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The Survey
The Indian Site
The Dorset Eskimo Site

Dildo Island is 686 m long from north to south and 150 m wide from east to west at its widest point. The southern end of the island consists of a 40 m wide, grass covered point which rises about 5 m above the beach and extends south from the main body of the island for about 200 m. To the north, the main body of the island is considerably higher with a dense covering of spruce and fir trees. On its western side, at the junction between the point and the main part of the island, is a small cove called Barry's Cove which is by far the best landing place on the island.

During the four weeks of our survey we dug approximately 150 test pits on the island. Where ever possible these were dug at regular intervals (usually either five or ten metres) along straight lines established using a theodolite. From our testing it soon became clear that the entire southern half of the island was a Dorset Eskimo site and, although some areas were richer than others, it was hard to sink a hole anywhere on this part of the island without finding some evidence of a Dorset occupation. Two spots on the northern end of the grassy point, in a place we called “Area B”, were particularly rich in Dorset material. More Dorset material was found at the northeastern end of the island at a place known as the Pork Gulch.

The Indian material was far more elusive. While some evidence of an Indian presence was found at both the northern and southern ends of the island, the only substantial concentration was on a wooded terrace just north of Barry’s Cove in a place we referred to simply as “Area C”. The same wind storm that had blown over the trees on the western edge of the site at Cupids had also reeked havoc on this part of Dildo Island. Many trees had blown down and tangled in the roots of one we found a large Indian biface. Further examination of this area over the next few weeks uncovered two other Indian bifaces and revealed another striking difference between it and the rest of the island. The vast majority of the stone tools used by the Dorset people on Dildo Island were made from a grey chert which had taken on a white patina after spending well over a thousand years buried in the acid soils of the island. Although Area C produced some of this material, it also produced many fragments of purple and blue rhyolite, a type of stone from Bonavista Bay which was totally different from the material used by the Dorset people to make their tools.

  Much to our surprise, the survey produced no evidence of a fort on Dildo Island. Indeed, aside from a few small fragment of eighteenth-century Westerwald stoneware, no physical evidence of any kind of presence on the island during this period has been found either during our survey or in the seven years that excavations have been conducted on the island since then. While it is possible that evidence of some kind of fortification may yet be uncovered, it is hard to conceive of 205 men spending an entire winter on the island without leaving behind more evidence of their presence than has been found to date. Indeed, Dildo Island seems an unlikely location for such a fort. Situated in the bottom of Trinity Bay, any inhabitants would have been easy targets for the French and their Indian allies as they moved back and forth between here and Placentia Bay and the many landing places on the island would have made it extremely difficult to defend. For the present at least, it seems that this is one case where the archaeological evidence not only does not support the documentary evidence but seems to contradict it.

Images (left to right, top to bottom) 1. Surveying in Area B, October 1995. Two Dorset Eskimo houses were later found in this area. 2. Testing at the south end of Dildo Island, October 1995. 3. Typical Dorset Eskimo tool from Dildo Island made of patinated chert. 4. Fragments of purple rhyolite used by the Recent Indian people on Dildo Island to make their tools.