The Far Northeast: 3000 BP to Contact

Thursday, May 16, 2019 - 9:00am to 4:30pm
De Tourny
  • Kenneth Holyoke, Doctoral Student, University of Toronto
  • Gabriel Hrynick, Assistant Professor, University of New Brunswick
Session Description (300 word max): 

Northern New England and the Atlantic Provinces of Canada (loosely defined here as the Far Northeast) have seen recent archaeological syntheses of the Palaeoindian and Archaic periods, but not yet such a consideration of the last ca. 3000 years. In the Eastern Woodlands broadly, unified taxonomic notions of “Woodland” have drawn increasing scrutiny as attributes such as horticulture, village formation, mortuary ceremonialism, and various technologies now appear to have developed less synchronously than once thought, and archaeologists have increasingly illuminated sub-regional and diachronic variability. The Far Northeast deserves particular attention because it has long occupied a unique—if at times, marginal—position in Woodland discourse, starkly signaled by taxonomic dissimilarity; but how different is the Ceramic/Maritime Woodland period, Recent Indian period, or Woodland period in the Far Northeast in terms of archaeological history than elsewhere in the Northeast? And how much sub-regional and diachronic variability was there in the most recent period of prehistory in the Far Northeast? This session includes both topical and regional papers that consider questions of culture change in the Far Northeast, especially studies that are situated within these broader concerns.

09:10 AM: We Call it the Maritime Woodland: Exploring Themes and Challenges 3000 BP to Contact
Presentation format:
  • Kenneth  Holyoke - University of Toronto
  • Gabriel Hrynick - University of New Brunswick

From our vantage, the Maritime Peninsula, the Woodland period (ca. 3000 BP to contact) presents an image of interregional and sub-regional diversity and diachronic change that would have been hard to identify a few decades ago. However, it remains a fuzzy image, and one that is being actively wiped away by contemporary issues of sea-level rise and development. Recent research and the aggregation of data at scales ranging from the domestic to the inter-regional raise questions about how the Maritime Peninsula fits in the Far Northeast, the Northeast, and the Woodland concept. In this paper we use the Maritime Peninsula to explore questions, themes, and developments about this crucial period in the Far Northeast.

09:40 AM: Pitawelkek, a place where they make tea. Community archaeology at a shell bearing site in western Prince Edward Island.
Presentation format:
  • Helen  Kristmanson - Government of Prince Edward Island
  • Erin Mundy - Government of Prince Edward Island

The archaeological research reported here began in October 2006 as part of a broader Mi’kmaq-led initiative to conserve and protect the ecological and cultural resources of Hog Island and the Sandhills in western Prince Edward. At the invitation of the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI the project began with a small team of First Nations representatives who teamed up with us to conduct a foot survey of Georges Island and the Hog Island Sandhills. Our shared objective was to identify and create a record of archaeological sites in the study area and to this day we continue to partner on this community oriented project.  In this presentation we will provide an update on the Pitawelkek site (CdCw-5) which has been the focus of our research. 

10:30 AM: Ancestral Mi’kmaw Lifeways on Epekwitk: Exploring Past Narratives through the Reanalysis of Archaeological Collections
Presentation format:
  • John Andrew Campbell - Memorial University of Newfoundland

In 1973 and 1974, archaeological investigations conducted by Dr. Jim Tuck of Memorial University, in conjunction with The Canadian Museum of Civilization, recovered a fascinating array of artifacts and ecofacts on Prince Edward Island – Epekwitk. Among these collections is the previously unreported Canavoy Site (CcCq-1[9]) collection which ranges from the Archaic Period – Mu Awsami Saqiwe’k (9,000-4,000 BP) to the presence of Historic Mi’kmaq – Kiskukewe’k L’nuk (1000-250 BP). Although contextual documentation is limited, this reanalysis will explore regional connections within the Far Northeast. By reanalyzing these collections through the lens of Etuapmunk, or “Two Eyed Seeing”, the narratives presented through materiality unveils certain activities and practices of Ancestral Mi’kmaw lifeways which speaks to continuity between the archaeologically arbitrary division of the Woodland – Keji’kewe’k L’nuk (3,000-450 BP) and Historic – Kiskukewe’k L’nuk periods. Furthermore, this reanalysis will present the diachronic exploration of “historical gravity” and the importance of re-examining previously excavated archaeological collections.

11:00 AM: The Village of Chouacöet and the Ceramic and Protohistoric of Southern Maine
Presentation format:
  • Arthur Anderson - University of New England

In 1605, Champlain described an Almouchiquois village along the Saco River estuary in Maine, which he named Chouacöet in his account and chart. Recent work at the site has complicated archaeological narratives of the site as a contained Protohistoric village, instead suggesting more varied settlement over several thousand years. This work highlights the fact that equivalencies drawn between the archaeological record of the Protohistoric and European accounts can be tenuous. This work will be presented alongside a reassessment of the later Ceramic and Protohistoric period of coastal Southern Maine, an area in which cultural associations with areas to the north and south are only tentatively understood, both ethnohistorically and archaeologically. 

11:30 AM: The Woodland Period in the Eastern Townships, Québec
Presentation format:
  • Claude Chapdelaine - Université de Montréal

Abstract. Archaeological data support the participation of the Eastern Townships in the Meadowood interaction sphere during the Early Woodland, probably through the connexion between the St. Lawrence Valley and the Saint-François River. It is however during the Middle Woodland with the integration of pottery decorated with the pseudo scallop shell decoration that the region seems more intensively occupied. During the Late Woodland, there is no indication of major changes in the settlement pattern, the lithic network and certainly not in the use of ceramic vessels. Contact with the St. Lawrence Iroquoians is limited. A nomadic way of life was maintained during the whole Woodland Period and cultural continuity will be addressed. The material culture, mostly ceramics and lithic tools and debitage, will be discussed as well as the major lithic sources to provide a better picture of the Woodland groups of the study area.

01:40 PM: The Gulf of Maine and Maritimes: Proxy Evidence for Late Holocene Environmental Change
Presentation format:
  • Julia Gustafson - University of Southern Maine
  • Nathan Hamilton - University of Southern Maine

The North Atlantic acts simultaneously as a barrier and way of passage for the human settlements that border it. Entire cultures have risen out of the dynamic relationship between humankind and the sea. The archaeological record from the shore of the North Atlantic establishes the importance of interdisciplinary research within the physical and biological sciences. Increasingly ecofacts associated with diagnostic cultural deposits are being utilized as proxy for past environmental and climatic conditions, notably the Little Ice Age (AD 1300-1850). Our research is focused on four themes that co-opt data from published excavations on coastal sites from 40° south to 70° north latitude and extending from the northeastern United States to Northern Europe. These themes include sea-level position and trajectory of rise during the Holocene, Carbon 13/ Nitrogen 15 isotope analysis to understand human and animal diet from the marine and terrestrial ecosystems,  DNA of human and non-human populations for adaptation and movement over time, and general landscape configuration. The data sets vary significantly but in combination offer strategic approaches to the theoretical and practical use of archaeological landscape data in several of the world’s most productive and complex marine ecosystems. This presentation is concentrated on notable New World sites of the United States and Canada from the past 3000 years. Data from Smuttynose Island, Gulf of Maine is presented throughout our research to highlight the importance of integrative and collaborative analysis methods and to emphasize critical environmental threats facing coastal heritage sites at present and into the future.

02:10 PM: Archaeological investigations into a post-archaic landform in Upper Lake Melville, Labrador, and implications for archaeological history and practice in the Quebec-Labrador peninsula
Presentation format:
  • Allan Wolfrum - Graduate Student, Memorial University
  • Scott Neilsen - Assistant Professor, Memorial University

Archaeological, geomorphological and geophysical investigations undertaken sporadically between 1998 and 2018 – on the Ushpitun landform (FhCb-12) north of the community of Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Upper Lake Melville, Labrador – have resulted in the identification and recovery of stone tools, pit and cobble combustion features, and paleoenvironmental traits associated with the period between ~2900 and 2300 cal BP. Each investigative method and outcome is discussed in reference to its potential effectiveness in archaeological research in this region of the Boreal forest, and to contribute to knowledge of the nebulous (post-Archaic) Intermediate pre-contact period in Labrador. The critical discussion of these multi-disciplinary methods and the identified archaeological traits also allows for comment on topics related to cultural resource management practices in this region – such as the identification of site boundaries, and the potential connection between archaeological cultures across the Far Northeast, during the period in which the Ushpitun landform was utilized.

03:00 PM: Bay of Fundy Provenance for Pre-contact Copper Artifacts from the Maritime Peninsula
Presentation format:
  • Catherine Cottreau-Robins - Nova Scotia Museum

This research project uses in-situ non-destructive laser ablation inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICPMS) to compare trace metal concentrations in copper artifacts from pre-contact sites in the Maritime Peninsula (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Maine), to natural copper samples from geological sources in Michigan, Ontario, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the western and eastern regions of the Bay of Fundy.  The objective of the research is to determine the provenance of copper artifacts relative to source regions. Upon review of over 5200 analyses obtained from over 460 copper artifacts, a consistent observation has been the contrasting composition of Lake Superior copper and Bay of Fundy sources, with the latter showing much higher zinc and much lower arsenic concentrations. In fact, a Bay of Fundy provenance is explicit for many artifacts analyzed. Importantly, no artifacts have chemical compositions consistent with Lake Superior sources. The results establish the importance of local (Fundy) copper to pre-contact period Indigenous peoples of Nova Scotia and the Maritimes, negating the Lake Superior model. Furthermore, recognition of distinct eastern and western Fundy copper provenance within the artifact collection has significance in the broader context of territorial procurement of copper and trade relationships.

03:30 PM: Subsistence Trends during the Woodland period in Northern Vermont: A Comparison of Fauna, Flora and Lipid Data from the Missisquoi River
Presentation format:
  • Ellen Cowie
  • Gemma-Jayne  Hudgell
  • Robert Bartone
  • Nancy Asch Sidell
  • Frances Stewart
  • Karine Taché
  • Aida Romera

Archaeological investigations along the Missisquoi River in the Champlain Lowlands of northwestern Vermont have provided a wealth of data on Native American lifeways, particularly during the Late Archaic and Woodland periods.  Along a stretch of the river in Swanton, archaeological deposits document trends in subsistence and settlement through virtually the entirety of the Woodland period.  Zooarchaeological data from dozens of cultural features suggest a heavy reliance on fish throughout the Woodland period, while complementary paleobotanical evidence documents changes in bottomland forest vegetation associated with adoption of maize agriculture and domesticated Chenopodium berlandieri (chenopod) as well as harvesting of wild rice and blueberries. Ongoing lipid analysis by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry of visible and absorbed residues recovered from ceramic pots representing the full span of the Woodland period will be compared with the existing data to determine if these established subsistence patterns are further confirmed, or perhaps new patterns emerge.

04:00 PM: Ceramic Production and Use in the High Laurentians
Presentation format:
  • Evan Mann - CUNY The Graduate Center
  • Karine Taché - CUNY Queens College
  • Roland Tremblay - Ethnoscop Inc.
  • Aida Barbera - CUNY The Graduate Center

The recovery of ceramic fragments north of the St. Lawrence Lowlands can no longer be coined anecdotal and is thereby challenging the long-held assumption that nomadic hunter/gatherer populations of the Eastern Subarctic greatly rejected or ignored pottery technology. Here we present the combined results of typological, technological, and residue analysis of recent ceramic data collected from the High Laurentian region of Québec, Canada. While questions surrounding the origins, production, and use of these containers abound, their intensive investigation utilizing the latest bio- and geochemical methods can shed new light on old dishes. This work is part of a larger research project investigating how Northern Algonquian populations negotiated their identities through foods and foodways in the face of inter-societal contact and technological innovations.