Urve Linnamae in Placentia Bay in 1970

From June 26 to August 3, 1970, Dr. Urve Linnamae and her crew carried out an archaeological survey of the Placentia Bay area of Newfoundland while she was under contract to the National Museum of Canada. Prior to this Dr. Linnamae conducted excavations at the significant Palaeoeskimo sites of Cape Ray Light in 1967 and the Pittman site in White Bay in 1967 and 1968. In 1975 she wrote the influential monograph The Dorset Culture: A Comparative Study in Newfoundland and the Arctic. Technical Papers of the Newfoundland Museum, No.1 in which she discusses ‘…the position of Newfoundland within the Dorset culture area and the nature of Dorset culture regional variation.’ Dr. Linnamae went on to become an associate professor in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Saskatchewan and retired from that position in 2003 (Linnamae 1971 & Biography).

The National Museum of Canada focused on this area of Newfoundland for several reasons including:

  • the lack of known archaeological sites in the area at the time;
  • an attempt to increase the known geographic distribution of the Dorset;
  • to define the ecological adaptations and relationships within this southern and environmentally different area of Newfoundland and the Dorset culture (Linnamae 1971).

In particular the survey focused on the islands of inner Placentia Bay and around Come by Chance and Arnold’s Cove. The team also briefly visited Old Perlican and Gooseberry Cove, Trinity Bay (Linnamae 1971).

During the survey the team found or revisited 12 archaeology sites. Six of these were very small sites and two were spot finds of just single artifacts. The visit to Old Perlican was for a revisit of a known site and to view the associated collection held by a local person. All of the sites had some precontact component, most commonly it was Dorset Palaeoeskimo. Several sites had either a Maritime Archaic or Recent Amerindian component.  Finally, four sites had a European component (Linnamae 1971). In this post I’ll tell you what Linnamae and her team found at four of these sites.

General area of Placentia Bay Archaeological Survey. 1 Old Perlican 2 Heart's Ease 3 Bordeaux 2 4 Bordeaux 1 5 Long Island Neck 6 New Grove 7 Great Brule 8 Tack's Beach 9 Dog Harbour 10 Unnamed Cove 11 Come-by-Chance 12 Little Brule (Linnamae 1971)
General area of Placentia Bay Archaeological Survey.
1 Old Perlican
2 Heart’s Ease
3 Bordeaux 2
4 Bordeaux 1
5 Long Island Neck
6 New Grove
7 Great Brule
8 Tack’s Beach
9 Dog Harbour
10 Unnamed Cove
11 Come by Chance
12 Little Brule
(Linnamae 1971)

The largest site found by Linnamae was New Grove (CkAm-01). This site is located in a small cove on the eastern shore of Long Island, the second largest island in Placentia Bay. The site consists of Maritime Archaic, Dorset Palaeoeskimo and European components. Unfortunately the European occupation seems to have disturbed the earlier occupations. As well, the site has been heavily eroded along the beach side by high seas and winter ice (Linnamae 1971).

PLATE I New Grove CkAm-01 Looking down at site area towards the North. Seated figure in midground is at Test Trench 3. PLATE II Looking at eroding bank edge at southern part of site. From the water Test Trench 3 is near the right side of the photograph. (Linnamae 1971)
PLATE I
New Grove CkAm-01
Looking down at site area towards the North. Seated figure in mid-ground is at Test Trench 3.
PLATE II
Looking at eroding bank edge at southern part of site. From the water Test Trench 3 is near the right side of the photograph.
(Linnamae 1971)

Linnamae opened four small test trenches along the eroding bank at the beach near the center of the cove. From these trenches and observing the eroding bank she determined that the occupation layer only minimally extended beyond the area of her trenches. Despite the impact on the site they recovered 2694 pieces of cultural material including 225 artifacts and a sample of charcoal from the Dorset component which returned a date of 1730±80 (Gak-3276) BP (Linnamae 1971).

They recovered 42 endblades most of which exhibited grinding on the basal element and sometimes over the whole endblade surface. All of these were made on a white/grey chert which later became known as Trinity Bay chert among archaeologists. We now know that geologically this chert is actually part of the Conception Formation and more accurately should be referred to as Conception Formation chert. The extensive grinding and white/grey chert are typical of Trinity/Placentia Bay Dorset occupations. Linnamae and her crew also recovered 18 microblades, 14 bifaces, two pieces of ground slate, four abraders, one endscraper and a fragment of a soapstone pot (Linnamae 1971).

Conception Formation chert typically exhibits a whitish-beige or brownish-beige weathering rind that can be chalky, however when freshly broken surfaces display a blue-grey (battleship) colour. This colour and the distinctive weathering constitutes a clear Conception Group signature (LeBlanc 2008: 59).

New Grove Artifacts a-h endblades i blade fragment j endscraper k-o microblades (Linnamae 1971)
New Grove Artifacts
a-h endblades
i blade fragment
j endscraper
k-o microblades
(Linnamae 1971)

The recovery of one endscraper from a Dorset occupation is unusual, Linnamae noted this in her report and that endscrapers are usually one of the most frequent artifact categories found on Dorset sites. Therefore her preliminary interpretation of the site was that hunting and the manufacture of hunting implements were the primary function of the site (Linnamae 1971).

In 2002 I revisited New Grove with a colleague. We found a few small artifacts on the beach and noted that the site is continuing to erode.

New Grove in 2002
New Grove in 2002

Long Island Neck (CkAm-02) is located on a partially grass covered sand bar near the northern tip of Long Island, just two kilometres north of New Grove. There are high rock outcrops on both ends of the sand bar so the site was limited to just the sand bar. With almost no grass cover on the north end of the bar the majority of the site was found on the south end. Even when the site was found by Linnamae in 1970 it had undergone heavy erosion (Linnamae 1971). 

Long Island Neck CkAm-02 Looking down at site towards the North. In immediate foreground is the remaining grassy area containing a buried occupation area
Long Island Neck CkAm-02
Looking down at site towards the North.
In immediate foreground is the remaining grassy area containing a buried occupation area.

Linnamae and crew opened two trenches in the southern area and recovered 470 pieces of cultural material including 25 artifacts and a charcoal sample that returned a date of 2240±210 (Gak-3274). The site has a possible Maritime Archaic and a Dorset component. The date however is too late for the Archaic and would be one of the earliest dates for Dorset on the Island of Newfoundland if correct. Interestingly, the Bordeaux 2 (CkAm-05) site was found by Linnamae in 1970 just outside Arnold’s Cove and just 9 kilometres from Long Island Neck. It had a single Dorset occupation dated to 1090 ± 90 (Gak-3275) making it one of the latest dates for Dorset on the Island of Newfoundland (Linnamae 1971 & 1975).

Nine of the recovered artifacts are endblades, three of which are ground on the basal half. Four microblades and a microblade core were recovered. As well there were four fragmentary bifaces and a piece of ground slate. Given the small assemblage it’s hard to say much about the site; Linnamae did suggest that it represented a repeatedly used small hunting camp (Linnamae 1971).

Long Island Neck CkAm-02 a-f endblades g New Grove h blade i uniface jendblade k microblade core l knife fragment m microblade n side-notched point o biface p ground stone implement (Linnamae 1971)
Long Island Neck CkAm-02
a-f endblades
g from the New Grove site
h blade
i uniface
j endblade
k microblade core
l knife fragment
m microblade
n side-notched point
o biface
p ground stone implement
(Linnamae 1971)

I also revisited Long Island Neck in 2002. As at New Grove, the site was still eroding but not completely gone and we found a few small artifacts eroded out on the beach.

Long Island Neck, to the left is south, to the right is north.
Long Island Neck, to the left is south, to the right is north.
Close up shot of the south end of Long Island Neck.
Close-up shot of the south end of Long Island Neck.

Linnamae also found two sites (CkAm-04 & 05) on either side of Bordeaux Head which is a broad sandy point of land that separates Come by Chance from Arnold’s Cove. Bordeaux 1 (CkAm-04) was a very small site consisting of 13 artifacts only one of which, a retouched flake, was found in situ (undisturbed). Everything else was eroded out on the beach, including a partial Dorset endblade (Linnamae 1971). 

Bordeaux 2 (CkAm-05) was a more prolific site with more than 100 pieces of cultural material recovered including endblades and microblades from an in situ occupation layer. This layer also contained an arrangement of stones which Linnamae interpreted as a hearth. A carbon sample was taken and returned a date of 1090 ± 90 (Gak-3275) which, as stated above, is one of the latest dates for Dorset on the Island of Newfoundland (Linnamae 1971 & 1975).

Bordeaux 2 (CkAm-05) Looking along beach toward the North at Test Trench 1, which is located on the grassy slope in front of the trees. (Linnamae 1971)
Bordeaux 2 (CkAm-05)
Looking along beach toward the North at
Test Trench 1, which is located on the grassy
slope in front of the trees.
(Linnamae 1971)

In 2005 I was fortunate enough to visit the Bordeaux 2 site as well. Although no artifacts were found it is believe that the site is pretty much how it was when Linammae found it in 1971.

Looking at the Bordeaux 2 site.
Looking at the Bordeaux 2 site.

After this survey Urve Linnamae wrote her 1975 book The Dorset Culture- A Comparative Study in Newfoundland and the Arctic. For the most part this work is based on her excavations at the Cape Ray site near Port aux Basques and the Pittman site in White Bay. As stated earlier this was an influential work, particularly for anyone studying the Dorset culture on the Island of Newfoundland. For example, Doug Robbins in the abstract of  his 1985 MA thesis dealing with the Dorset at Stock Cove referred to Linnamae’s book as a landmark in the history of Newfoundland Dorset archaeology. While Cape Ray and the Pittman sites are at the centre of this work, the Dorset sites found during the lesser known 1971 survey are also incorporated and play a role in this significant work. 


LeBlanc, Sylvie
2008 Middle Dorset Variability and Regional Cultural Traditions- a Case Study from Newfoundland and St. Pierre and Miquelon. PhD, University of Alberta.

Linnamae, Urve
1971 Preliminary Report of an Archaeological Survey of Placentia Bay, Newfoundland.

1975   The Dorset Culture- A Comparative Study in Newfoundland and the Arctic.

Linnamae Biography, University of Saskatchewan
http://library2.usask.ca/spcoll/University%20Authors/UA2006-07/UA%202007%20Linnamae%20Bio.doc

Robbins, Doug
1985  Stock Cove, Trinity Bay: The Dorset Eskimo Occupation Of Newfoundland From A Southeastern Perspective. MA, MUN.

Labrador South Coastal Survey: 1991

The Labrador South Coastal Survey (LSCS) 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 extended from Cape St. Charles to Seal Island (near Frenchmans Harbour), Labrador, and was directed by Marianne Stopp and she was assisted by Doug Rutherford. In 1992, the survey started at Seal Island and finished at southern Trunmore Bay, and was directed by Marianne Stopp and and she was assisted by Ken Reynolds. 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).

Labrador South Coastal Survey. Yellow dots are sites recorded by the survey.
Labrador South Coastal Survey. Yellow dots are sites recorded by the survey.

The Labrador Comprehensive Agreement provided the funding for the 1991 Labrador South Coastal Survey, 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 various cultural occupations at the 1991 sites run the gamut of typical sites found in Labrador. The top three most common occupations were 20 European, 18 Palaeoeskimo and eight Maritime Archaic. The sites ranged in size from single spot finds of artifacts to the Pardy site which is listed at more than 60,000 m2.

The Pardy site extends along the northeast side of Spear Harbour for 250 m. It extends along a second beach terrace (18 masl) for the same distance, for a total area of 62,500 m2. The site is partially disturbed by the excavation of an historic period cemetery, trails, and wind erosion and was discovered through visual examination of blowouts. The blowouts yielded a large number of surface flakes and tools, and a sample was collected. Test pitting in the southeastern portion of the site indicates the possibility of two separate cultural levels, at depths of 8 and 15 cm below surface. The upper, later levels contain a predominance of Ramah chert, while a variety of lithic materials were noted from lower levels. The upper level is probably a Dorset occupation, with microblades and endblades recovered from the site. A charcoal sample was collected from the lower level for dating purposes resulting in a date of 5070 +/- 170 B.P. (Beta-48303), supporting the suggestion of a Maritime Archaic component at the site. This date is further supported by quartzite flakes in the lower levels of some test pits. Given the site size and artifact density, the site likely represents a major precontact occupation (Stopp & Rutherford 1991).

Photo mosaic of three slides showing the Pardy site along the shoreline in the foreground . (Stopp & Rutherford LSCS slides)
Photo mosaic of three slides showing the Pardy site along the shoreline in the foreground (Stopp LSCS slides).

The St. Francis Harbour Bight 1 site has both precontact and historic components. The precontact Dorset Palaeoeskimo component was wind deflated and the cultural material was collected from the surface. The site yielded endblades, bifaces, endscrapers and a quartz crystal core fragment. There was also a selection of flakes of chert, quartz crystal and slate collected. The artifact scatter was concentrated around a linear arrangement of stones, 3 m in length and 1.5 m in width (Stopp & Rutherford 1991).

Linear rock arrangement at the Dorset component of St. Francis Harbour Bight 1 (Stopp & Rutherford LSCS slides).
Linear rock arrangement at the Dorset component of St. Francis Harbour Bight 1 (Stopp LSCS slides).

The recent component, which was either Inuit or European, was made up of six sod houses, the dimensions of which averaged 5 m by 4.5 m. A test pit in one yielded a wooden button (possibly ebony), pipe bowl fragments, and refined white earthenware sherds. The houses are all located in close proximity to the present shoreline in three groups of two and offer a good vantage point for hunting seals in the nearby narrow tickle. A seal bone midden (St. Francis Harbour Bight 2), yielding artifacts dating to the same period, is located across the bight (Stopp & Rutherford 1991).

Photo mosaic showing the historic house pits at
Photo mosaic showing the historic house pits at St. Francis Harbour Bight 1 (Stopp LSCS slides).

Salt Pond Ridge 1 was a quarry/possible occupation site and the largest and richest of the Maritime Archaic sites recorded, with an extensive flake scatter. White and red quartzite and quartz crystal were abundant on a raised terrace. It is within easy walking distance of two further Maritime Archaic sites, Spear Harbour 1 and Spear Harbour 3, as well as two cobble features in a raised beach ridge on the opposite shore of Salt Pond Ridge 2 which may also be Maritime Archaic (Stopp & Rutherford 1991).

Photo mosaic of part of the Salt Pond Ridge site
Photo mosaic of part of the Salt Pond Ridge 1 site (Stopp LSCS slides).

A sample of the surface scattered cultural material was collected yielded a red quartzite stemmed biface, an asymmetrical, convex base quartzite non-stemmed biface, a distal biface tip and biface preform, flakes of clear quartz crystal, quartzite and red quartzite, and a clear quartz crystal preform and core. One test pit produced 36 quartzite flakes, 13 clear quartz crystal flakes, and 7 red quartzite flakes. The site is in close proximity to two other Maritime Archaic sites (Stopp & Rutherford 1991).

Salt Pond Ridge flakes (Stopp & Rutherford LSCS slides).
Salt Pond Ridge flakes (Stopp LSCS slides).
Salt Pond Ridge artifacts (Stopp & Rutherford LSCS slides).
Salt Pond Ridge artifacts (Stopp LSCS slides).

The final site I’ll discuss from the 1991 survey is Great Caribou Island 1. This site included two sod houses, middens, pit features in raised cobble beaches, two collapsed stone fox traps on a raised cobble beach, and flake scatters (within sod houses and elsewhere in the cove). The site was recorded following information given by residents of Caribou Run-Indian Cove (Stopp & Rutherford 1991).

The site has a precontact component and an undetermined cultural component, meaning the archaeologist couldn’t say for sure who made the component or when. The undetermined component was made up of 12 cobble pit beach features. No artifacts were discovered in the features, which probably represent storage pits or caches. The features averaged 141 cm by 134 cm and 59 cm deep (Stopp & Rutherford 1991).

Measuring one of the Great Caribou Island 1 pit features
Measuring one of the Great Caribou Island 1 pit features (Stopp LSCS slides).
One of the Great Caribou Island 1 pit features
One of the Great Caribou Island 1 pit features (Stopp LSCS slides).

The recent component is made up of two sod houses, both of which have been extensively disturbed by locals looting the houses for artifacts. Several artifacts were discovered within the looters’ back dirt, including three seal phalanges, two flow blue pearlware sherds, two kaolin pipe stem fragments, and one European gun flint fragment. The ceramics indicate a 19th century occupation (Stopp & Rutherford 1991).

Great Caribou Island 1 historic sod houses
Great Caribou Island 1 historic sod houses (Stopp LSCS slides).
Historic artifacts from Great Caribou Island 1
Historic artifacts from Great Caribou Island 1 (Stopp LSCS slides).

In two weeks I’ll discuss some of the sites found during the 1992 season of the Labrador South Coastal Survey.


Stopp, Marianne
1995 Long term coastal occupancy in southern Labrador. Unpub. ms., on file, Historic Resources Division, Dept. of Tourism and Culture, 53 pp.

Stopp, Marianne
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.

The Bank site, Terra Nova National Park: Part 1

The Bank site (DdAk-05) was found by Dr. James Tuck during his 1979 survey of Terra Nova National Park. The site is inside Chandler Reach and is strategically situated at the juncture of three major channels, offering fine views down Clode Sound to the west, Chandler’s Reach to the east, and Goose Bay to the south. At that time of its discovery Tuck recovered two lithic artifacts, 98 lithic flakes and described the site as containing a predominantly Dorset Palaeoeskimo occupation. Most of the material culture was found in an eroding bank and a lack of evidence from test pits suggested the site was mostly eroded. The two identifiable artifacts recovered were a microblade and “an asymmetric knife with one straight and one convex edge and a deliberately blunted tip.” (Tuck 1980:37)

Despite the erosion present at many of the sites found in 1979, several sites were considered important enough to warrant further investigation. This was carried out in 1980 and during this time the Bank site was revisited and six more Dorset Palaeoeskimo artifacts and 43 unmodified flakes were recovered from the eroding bank. Three of the artifacts were endblades or endblade fragments, one was a scraper, one was a possible asymmetric knife or biface and the last was a bifacially retouched flake (Sawiki 1980: 96-71). The 1980 work in Terra Nova National Park formed the basis of a Master’s thesis for Anna Sawicki. The eroding nature of the Bank site and the small amount of recovered cultural material meant there was minimal interpretation of the site in Sawicki’s thesis (1983).

The Bank site around 1980 (Sawicki 1983)
The Bank site around 1980 (Sawicki 1983)
The Bank site around 1980 (Sawicki 1983)
Artifacts from the Bank site. a-c: Endblades d: Scraper e: Microblade f, g: Knives (Sawicki 1983)

In 1992 Dr. Fred Schwarz returned to the Bank site in part under contract to the Canadian Parks Service, and in part for Memorial University of Newfoundland under the terms of a research grant to the University by the Canadian Parks Service. Prior to his re-visit the general thoughts on the site were summarized by Schwarz as: The site thus appeared to be a typical Dorset site, with little potential for advancing our understanding of Newfoundland culture history, and, owing to its advanced state of erosion, little potential even for revealing anything new about the Dorset period (1993:6)

This attitude changed in 1991 when a Maritime Archaic stemmed projectile point was exposed and recovered during a routine monitoring visit. The projectile point was unusual for Newfoundland and its closest stylistic affinities were to be found in the Early Archaic in southern Labrador, dated to ca. 7200 BP. This find suggested that the site contained evidence of an Early Archaic occupation dating 1700 years earlier than any yet known on the island. The erosion of this now significant site prompted further investigations. Excavations were planned for the summer of 1992. In planning for this excavation the site was visited and more cultural material was visible in treefalls on raised ground beyond the eroding bank. It was also abundant in treefalls within the bog to the north. The latter also raised the possibility of preserved organic artifacts, a rare find on archaeology sites in the province. The Bank site had become much more important and much larger than previously believed (Schwarz 1993:6-7).

Excavations began on August 26 and continued until October 2. Archaeological operations at the site consisted of a combination of excavation, surface collection, screening, and test-excavation. The main excavated portion of the site, over 100m2, was stratified, with three distinct cultural layers extending across the site, in addition to more localized cultural features and deposits lying above and within the principal strata. During this work evidence was found for a small Maritime Archaic component, a major Dorset occupation, a Groswater occupation and Recent Indian (Beothuk ancestor) components (Schwarz 1993).

View West across excavations at the Bank Site (Schwarz 1993).
View West across excavations at the Bank Site (Schwarz 1993).
View East Across excavations at the Bank Site (Schwarz 1993).
View East Across excavations at the Bank Site (Schwarz 1993).

At the end of the 1992 work  the Maritime Archaic component was extremely small consisting of no more than seven artifacts including two chipped and ground slate axes, one side-notched projectile point, two possible tapered-stem bifaces, one possible lanceolate biface base and the Early Archaic projectile point found in 1991. In fact those seven artifacts were widely scattered across the site and showed no horizontal clustering which suggested to Schwarz that the Archaic occupation was never very intensive or was mostly eroded away. The 1992 excavations yielded no other evidence for an Early Archaic occupation, the remaining pieces all conforming stylistically to the well-documented Late Archaic occupation of Newfoundland (Schwarz 1993).

Maritime Archaic Artifacts Recovered at the Bank Site: a-b) Projectile points c-d) Possible tapered-stem bifaces e-f) Ground slate axes (Schwarz 1993)
Maritime Archaic Artifacts Recovered at the Bank Site:
a-b) Projectile points
c-d) Possible tapered-stem bifaces
e-f) Ground slate axes
(Schwarz 1993)

The Groswater component was slightly larger with 34 diagnostic artifacts recovered and 23 specimens that may be Groswater. The Groswater diagnostics include five semi-lunate inset sideblades, five sickle-shaped gravers, ten side-notched endblade bases and three complete examples, eight fine bifacially-retouched serrated endblade tips and midsections, two multiple-notched endblade bases, and one chipped and ground chert burin-like-tool. While Groswater artifacts were found in other sites in the area, the Bank Site Groswater assemblage is unusual for the high level of workmanship evident in the tools. In fact the workmanship was so fine Schwarz referred to the collection as “a strong, if not pure, component of Groswater artifacts in “Phillip’s Garden West” style.” (1993: 45) However, given the small sample size little else could be said about their occupation beyond it seems to have involved the full range of activities associated with a residential base-camp (Schwarz 1993).

Early Palaeo-Eskimo (Groswater) Artifacts Recovered at the Bank Site a-j) Side-notched endblades k-l) Multiple-side-notched endblade bases m-p) Serrated biface tips q-r) Hooked gravers s-w) Scrapers x-bb) Sideblades cc-dd) Side-notched knives ee) Large ground biface ff) Chipped and ground burin-like tool (Schwarz 1993)
Early Palaeo-Eskimo (Groswater) Artifacts Recovered at the Bank Site
a-j) Side-notched endblades
k-l) Multiple-side-notched endblade bases
m-p) Serrated biface tips
q-r) Hooked gravers
s-w) Scrapers
x-bb) Sideblades
cc-dd) Side-notched knives
ee) Large ground biface
ff) Chipped and ground burin-like tool
(Schwarz 1993)

The Dorset component was by far the largest at the site. It is represented by 1355 (93.4%) of the artifacts, by two distinct cultural strata (and elements of a third), and by five of the six cultural features identified at the site. Two of those features were interpreted as habitation structures with other features within the structures. One habitation structure was a semi-subterranean house with central axial feature flanked by cleared living spaces and was roughly oval in shape. The second habitation structure was similar to the first but less clearly defined. Both structures were backed by a midden area (Schwarz 1993).

The Little Passage complex, Recent Indian component at the Bank Site was also small, and highly localized, but distinctive according to Schwarz. Most of the Recent Indian component consisted of comer-notched projectile points and triangular bifaces. There were also a few undiagnostic pieces which Schwarz feels were Recent Indian. The diagnostic Recent Indian artifacts were strongly associated with Feature 1, a roughly linear deposit of fire-cracked rock and charcoal with lenses rich in calcined bone fragments measuring 2m by at least 5m. Similar linear hearth features found in Newfoundland and Labrador have been interpreted as the remains of communal feasting structures, because they are similar to shaputuan structures erected for mokoshan ceremonies, or “eat-all” feasts documented for the Innu of Labrador-Ungava. There were also seven Recent Indian biface tips, sixteen corner-notched projectile points and fifteen triangular bifaces localized to the Feature 1 area (Schwarz 1993).

Recent Indian Artifacts from Operation 10A2 at the Bank Site: a-m) Little Passage points (a-e are of Ramah) n-s) Triangular bifaces (n-q are of Ramah) (Schwarz 1993)
Recent Indian Artifacts from Operation 10A2 at the Bank Site:
a-m) Little Passage points (a-e are of Ramah)
n-s) Triangular bifaces (n-q are of Ramah)
(Schwarz 1993)

As unusual as Feature 1 was (In 1992 it was just the second such feature identified on the Island, today there are still just a handful of these features on the Island), the Recent Indian artifacts were more interesting for several reasons including because they were a very limited range of functional types; corner-notched projectile points, triangular bifaces, and perhaps one sidescraper. Schwarz believes the projectile points were from a chronologically-tight assemblage dating to the early-middle portion of the Little Passage Complex stylistic continuum ca. AD 1200. Missing from the assemblage are the lanceolate bifaces, endscrapers, linear flakes, etc. which might attest to a broader range of domestic activities on-site. Add to this the fact that diagnostic Recent Indian artifacts were closely associated with a single deposit, Feature 1. The Recent Indian occupation of the site was likely limited in both function and duration, to a single brief occupation. However, what is most distinctive and interesting about the Recent Indian artifacts is most were made from Ramah chert – a lithic material only found in northern Labrador and relied upon heavily by Labrador Recent Indians. While Ramah does infrequently occur on Newfoundland Recent Indian sites, it’s usually found as debitage. Finished Ramah artifacts are rare. Even today this site stands out; no other Recent Indian site on the Island has as many finished Ramah chert Recent Indian artifacts. The whole Recent Indian component suggests a brief, specialized occupation involving communal food preparation and the conspicuous consumption of valued objects (Schwarz 1993).

Charcoal and Firecracked Rock Deposit (Feature 1) in 10A2J. (Schwarz 1993)
Charcoal and Firecracked Rock Deposit (Feature 1) in 10A2J. (Schwarz 1993)

Since 1992 the Bank site has been revisited several times by three different archaeologists working with Parks Canada to monitor the erosion of the site. The next blog post will deal with those revisits.


Thank-you Lynne for providing the colour images.

Sawiki, Anna
1980 Archaeological excavations in Terra Nova National Park.

1983 Palaeo-Eskimo Occupations in Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland. MA, MUN.

Schwarz, Fred
1992 Archaeological Investigations at the Bank Site, Terra Nova National Park, Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland.

Tuck, James
1980 An Archaeological Survey of Terra Nova National Park.

Archaeology and the Beothuk at Indian Point, Red Indian Lake: Part 2

This post is part two of ‘Archaeology and the Beothuk at Indian Point, Red Indian Lake’ continued from two weeks ago. The previous post can be seen here.

In 1980 the Historic Resources Division, Department of Culture, Recreation and Youth began a multi-year project simply entitled the Beothuk Project. The purpose of the early phase of the project was to locate, test, delimit and document Beothuk (and other) archaeological sites. To my knowledge, other than issuing permits to previous archaeologists who worked at Indian Point, this is the first time the Provincial Government is directly involved with Indian Point.

As part of the Beothuk Project, Jane Sproull-Thomson directed an investigation of Indian Point in 1980 and 1981. In 1980 her intention was to ‘…assess recent damage to the site by both human and natural agencies, and to estimate the potential for future archaeological excavation‘ (Sproull-Thomson 1980). Over the course of two days Sproull-Thomson and her crew excavated five one metre square units and completed a new survey map of the site.

Like Marshall, Sproull-Thomson noted a lot of ongoing erosion and destruction of the site. ‘Erosion has removed part of the bank on the northern side of the site, Marshall’s camp area (the sand beach) is partly underwater and forms in part a sandbar, the road is washed away at the point by the pond and the low point is under approximately 20 cm. of water. As well, the bulldozed section of the site seems to have been expanded.’ Her plan for the two days of work was to ‘…locate the cultural areas of the site reported by Locke and Devereux, and to identify Devereux’s excavations.’ To her surprise she found a lot of surface material which to her suggested intact levels below. She was able to test Devereux’s A4 locality and found an intact hearth in the area with burned bone and precontact artifacts. Testing in Devereux’s A3 south locality revealed intact occupation levels and precontact artifacts. She also thought she had located a midden ~18 metres SW of Devereux’s B5 locality. She concluded her report stating ‘The Indian Point Site, although severely damaged by logging and related activity, artifact hunting and erosion, still contains significant archaeological material of probably contact period Beothuck origin. In view of this, it remains a highly important site and one which may offer considerable insight into the Beothuck problem‘ (Sproull-Thomson 1980).

Sproull-Thomson returned to the site July 1 – July 18, 1981 with the intention of assessing the potential of the site then excavate it. She opened eight one metre squares; the sole diagnostic artifact recovered was a corner-notched projectile point. Despite this, she did make some interesting observations. To her it seemed the portions of the site nearest the water appear to be mostly precontact, and those farthest back in the woods were historic Beothuk. She speculated that this was a reasonable expectation considering most Beothuk people wanted to remain hidden from Europeans (Sproull-Thomson 1981).

Despite finding few precontact artifacts she did locate a new historic housepit south of Devereux’s B5 locality. The housepit had a distinct circular hearth and a possible sleeping hollow. Charcoal collected from the hearth produced a date of 150±70 B.P. (Beta-3677). Test excavations through the hearth and wall comprising four one metre squares yielded two artifacts, an iron pot fragment and a nail (Sproull-Thomson 1981).

Testing of new housepit. Wall of the housepit can be seen in the photo (Sproull-Thomson).
Testing of new housepit. Wall of the housepit can be seen in the photo (Sproull-Thomson).

One of the concluding paragraphs of her reports states the following: ‘Our conversations with concerned people and an illustrated talk given in Millertown led the Red Indian Lake Development Association to seek help from Historic Resources in applying for a federal grant to begin development of the Indian Point site as an interpretive park. At this writing, funds have been awarded and work has begun on cleanup of the site and repairs to the access road. It will be an enormous satisfaction to see this aboriginal settlement take its rightful place in the Province’s history(Sproull-Thomson 1981).

View to the SW in 1981. The main areas of Devereux's work localities A3, A3 South, A4 and B4 were located to the right in the photo among the trees and bushes on the small hills. Marshall had camped on the opposite side of those bushes in 1978 on the exposed lake side of the point (Sproull-Thomson 1981)
View to the SW in 1981. The main areas of Devereux’s work, localities A3, A3 South, A4 and B4 were located to the right in the photo among the trees and bushes on the small hills. Marshall had camped on the opposite side of those bushes in 1978 on the exposed lake side of the point (Sproull-Thomson 1981).
Jane Sproull-Thomson's map of Indian Point showing, Locke's features and Devereux's features. The previous photo was take with the photographers back to the cove looking down the site to the SW. (Sproull-Thomson 1981)
Jane Sproull-Thomson’s map of Indian Point showing Locke’s features and Devereux’s features. The previous photo was taken with the photographers back to the cove looking down the site to the SW (Sproull-Thomson 1981).

From this point on, no more in depth archaeological work occurs at Indian Point and the site has periodic visits by various archaeologists. In 1982 Callum Thomson conducted an archaeological survey from Red Indian Lake to Grand Falls along the Exploits River from May 29 to June 19. Before they started the survey they stopped at Indian Point where the Red Indian Lake Development Association was preparing the site for its future use as a park and interpretation centre. Thomson noted, in particular, that ‘We were relieved to note that the few intact parts of the historic and prehistoric site had not been endangered in the clean-up process.‘ On June 19th they returned to Indian Point, ‘Here we were devastated by the new appearance of the Indian Point site. One or more members of the Red Indian Lake Development Association had authorized bulldozer stripping and leveling of parts of the remaining cultural deposits, resulting in the partial destruction of habitation structures, middens, hearths and the scattering of artifacts, animal bones and charcoal, with a consequent loss of archaeological context and information. This grossly negligent act underlines the absolute necessity for developments of this kind to be approached slowly and carefully, under the constant supervision of a professional archaeologist. While ultimate responsibility for this type of destruction is accepted by the Historic Resources Division, which approved the original plans, it will continue until more staff and resources are made available for the immense volume of work generated by the Historic Sites and Objects Act‘ (Thomson 1982).

Six photos stitched together showing Indian Point in 1985 after the leveling of the site in 1982. This photo is taken from the same general area as the Sproull-Thomson photo in 1981. Completely gone are the small bushes, trees and small hills on the right side that held Devereux's various site localities (Thomson 1985).
Six photos stitched together showing Indian Point in 1985 after the leveling of the site in 1982. This photo is taken from the same general area as the Sproull-Thomson photo in 1981. Completely gone are the small bushes, trees and small hills on the right side of the photo that held Devereux’s various site localities (Thomson 1985).

Callum Thomson and Don Locke conducted another survey of Red Indian Lake and Exploits River in 1987 to inspect several archaeological sites that were known to Locke. Once again they started at Indian Point noting the location of disturbed and eroded habitation areas. Despite this Thomson notes ‘There are still, however, several known areas of intact deposits and probably some unknown areas.‘ He does not state where these areas are located. They also inspected the area east of the main site at Indian Point which Locke had found in the 1960s. More archaeological material was found here. In fact it appears as though Indian Point would have extended over most of the point and well into the cove to the east. Unfortunately, most of this portion of the site has eroded (Thomson 1987).

Cove to the east of Indian Point (right side of photo) showing erosion of the shoreline (Thomson).
Cove to the east of Indian Point (right side of photo) showing erosion of the shoreline (Thomson).

In 1992 Fred Schwarz conducted a major archaeological survey of the Exploits Basin from where the Exploits River empties into the Bay of Exploits back to Red Indian Lake. While he did visit the site he did no actual work there (Schwarz 1992).

Charles Burke, representing Parks Canada’s Atlantic Service Centre, visited Indian Point in 2002 in order to assess the extent of purported damage to the site. Parks had learned that a parking area had been constructed in the area of Helen Devereaux’s excavations, essentially bisecting the site. Burke also observed damage due to shoreline erosion.

In 2009 archaeologist Laurie McLean was hired to conduct an impact assessment at Indian Point for the installation of a Hydro-Meteorological (Hydromet) Station. A total of 27 test pits were dug where the station was to be installed and three more were dug in a line on the beach, following the route for a buried cable which was to run from the station to Red Indian Lake. The test pits on the beach were sterile while five of the 27 test pits dug on the level terrace above the beach contained badly waterworn stone artifacts.

Finally, Provincial Archaeology Office (PAO) staff has made several visits to Indian Point over the years. Mostly these were brief visits to check on the site’s condition. In 2012 PAO staff made a visit to the site while in the area on other business. While we did not find in situ remains, we did find plenty of fire-cracked rock on the surface and reason to believe the site may yet have in situ deposits.

Fire-cracked rock seen at Indian Point in 2012.
Fire-cracked rock seen at Indian Point in 2012.

There is also a local group called the Red Indian Lake Heritage Society who try to monitor the site. In 2009 they had a series of interpretive panels installed on the point (the PAO tested the location of the panels prior to their installation). The panels tell the story of the Beothuk who inhabited the Red Indian Lake region. The society did such a good job with the panels that they were awarded the Manning Award by the Historic Sites Association in both the National Category and the Overall Winner for 2011.

Interpretive panel at Indian Point.
Interpretive panel at Indian Point.

In the end what have we learned from Indian Point?  In the very least we learned that the site was used in the precontact period and the historic period by both the Beothuk and their precontact ancestors. While living at the site in mamateeks (or wigwams) they had been processing caribou and making tools from stone and iron. It also appears that they may have been applying ochre to a canoe. These are all good things to know, however, Indian Point has much more to teach us. To paraphrase an archaeologist who helped me with the post, the history of this site is nearly allegorical, symbolizing all over again the end of the Beothuk, and, once again, our helplessness in the face of forces that no one could control (1829 all over again). What can we take away from the story of Indian Point? Is there a lesson-learned component to it? Has it led to any particular action by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador? These are open questions that we can all try to answer. I know the Provincial Archaeology Office (PAO) now consists  of four people who collectively have more than 100 years of archaeology experience, this places the PAO much farther ahead of the Culture and Heritage Division in 1982 when Callum Thomson was asking for more staff. I know since 2003 the PAO has reviewed more than 1500 Land Use Referrals per year, in the last four years that number has risen to more 2500 per year on average. So a land use referral for something like an interpretive park, such as was proposed for Indian Point in 1980, would be closely scrutinized by PAO staff. I also know that when a development, such as an interpretive park, is proposed in an area with archaeological potential or a known archaeological site the PAO will implement mitigative measures whether it be require an archaeological assessment, monitor construction, require buffers, etc. While these improvements are not a direct result of Indian Point, hopefully they will prevent another Indian Point.

Have we learned the lessons of Indian Point? I hope so.


McLean, Laurie
2009 Preliminary Report for Permit 09.48 a Stage 1 HRIA at Indian Point, Red Indian Lake.

Schwarz, Fred
1992 Archaeological Investigations in the Exploits Basin: Report on the 1992 Field Survey.

Sproull-Thomson, Jane
1980  Red Indian Lake ‑ Indian Point Site Survey ‑ June 20‑21, 1980.

1982  Investigations at Red Indian Lake. Archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador 1981, Annual Report No. 2. Edited by Thomson, J.S. and C. Thomson; Historic Resources Division, Government of Newfoundland, pp 174-189.

Thomson, Callum
1982  An Archaeological Survey of the Exploits River from Red Indian Lake to Grand Falls   May 29- June 19, 1982.

1987  Archaeological survey of Red Indian Lake and Exploits River with D. Locke 1987 10 27-29.

The Archaic site at Forteau Point, southern Labrador

Residents of southern Labrador and areas of the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland were well aware of the archaeological sites in their presence long before Diamond Jenness and William J. Wintemberg conducted preliminary surveys in those areas in the late 1920s. In 1949 and 1961 Elmer Harp conducted more archaeological fieldwork in those areas aided, no doubt, by the knowledgeable locals and the records of Jenness and Wintemberg.

During Harp’s 1949 and 1961 work he found and or excavated nearly 20 precontact sites. Among that number are several very well-known sites including Pinware Hill, currently the oldest recorded site in the province. One of his lesser known sites was Forteau Point (EiBf-02), Harp named it Forteau Bay 1 (it was renamed by McGhee & Tuck in the early 1970s). He classified Forteau Point as a major occupation site which he described as having:
. . . the appearance of significant occupations, possibly of long duration, and they spread over areas that may reach an extent of three or four acres. The material obtained from them is characterized by a high degree of uniformity (Harp 1951).

Forteau Point.
Forteau Point (Martin).

Harp returned to Forteau Point in 1961 collecting more cultural material. In his 1963 article detailing his survey and excavation work in the province he records that he recovered 73 artifacts from the site including: 13 points, 24 knives, 8 scrapers, 8 adzes, 1 gouge, 3 ground slate implements, 15 indeterminate fragments and 1 core. Forty-five of the artifacts were made of chert, 15 of quartzite, 11 of silicified slate, 1 red jasper and 1 was made of andesite. It is not clear if the total number of artifacts was from both years (1963). Unfortunately most of the site was ‘. . . marked by poorly stabilized dunes and scarred by deep systems of blowouts‘ (Harp 1951). So, much of the cultural material collected by Harp was out of cultural context.

Artifacts from Forteau Point shown in Harp's 1951 publication.
Artifacts 4, 5, 6 and 7 are from Forteau Point shown in Harp’s 1951 publication.
Artifacts from Forteau Point shown in Harp's 1963 publication.
Artifacts from Forteau Point shown in Harp’s 1963 publication.

James Tuck and Robert McGhee spent several field seasons in the early 1970s in southern Labrador revisiting some of the sites found by Harp and surveying other areas looking for new sites. In 1973 they revisited Harp’s Forteau Bay 1, renaming it Forteau Point. Like Harp, they found the site to be eroding but they did surface collect more cultural material including: ‘. . . a few notched or expanded stem projectile points, many flakes of slate, felsite and quartzite and a large slate bayonet, and a probable felsite prismatic blade‘. They were also able to find a small area of the site that was undisturbed which they excavated, recovering flakes and a small sample of wood charcoal (Tuck & McGee 1973).

In June of 1974 Tuck and McGhee returned to southern Labrador focusing their work on several sites including Forteau Point. Once again the site produced cultural material, most of which was surface collected from the deflated sand dunes. However, they were also able to find two small areas of in situ deposits. Through their surface collection and excavations they noted that:
Material appears to be concentrated in a series of areas, each a few metres in diameter, arranged in a linear pattern along the flat surface of the point. The distinctiveness of this pattern, as well as the high proportion of ground stone tools and the scarcity of chipping waste, suggests that this may not have been an occupation site but may have served a ceremonial function.’ (McGhee & Tuck 1975).

To add to the idea of a ceremonial function for the site, over several years of revisits 18 large bifaces were recovered from the area ranging in size from 29 cm to 38 cm in length. Clearly, such large bifaces were not meant for hunting. Tuck 1993 states ‘The four largest specimens were found in a single cache and the others in association with large patches of red ochre . . .‘ Tuck speculates that these 4 bifaces formed part of a precontact ‘lithophone’ which would have functioned similar to a xylophone.

As stated above Tuck made several revisits to the site. During those revisits he found more bifaces and more charcoal and ochre deposits.

All of the charcoal recovered from the site resulted in two radiocarbon dates. The first, 5399 ± 58 BP, came from material submitted by Harp. The second date of 5035 ± 65 BP came from a biface cache recovered by McGhee and Tuck. Both dates clearly indicate the site is Archaic in origin.

Archaeologists believe the Archaic people who moved into Labrador did so in two major waves, the first came just after the glaciers left the land. We first see their cultural remains at sites in southern Labrador like Pinware Hill and Cowpath ~9000 to 8000 years ago. Their cultural remains are found in the province up to ~3500 years ago. Archaeologists have recently started to refer to these people as the Labrador Archaic, when I learned about this group in University they were called the ‘Northern Branch’. Around 6000 years ago a second wave of people moved in to southern Labrador and are archaeologically referred to as the Maritime Archaic, when I learned about this group in University they were called the ‘Southern Branch’. Their cultural remains are found in the province up to ~3000 years ago. The major difference between the two can be seen in their stone tools. Labrador Archaic spearheads tend to be nipple based transitioning to a stemmed base. Maritime Archaic spearheads tend to be notched in some way. Based on the stone stools recovered by Harp, McGhee and Tuck, both Archaic groups appear to have made use of the sandy beaches at Forteau Point.

In 1986 the site was revisited by Reginald Auger and Marianne Stopp during their survey conducted from the Quebec-Labrador border north to Cape Charles. They noted considerable ongoing erosion and that a ditch had been dug through the site in that summer which was accelerating the erosion (Auger & Stopp 1986).

More recent visits have noted ongoing erosion and a considerable growth in alders. No cultural material beyond flakes has been recovered by an archaeologist from the site recently. After nearly 70 years of yielding secrets to archaeologists the site may finally be finished.


Auger, Reginald & Marianne Stopp
1987 1986 Archaeological Survey of Southern Labrador- Quebec-Labrador Border to Cape Charles.

Harp, Elmer
1951 An Archaeological Survey in the Strait of Belle Isle Area.  American Antiquity, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 205-220.

1963 Evidence of Boreal Archaic Culture in Southern Labrador and Newfoundland.  Paper No. 5. National Museum of Canada, Bulletin

McGhee, Robert & James Tuck
1975 An Archaic Sequence from the Strait of Belle Isle, Labrador. National Museum of Man Mercury Series, Archaeological Survey of Canada, Paper No. 34, Ottawa.

Tuck, James & Robert McGhee
1973 1973 Fieldwork in the Strait of Belle Isle Region.

1974 Report on Canada Council Grant #S-75-1613 Archaeology of the Strait of Belle Isle Region, Labrador.

Tuck, James
1976 Newfoundland and Labrador Prehistory. National Museum of Man.

1993 Interpreting L’Anse Amour and Southern Labrador Prehistory.

The Maritime Archaic occupation of South Brook Park

The South Brook Park site (DgBj-03) was originally found by David Reader in 1993 while he was surveying portions of the Bay of Islands and surrounding environs. At the time of its discovery Reader recorded the site as being badly disturbed by the construction of a water pump house and related piping and a road. The site had suffered considerable natural erosion as well. Despite this Reader returned to the site over the course of three years (1993, 1994 & 1998) and recovered a considerable amount of cultural material and charcoal for a radiocarbon date, all of which made the South Brook Park site the second oldest known Maritime Archaic occupation on the island.

South Brook Park site, showing the water pump house to the right and the dirt road in the foreground. The main site area was behind the pump house and around the large evergreen tree.
South Brook Park site, showing the water pump house to the right and the dirt road in the foreground. The main site area was behind the pump house and around the large evergreen tree.

In 1993, the site was in the privately owned South Brook Park, on the southwest shore of Deer Lake, approximately 35 km inland of the Bay of Islands. The site was on a palaeo-beach ridge that ran southwest-northeast parallel to the present shoreline of Deer Lake. The elevation of the site component on the ridge is 10.3 metres above the average water level of Deer Lake, translating to approximately 14.3 metres above sea level (Reader 1999).

2006 PAO excavation showing the three beach ridges. The first beach is down by the water, the second is under the road in the background and the third contains the site.
2006 PAO excavation showing the three beach ridges. The first beach is down by the water, the second is under the road in the background and the third contains the site.

In the first season, the beach terraces in the park were test-pitted after cultural lithic material was found on the surface of a nearby roadway. Much of the lithic material found at the site was modified quartz and quartzite. This material is available in quartz and quartzite cobbles and may be found naturally on the beach at Deer Lake, just below the site. Further testing revealed additional cultural material and the approximate site size was delineated. A 1m x 4m trench was excavated at the western extent of the site where lithic material was surface collected. An in situ cultural deposit was located here, from which a fully channeled ground slate gouge was excavated (Reader 1994).

Reader and crew excavating the 1x4m unit in 1993 (Reader).
Reader and crew excavating the 1mx4m unit in 1993 (Reader).
Reader and crew excavating the 1x4m unit in 1993 (Reader).
Reader and crew excavating the 1mx4m unit in 1993 (Reader).

Reader returned in 1994 and excavated a further 5.5 m2. During this season he recovered 15 quartz and quartzite core fragments, one quartzite biface, a quartz scraper and a large quantity of debitage from reduction activities. Five retouched chert flakes were also found. Perhaps the most significant lithic item recovered from this quartz and quartzite reduction area was a breccia hammer stone. According to Reader the hammer stone was found in direct association with the quartz and quartzite materials and indicates that Maritime Archaic inhabitants of this site were initially processing this locally available material by a means of direct and bi-polar percussion. In 1994 he also made note of the recovery of chert artifacts represented by a retouched flake and a retouched blade-like flake (Reader 1995).

Assorted chert and quartzite pieces from South Brook.
Assorted chert and quartzite pieces from South Brook.
Mar itime Archaic 1 thics from 1994 excavations at DqBj - 3 Top, left: retouc hed blade - l ik c chert flake Top, right biface , quar tz ite Cent r e: scraper, r ose colo ur ed quar tzlle Bot tom: hammers tone , breccia. Use-wear is visible at t h e poin ted ( l e f t) e nd o f the arte fact (Reader 1995).
Top left, retouched blade-like chert flake; Top right, biface, quartzite; Centre, scraper, rose coloured quartzite; Bottom, hammer stone , breccia. Use-wear is visible at the pointed (left) end of the artifact (Reader 1995).

In his 1999 report dealing with the 1998 excavations, Reader hypothesized that the site contained at least one early Maritime Archaic component (ca. 8800-6000 BP), based on the previous recovery of a full channeled ground slate gouge and a lithic assemblage dominated by quartz and quartzite. Such evidence is usually found on early Maritime Archaic sites. In 1998 he excavated a further 4m2 recovering, among other artifacts, two partial, triangular-shaped quartz projectile points and he identified the remnants of an ephemeral or disturbed hearth feature from which charcoal was recovered (Reader 1999). This returned an AMS date of 5140±50 BP (Beta-122766) making it the second oldest Maritime Archaic component on the Island of Newfoundland.

Reader’s description of the projectile points:
One point is apparently a finished specimen, while the other point is unfinished, with each point missing a lateral edge and distal tip. Both points are made from locally acquired and worked quartz. Both points have been bifacially worked, to varying degree, on the blade surfaces and edges. The finished point features a slightly concave base and basal thinning. The unfinished point features a level basal striking platform with clear indication of one larger and one smaller flake having been removed from the base in a technique similar to that of basal fluting. This bears a striking similarity to an early Archaic, incomplete triangular quartz point reported from southern Labrador by Tuck (1988:23). Again, both of the South Brook points are incomplete, but estimated maximum dimensions are as follow: basal width of 20 mm; length of 28 mm; thickness of 5 mm. (1999:5)

Despite the site being terribly disturbed, Reader was able to recover a lot of information about the Maritime Archaic occupation of South Brook. One of his theories about the site was that it contained multiple Archaic occupations. He speculated that if we accept that the two partial, triangular-shaped quartz projectile points and all of the associated quartz and quartzite debris were similar to those recovered from Pinware Hill (the oldest known site in the province) then South Brook had an approximate earliest occupation period of ca. 8800-8000 BP. The full channeled ground slate gouge also suggests a relatively early-middle Archaic occupation here, in the range of ca. 7000-6500 BP, based on dated contexts in southern Labrador and the Maritimes which have produced full channeled gouges. Finally he speculated that all the chert and the radiocarbon date of 5140±50 BP were a third occupation (Reader 1999).

Maritime Archaic projectile points from southern Labrador similar to the two found at South Brook Park (from McGee and Tuck 1975).
Early Maritime Archaic projectile points from southern Labrador similar to the two found at South Brook Park (McGee and Tuck 1975).

In 2005 the South Brook Park was sold to private developers with the intention of becoming a housing subdivision. Aardvark Archaeology was hired to conduct an historic resource impact assessment of the site. They excavated an additional 5.5m2 and several test pits elsewhere on the site. Aardvark Archaeology recovered 238 pieces of lithic material; all but one of them were flakes, including one retouched flake and a hammer stone. Sixty per cent of the flakes were quartz or quartzite while forty per cent were cherts. This ratio of quartz/quartzite to chert closely matches the findings from Reader’s investigations (Aardvark Archaeology 2005).

Area excavated by Aardvark Archaeology in 2005 (Aardvark Archaeology 2005).
Area excavated by Aardvark Archaeology (2005).
Retouched flake and hammer stone recovered by Aardvark Archaeology (2005).
Retouched flake and hammer stone recovered by Aardvark Archaeology (2005).

In 2006, the Provincial Archaeology Office (PAO) completed the excavation of this site. A total of 4m2 and seven test pits were excavated. Initially the PAO was encouraged with regard to recovering charcoal. One of the first units  opened had a large charcoal stain running through its centre which appeared to be in primary context with a large chunk of milk white quartzite just a few centimetres away. Upon completion of excavation of the four units and test pits no further artifacts beyond flakes and unfortunately the charcoal returned a very recent date of 140 +/- 40BP (Beta – 217827) (PAO Review 2007).

Charcoal stain in association with a piece of quartzite as excavated by the PAO.
Charcoal stain in association with a piece of quartzite as excavated by the PAO.
Looking out over the Humber River towards Deer Lake. Taken from the beach just below the site.
Looking out over the Humber River towards Deer Lake. Taken from the beach just below the site.

Aardvark Archaeology
2005 HRIA of the South Brook Park Site (DgBj-03).

Provincial Archaeology Office Review
2007 Volume 5 for 2006 Field Season.

McGhee, Robert & James Tuck
1975  An Archaic Sequence from the Strait of Belle Isle, Labrador.

Reader, David
1994 The Deer Lake-Upper Humber River Archaeological Survey 1993.

1995 Humber Valley Archaeological Project- Interim Report of 1994 Investigations.

1999 Revisiting the Maritime Archaic Component at South Brook Park (DjBl-09)- 1998 Archaeological Investigations.

Cemetery site, Red Bay, Labrador

The Cemetery site was brought to the attention of the Provincial Archaeology Office (PAO) in 2002 when a volunteer with the Bird Cove Archaeology Project who was visiting Red Bay found a complete quartzite biface and several other pieces of quartz detritus. Initially thinking this was a new site we named it the Quartz Point site. It turned out that Dr. James Tuck had known of the site, which he named the Cemetery site (EkBc-03), since the late 1970s and had already collected material from it (18 artifacts). Upon learning this we corrected our documentation to reflect the correct name.

Some of the Maritime Archaic bifaces recovered by Dr. Tuck.
Some of the Maritime Archaic bifaces recovered by Dr. Tuck.

From the photos the volunteer took of the site it appeared that cultural material was eroding out of a dirt pathway used by vehicles traveling to a cemetery in Red Bay.

early Maritime Archaic quartz biface recovered by a volunteer in Red Bay.
Early Maritime Archaic quartz biface recovered by a volunteer in Red Bay.

In 2005, a colleague and I went to Red Bay with the intention of checking on the site and excavating the portion exposed in the pathway. Our initial assessment noted surface scatters of flakes and other lithic detritus. Most of the cultural material was limited to the east side of the dirt path which is west of the graveyard. We set up a grid for surface collection and excavation over this area.

Rough field map of the Quartz Point site map showing the survey and excavation grid.
Rough field map of the Cemetery site showing the survey and excavation grid.
Showing the exposed cultural material because of the pathway and the grid.
Photo showing the exposed cultural material in the pathway and the grid.

The stratigraphy for the whole site was straightforward – there was a top level of humus/peat, under which was fine grey quartzite sand. Below this was a layer of darker, somewhat coarser sand with small cobbles (golf ball size). Finally below the darker layer was a dense level of dark coloured, golf ball sized, cobbles. The cultural material appeared limited to the interface of the humus/peat layer and the fine grey quartzite sand layer. The cultural material may extend slightly into the top of this second layer. The culture bearing layer was 10 to 12 cm below the surface.

We test pitted the whole area concluding most of the site was around units F & G. We surface collected material from most units but the excavation was limited to units F & G.

A small amount of cultural material was collected from the north end of unit F. However, the south end contained numerous white/clear quartz & quartzite flakes and chunks. In the same area we recovered seven quartzite biface fragments. In the approximate centre of the south half of unit F we noted that the soil was compacted and in places looked to be fire-reddened. In the north centre of this compacted soil we noted several small (fist sized-and smaller) cobbles. From inside the area of these cobbles we collected a very small charcoal sample (we believe the cobbles were part of a hearth). The charcoal returned an accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon date of 7440+/-60 BP (Beta-182001). At least seven of the bifaces collected from the site were in direct association with these cobbles. In all likelihood this hearth formed the centre of activity for this small site.

Rough field map of the Quartz Point site showing the main excavation area.
Rough field map of the Cemetery site showing the main excavation area.
Looking south-east with fire-reddended soil outline in the pink tape and what we believce was the fireplace outlined in orange string.
Looking south-east with fire-reddened soil outlined in the pink tape and what we believe was the fireplace outlined in orange string.

In total we recovered nearly 4500 pieces of quartzite in the form of flakes, chunks and shatter, as well as 25 biface fragments and several hammerstones. Nine of the biface fragments were found within or just outside of the fire reddened and compacted hearth soil. The compacted soil was about two metres long and about one metre wide with the main portion of the possible hearth found in the north central end of the feature.

It appears as though the material at the Cemetery site relates to a brief early Maritime Archaic occupation. The artifacts found suggest the occupants were somehow related culturally to the people who occupied the Arrowhead Mine site (EjBe-16) based on projectile point style, in particular the serrated blade edges on the bifaces. Robert McGhee and James Tuck who excavated the Arrowhead Mine site describe bifaces coming from that site as having ‘a marked serration of blade edges. (1975: 96) (The Arrowhead Mine site is 30km southwest of Red Bay at L’Anse au Diable.) A small amount of blade serration is present on the bifaces collected by Dr. Tuck in the 70s as seen in the first picture in this post. Blade serration is particularly noticeable in the photo of the biface recovered by the Bird Cove Project volunteer, also as seen above. It is also present on several bifaces that we collected from the Cemetery site  as seen below.

Arrowhead Mine artifacts showing balde serration on several of the bifaces. (Tuck 1993)
Arrowhead Mine artifacts showing blade serration on several of the bifaces. (A-H, spearheads, I-K bifaces, L ground slate point, M,N gouges (Tuck 1993).

Today the Cemetery site is nearly 400 m from the salt water. However, 7500 years ago, it was on the active beach of a small lagoon that would have been sheltered by several small islands. The site is evidence for a brief occupation by an early Maritime Archaic group who were likely culturally related to the people who occupied the Arrowhead Mine site at around the same time. The artifacts we recovered, including numerous biface fragments and hammerstones and the type of detritus collected (large chunky pieces with a lot of cortex) suggest the site may have functioned as a biface manufacturing centre.


McGhee, Robert &
1975        An Archaic Sequence from the Strait of Belle Isle, Labrador. National Museum of Man Mercury Series, Archaeological Survey of Canada, Paper No. 34, Ottawa.

Tuck, James A.
1993        Interpreting L’Anse Amour and Southern Labrador Prehistory. Unpublished internal report submitted to Department of Tourism and Culture.