Arctic Studies Center
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Smithsonian - National Museum of Natural History

19th Century European Trade Site

19th century site

19th century site viewed from east

About a half-kilometer east of the Hare Harbour-1 shelter is a grassy field that slopes down to the shore, with a small pond nearby.›Between the pond and a dense patch of berry bushes we found the outline of a stone foundation, and below it, under a thriving patch of currants, a rich garbage dump, in glorified archaeological jargon a 'midden'.›


Perry Colbourne and Matt Gallon testing HH-2

Perry Colbourne and Matt Gallon testing HH -2
Sample of clay pipe bowls from HH-2

Sample of clay pipe bowls from HH-2

In 2002, Perry Colbourne, Matt Gallon and Will Richard dug a tiny test pit here and in less than two hours recovered a virtual goldmine of 19th century artifacts:› nails, ceramics, glass, a tremendous array of pipe bowls and stems, buttons, and gunflints.
Hare Harbour-2: Test pit 1 ceramics drawn by Carrie Swan

Hare Harbour-2: Test pit 1 ceramics drawn by Carrie Swan

Matt Gallon with clay pipe

Ah, so refreshing!' says Matt Gallon, 'smoking' a clay pipe

Although we returned in 2003, finding pipe fragmentsand ceramics exposed on the ground and in the pond, we decided not to disturb the site any further, preferring to leave it for a future day when we could use it for an archaeological field school project for local students.
19th century sample from  test pit

An incredible 19th century sample from a tiny test pit!

Seal Net Point

Bill Fitzhugh at Seal Net Point seeking western-most Paleoeskimos

Bill chasing down 'western-most' Paleoeskimos at Seal
Net Point


Having completed our work at Petit M»catina in 2003, Pitsiulak steamed west to Pointe à Maurier and nearby Seal Net Point where Lynne Fitzhugh had found a Groswater (a Transitional Early Dorset culture) artifact during the 2001 survey.› At the time we had not been able to locate the site it had come from; but now, with closer inspection, we found two distinct settlement areas and excavated several square meters to obtain a good artifact sample and charcoal for radiocarbon-dating. The site was small and must have been used for only brief periods over a number of years by small groups of seal hunters who returned to hunt harp seals that run in large numbers past the point in their fall migration. In the 19/20th century a concrete factory had been built there and the location became an important commercia lseal fishing site.

Groswater artifacts form Seal Net Point

Groswater artifacts from Seal Net Point

Groswater Artifacts
Groswater Artifacts

Our excavations were fruitful, and in two long days we recovered a fine small collection of diagnostic Groswater tools, which are among the most beautiful and technologically sophisticated of any Paleoeskimo culture. The real prizes were a gorgeous chert point, an end scraper, and fragments of ground and spalled burins. In the middle of the site we found wood charcoal which we later dated to 2400 years ago—right in the middle of the Groswater period as known from Labrador and Newfoundland (Pintal 1994; Renouf 1994; Fitzhugh 2002).› Like our Maritime Archaic longhouses, this evidence establishes Seal Net Point as the western-most Groswater Paleoeskimo site known in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Also of interest is the fact that the collection includes Ramah chert implements, indicating that the residents were in contact with Groswater people in northern Labrador.

Helena Sharp and Christie Leece excavating the big pit
Big pit excavation
In addition to the Groswater Paleoeskimo finds recovered from the Hare Harbor 1 Basque site (above), we found another Groswater site at Gros Mecatina 3. We returned to GM-3 in 2004 to excavate the small ‘longhouse’ structures we had found here at Locus 2 in 2002, and which had produced a piece of chert biface in 2003.

GM3 longhouse structure
GM3 longhouse structure
After carefully mapping the site this year, we began excavating a hearth at the south end of the rectangular structure and found – surprisingly – not Maritime Archaic tools, but Groswater microblades, scrapers, side-notched knives and points made of Newfoundland and local chert. We found nothing in the rest of the houses, and therefore suppose that Groswater people re-occupied a small portion of these earlier Maritime Archaic dwellings.

St. Augustine
Close-up of partitions

Close up of partitions.

At the end of our 2004 season we found a large Archaic Indian site at a prominent location overlooking the coast near St. Augustine. Test pits revealed red ocher stains in the soil and numerous flakes and artifacts stretching more than 100 meters – a very large camp indeed! The style of the side-notched and stemmed points, and a large end scraper, suggest the site dates ca. 1-3000 years ago, a time when Late Maritime Archaic culture was being replaced by Indian groups with less maritime-based traditions. It was surprising, therefore, to find an abundance of translucent Labrador Ramah chert present in this site.

Bayfield tools
Tools from Bayfield  
This material had to have been transported from the Ramah chert quarries in extreme northern Labrador, a distance of nearly 1000 kilometers overland, and even further by water. This is one of the most promising early Indian sites so far found in our Quebec surveys. Future research here will produce important information about a little-known period of culture history on the Lower North Shore. After we returned home we discovered that this site had ben sited earlier by Jean-Yves Pintal, who ran two radiocarbon samples from hearths, dating 1400 and 2000 years old. (Pintal J.-Y. and F. Duguay, 1987, Recherches en archéologie préhistorique sur la Basse-Côte-Nord: région de Blanc-Sablon et de St-Augustin. Unpublished report submitted to the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec.)