. Many sherds do not show a complete cross‐section and have only interior or exterior surfaces. Where clear interior surfaces are evident, these are often blackened. Exterior surfaces show no evidence of surface decoration.” (Stantec 2013:98).
Considering all of this information, should ceramics be added to the Recent Indian tool kit? In 2005, James Tuck, the man who played a major role in defining Newfoundland and Labrador archaeology seemed to suggest that the Labrador Recent Indians occasionally made ceramics when he wrote of the ceramics found at Saddle Island: “It is quite unlike the poorly-fired ceramics rarely produced by Recent Indians in Labrador …” (2005:17). In fact, Mike Teal went so far as to suggest that ceramics should be added, at least to the Cow Head complex tool kit. In the abstract to his 2001 thesis he writes: “New artifacts, including contracting stemmed projectile points and ceramic vessels are introduced as elements of the Cow Head assemblage…” (2001:ii).
If we don’t add ceramics to the Recent Indian tool kit then in the very least researchers working on precontact sites in the province, particularly Recent Indian and Dorset sites need to be aware of, as I was warned in 1998, “…little clumps of mud that will not go through your screen, they may be ceramic.” (Loring, pers. comm.). This is how these ceramics were described to me when I was excavating a Recent Indian site on the Northern Peninsula in 1998.
This post was inspired by my reading of two articles in the 2013 volume of the Arctic Studies Newsletter. The first was by Kora Stapelfeldt entitled Pottery in Motion: Towards Cultural Interaction Studies in Newfoundland and Labrador. The second was by Stephen Loring entitled Pottery from the North: Addendum to Stapelfeldt.References
Bird, Junius B. 1945 Archaeology of the Hopedale Area, Labrador. Volume 39: Part 2 Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, New York.
Chapdelaine, Claude & Gregory G. Kennedy 1990 The Origin of the Iroquoian Rim Sherd from Red Bay. Man in the Northeast, 40 (Fall):41-43.
Hartery, Latonia 2001 The Cow Head complex. MA, University of Calgary.
Loring, Stephen 1985 Archaeological Investigations into the Nature of the Late Prehistoric Indian Occupation in Labrador: A Report of the 1984 Field Season. Archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador, 1984, Annual Report Number 5. Jane Sproull Thomson and Callum Thomson ed. Historic Resources Division, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, pp 122-153.
1992 Princes and Princesses of Ragged Fame: Innu Archaeology and Ethnohistory in Labrador. Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Massachusetts.
2013 Pottery from the North: Addendum to Stapelfeldt. Arctic Studies Newsletter.
Penney, Gerald 1981 A Point Peninsula Rim Sherd from L’Anse a Flamme, Newfoundland. Canadian Journal of Archaeology, 5: 171‑173.
Teal, Michael 2001 An Archaeological Investigation of the Gould Site (EeBi-42) in Port au Choix, Northwestern Newfoundland: New Insight into the Recent Indian Cow Head Complex. MA, MUN.
Tuck, James A. 2005 Archaeology at Red Bay, Labrador: 1978-1992.
Tuck, James A. & Robert McGhee 1975 Belle Isle Archaeological Project, 1975.
Stantec 2013 2012 Historic Resources Assessment and Recovery Field Program.
Stapelfeldt, Kora 2013 Pottery in Motion: Towards Cultural Interaction Studies in Newfoundland and Labrador. Arctic Studies Newsletter.
Most people reading this post will be aware that Dr. Priscilla Renouf passed away last week. The community of archaeologists who work in Newfoundland and Labrador is very small and when one of our members passes, we all feel it. I had regular dealings with her and I worked for her for one summer. She was always pleasant, and happy to help. What I would like to do with this post is look at her archaeology career through some of the documents at the Provincial Archaeology Office.
A quick search of the sites database shows that her name is associated with nearly 250 sites in the province, more than 150 on the island alone, which means that she is listed as a permit holder or a co-holder with a graduate student or she wrote a report or published article about each of these sites. As such, her name is associated with nearly ten percent of the ~1800 known and recorded sites just on the island. In terms of these numbers, no other archaeologist at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) was as prolific as Priscilla.
One of my colleagues who went through the graduate program with me at MUN studied Palaeoeskimo culture in Labrador. I once jokingly referred to her as the Palaeoeskimo Princess, to which she asked ‘Why Princess?’ I replied ‘Because Priscilla is the Palaeoeskimo Queen!’ I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. But it might surprise you to know that of the more than 150 sites on the island her name is associated with, she is connected to almost as many European sites as Palaeoeskimo. Her name is associated with nearly 50 Maritime Archaic sites and 20 Recent Indian. She was a very influential archaeologist who has made a lasting impression on this province.
The first time her name shows up in Provincial Archaeology Office records it’s as a co-author on a term paper from 1971. The paper was written with another student as part of a field school held on the shore of Long Pond in Pippy Park. The site was composed of a midden belonging to a Church of England Orphanage.
Over the next few years she participated in the survey work being conducted by Drs. McGhee and Tuck along the Northern Peninsula and Strait of Belle Isle.
Out of this Strait of Belle Isle work came her Master’s thesis in 1976 through MUN, A Late Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic Sequence in Southern Labrador. Her thesis confirmed and clarified the late Paleo-Indian and early Archaic cultural sequence proposed for the Strait of Belle Isle by Drs. McGhee and Tuck. Her work focused on the early Archaic site of Cowpath and the related but smaller Cowpath East and Cowpath West, all three are located between the southern Labrador communities of West St. Modeste and Pinware. Dated to 8600±325 B.P., Cowpath is the second oldest known site in the Province.
In 1981, Priscilla completed her PhD dissertation at the University of Cambridge entitled Prehistoric Coastal Economy in Varangerfjord, North Norway. Then in 1984 she started the Port au Choix Archaeology Project which would continue up to and including last summer and will likely be continued by her former colleagues and students. The summer of 2014 would have been her 30th year running the project. Her first field season at Port au Choix ran from June 13 to August 18, 1984. Amongst her crew for that first year was Patty Wells. Patty would become a long time crew member for Priscilla, eventually completing her Master’s and PhD thesis under Priscilla’s supervision.
The first goal for that 1984 season was “…to assess the large Dorset eskimo site of Phillip’s Garden for potential future excavations.” That goal and the site of Phillip’s Garden became the focus of her research up to an including last summer. Priscilla would go on to produce nearly 30 reports, academic papers or books dealing with the former inhabitants of Port au Choix and the Province as a whole including the Recent Indians, Groswater Palaeoeskimo, Maritime Archaic Indians and the Dorset Palaeoeskimo whom she focused on most of the time. This list does not include the numerous reports, academic papers and books she co-authored with other academics and numerous students.
Over the course of her nearly 30 years at Port au Choix, each time she went into the field she was accompanied by her students and a number of local workers. Depending on the research she would have a team of about six students assisting her. So, after nearly 30 years of work that would be 120 to 150 students she directly influenced with her field work. This doesn’t include students she had working in other areas of the Province off the Northern Peninsula like Tim Rast at Burgeo or Lisa Fogt at Cape Ray. It also doesn’t include the thousands of students she would have taught during her university teaching career. The impact she had on Newfoundland and Labrador archaeology just through her students is immeasurable. One of those students, Dominique Lavers is from Port au Choix and worked with Priscilla at Phillips Garden and completed a Master’s thesis under her supervision.
If there was archaeology on the Northern Peninsula, it was a good bet that Priscilla was involved, regardless of whether it was an Historic Resource Impact Assessment (HRIA), investigating spot finds or full blow surveys and research projects. She conducted HRIA’s of the road which connects the community of Main Brook to Route 430 and she surveyed the shores of Old Man’s Pond (midway between woody Point and Corner Brook). She investigated the spot finds of biface fragments at the Bragg and Regular sites on the Northern Peninsula. At the time, one of these sites provided some of the first evidence of the Little Passage complex on the Northern Peninsula. In 1990, she had some of her students investigate a boat wreck that had washed out of a bank at Shallow Bay, Cow Head.
Priscilla was involved in several archaeology surveys and research projects on the Northern Peninsula, sometimes they were ran by her students, sometimes they were projects that she supported and helped to start. One of her students, Greg Beaton, conducted a survey and excavation in the Big Brook area. Among other discoveries that project may have found a very rare Intermediate Indian occupation on the Island. Other students including Carol Krol, Dominique Lavers and Robert Anstey did excavation and survey work at Broom Point, and St. Paul’s Bay. Another former student carried out a survey in the Conche-Englee area and found or revisited more than 20 sites. Yet another student (Mary Penney nee Melnik), used the results of this Conche-Englee survey to complete detailed excavations which was used to complete a Master’s thesis.
Priscilla was instrumental in starting the Bird Cove archaeology project in 1997. That project was run by her former student David Reader and I was the crew chief. Over the course of two summers we found 20 sites and test excavated several sites. One of the sites is one of the oldest Maritime Archaic sites on the island. Another site became the basis of my own Master’s thesis. This project continued under the leadership of Tim Rast, another one of her students, and Latonia Hartery. Another project she helped to start was the survey of the St. Lunaire-Griquet that I led in 2000. That summer I found more than 20 sites.
In 1996 she started collaborative work with Dr. Trevor Bell a Geographer at Memorial University of Newfoundland using his knowledge of post glacial sea level rise to predict where the ancient cultures of the Island would have camped. This collaborative approach using detailed sea level history was a first for the island. Along with Trevor’s help, Priscilla was the first archaeologist in the province to use survey methods such as ground penetrating radar and magnetometry in field work. Their collaboration spawned the newly formed CARRA Project. Coastal Archaeological Resource Risk Assessment (CARRA) is an applied research project that addresses the need to identify which coastal archaeological sites in Newfoundland and Labrador are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and how best to respond.
I am sure anyone who knew her and her work can look at this post and ask, well what about this project or that paper, unfortunately I can’t cover everything. Priscilla had her hands into so much, she will be influencing the archaeology in the Province for years to come.
Other days I have plenty of self-inflicted D’oh moments!
Last week I had several moments of both ah ha and D’oh in the same afternoon. In my last post, I told you about how the Provincial Archaeology Office tried to relocate some of the older sites in the inventory the old-fashioned way; by going out into the field and finding them. This week I am going to share with you a similar post, except this time we are going to use some newer technology to relocate some sites.
The Provincial Archaeology Office did not exist in 1968-69. Therefore, Fitzhugh’s site location information was not transferred to the maps used to keep track of site locations. In the ensuing years since 1968-69, many things have changed in NWR to the point where it is now hard to rectify Fitzhugh’s site locations with what the community looks like today. Because of not having transferred Fitzhugh’s site data, we could not confidently plot his sites. We knew they were in NWR but we could not say accurately where they were. Essentially the sites were displayed in our ArcGIS system as something like two starbursts; essentially, we had two sets of coordinates for more than 35 sites.
When I wrote the posts on the Intermediate Indians in 2011, I tried to georectify Fitzhugh’s map with the PAO topographic map in ArcGIS. Georectify means to align digitally a satellite or aerial image with a map of the same area. In georectification, the images are layered on top of one another and a number of corresponding control points, such as street intersections, are marked on both the image and the map. These locations become reference points in the subsequent processing of the image. The GIS software then warps the images so they fit together and overlap exactly. When I tried to georectify the above maps I was not able to get enough control points so I couldn’t get the images to line up properly and therefore I could not accurately plot the sites.
As you can see, particularly from the shoreline in the upper left corner, the maps did not line up. Part of my problem was that I could not get enough control points and I used one control point that was actually way off. There is a small wharf just above the letter ‘H’ in NORTH on Fitzhugh’s map. I assumed incorrectly that this wharf lined up with the wharf on the colour PAO map that is just above the letter ‘N’ in North.
I recently had reason to go back to trying this georectification exercise for Fitzhugh’s NWR sites. That’s when I had both a moment of ah ha and a moment of D’oh! It occurred to me that I could retry this georectification exercise or I could just email Dr. Fitzhugh and ask him if he had a decent map or perhaps even coordinates for his sites. My ah ha moment! Please see the kid in the red shirt above. My next thought was, well, why had no one thought of that before now? My D’oh moment, please see Homer.
Within an hour or two, Dr. Fitzhugh responded to my email, unfortunately he was not able to help with a better map or coordinates. Archaeology in 1968-69 was conducted very differently than it is today. While he couldn’t supply any information, something he said in his email was very helpful; he stated that he “…used the air photo to produce the map…” Looking at his map, the air photo was inset at the bottom left corner. Well of course, the map was based on the air photo, why hadn’t I realized that before? A Homer moment, D’oh! Looking through our collection of air photos, I realized we had one that dated to around the same time. Looking closely at the air photo I realized that the wharf that I had been using as a control point on our colour map was not the same as the one on the Fitzhugh map. I scanned the air photo and enlarged it. (Unlike all the CSI episodes I have ever seen, the photo became grainier as I enlarged it, not clearer!) However, I was able to make out details on the air photo that I could line up on Fitzhugh’s map such as clearings and roads/paths. Then I saw the wharf in the air photo that Fitzhugh had drawn on his map and realized just how far off I was. So I loaded both into ArcGIS, selected my control points and they aligned very nicely.
Then I tried to line up the air photo with the colour map. I had no problem with that because I was able to line up the wharf in the correct spot and I was able to line up some roads/paths and the shoreline. Then I had an ah ha moment, if I can do that then I can line up Fitzhugh’s map with the air photo!
Now I was finally able to line up Fitzhugh’s map with the PAO colour map and thereby more accurately plot his sites!
The sites now seem to be spread out on the land as opposed to how they are dispersed on the first colour PAO map in this post, two starbursts. As an added bonus, I was able to test the accuracy of this new plot by looking at the location of FjCa-29 (the most northerly of Fitzhugh’s sites, near the middle of the map). That site is known as Graveyard Site, it would have been located somewhere within the graveyard that is the white square just below the dot for FjCa-29. Based on the new plot, the current distance of the site from the graveyard is just 20 metres. While this is not as accurate as I would like it to be, it is much better than the old plot.
The benefit of all this is that since we have a better idea of where the sites are we can better protect them and better predict where unknown sites may be, while allowing development to occur.
When I started writing this blog in March of 2011, I stated that my intention was to bring attention to the archaeology sites of Newfoundland and Labrador. I also wanted to increase awareness about archaeology and archaeological issues within the public, the archaeology community, government and industry. I think this blog has been reasonably successful in doing just that. I have tried to cover many different archaeology topics, in doing so I have written nearly 60 posts, which have received more than 41,000 views. For example, there are posts on historic archaeology such as the German Nazi weather station in Northern Labrador known as Kurt.
My first blog post also focused on historic archaeology, a suspected French trading fort at West St. Modeste.
Several posts that focus on precontact archaeology such as Archaeological void no more. This post dealt with the increase in numbers of mostly precontact archaeological sites in western Labrador in the last 30 years.
There are also posts on large sites such as the Beothuk site at Boyd’s Cove.
In addition, there are a few posts on very small sites; including spot finds, or sites where just a single artifact or two are found such as If artifacts could talk… which dealt with the discovery of a small stone adze in Red Bay.
Of course being a blog about archaeology means there have to be posts about cultures. While I have not done a post on every culture that ever existed in the Province I have managed to cover many of them. For example, there are two posts summarizing the Intermediate Indian sites in North West River and Sheshatshiu.
Typically, when people find out that I am an archaeologist, I’ll either get the ‘Have you found any gold?’ question or I’ll get some misinformed comment on the Beothuk. My own small attempt to better inform people about the Beothuk can be found in the post Beothuk facts?
Of course. it’s hard to talk about archaeology and not talk about time. When did the first people arrive in the Province? Or what is the time scale for a particular culture? I tried to deal with questions of time in several blog posts. There were two posts that discussed the time scale of the particular cultures in the province called the Dating Game: Labrador and the Dating Game: Newfoundland. Related to those posts were two posts called At the Same Time and At the Same Time: Part 2 in which I tried to relate the time scale of the cultures in the province to well known events in the world’s past.
There are also posts on unusual sites such as the wreck of the aircraft Times A Wastin in which the crew of the plane survived but part of the crew starved to death in Saglek Bay, northern Labrador after waiting for rescue for several months.
Another unusual site was discussed in the post A puzzle ring. This post deals with a ring of stones found by local informants approximately 4.5 kilometres inland from Northern Bay, Conception Bay. The unusual part is that there does not seem to be clear evidence for who made the ring.
As I said in the beginning, the point of this blog is to bring attention to the archaeology sites of Newfoundland and Labrador and to increase awareness about archaeology and archaeological issues within the public, the archaeology community, government and industry. I hope that everyone can find something of interest in what I have written so far. To that end, do you have a topic of interest that I haven’t looked into yet? Are you wondering if your area of the province has any known archaeological sites?
I have been thinking of topics that I can present blog posts on over the coming Fall and Winter and I have gotten several suggestions from a colleague. So far I am thinking about doing a post on Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeology iconic artifacts such as looking into the Killer Whale effigy found at Port au Choix, the iron cross found at Ferryland or a lesser know but very interesting wooden scoop found at Fleur de Lys. I am also looking at topics focusing on an artifact and looking at the process it goes through from being found to going to The Rooms, this one would be in conjunction with The Rooms staff. I also think that a post on the Innu or perhaps the Inuit would be interesting, looking at them from an archaeological perspective. Similar to how I examined the Intermediate Indians or the Mi’Kmaq. Do you have any suggestions?