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The Indian Site
The Dorset Eskimo Site

Between 1996 and 1999, Sylvie LeBlanc conducted excavations at the Dorset Eskimo site on Dildo Island. In addition to the Dorset material, she found evidence of the earlier Groswater Eskimo people who occupied Newfoundland between about 800 BC and 150 BC. However, the Dorset occupation of the island was clearly much more intensive. During her excavations LeBlanc uncovered the remains of two Dorset houses and there are almost certainly others that have yet to be discovered.

The first, House 1, which contained traces of three fireplaces, was located on the top of a terrace at the north end of the grassy point that extends south from the main part of the island. The relatively insubstantial nature of this structure led LeBlanc to speculate that it might have been occupied during the summer months. A single radiocarbon date from House 1 indicates that it was in use sometime around A.D. 720.

Roughly 20 metres down the slope to the southwest and just above the beach in Barry’s Cove LeBlanc uncovered a second, far more substantial structure, House 2. A 2m x 2m test unit opened in this area in 1996 revealed part of a flagstone surface and what later proved to be a cooking area beneath a 45 cm thick covering of peat. Over the next few years excavations revealed a building that had been partially dug into the bank to the east with a central flagstone pavement roughly 2 metres wide that extended from southeast to northwest for 8.6 metres. Adjoining the flagstones at the north end of the house was a semicircular cooking area edged by slanted rocks and stone slabs and lined with flat stone slabs. LeBlanc believes that oil, mostly seal oil, was used in the house for both cooking and heating and she found the remains of three slabs inside the house stained by burnt fat that appears to have overflown from soapstone lamps.

According to LeBlanc, the north end of House 2 was built over a midden (or garbage dump) indicating that this area was in use before House 2 was built. In fact, LeBlanc believes that this midden may have accumulated in the abandoned pit of a still older house. A series of 18 radiocarbon dates collected from in and around House 2 suggests that it was in use for nearly 700 years between A.D. 70 and A.D. 650.

A total of 5,562 artifacts were recovered from in and around House 2. Unfortunately, hardly any bone was found in association with the house so we cannot say for certain at what time of year it was occupied but the substantial nature of its construction suggests that it may have been occupied during cold weather, perhaps during the spring when seals would have been available.


Images (left to right, top to bottom)1. Artist's depiction of Dorset Eskimo laying the flagstones for House 2 on Dildo Island sometime around A.D. 70.  Pam Williams, 2005. 2. The location of House 1 on top of the grassy terrace. 3. Looking north across House 2 towards Barry’s Cove. 4. Dorset Eskimo artifacts from the 1995 survey. 5. Soap stone lamp fragment from House 2 (Photo by John Bourne). 6. Chisel-like artifact from House 2 (Photo by John Bourne).7. Excavating House 2 in Barry’s Cove (Photo by Ann Bowering).8. Tiny quartz crystal scrapers from House 1 (Photo by Sylvie LeBlanc).9. Looking north towards Dildo Island as it may have appeared around A.D. 70. To the the right some of the Dorset collect birds' eggs, while to the left others collect grey shale from the cliff to use as flagstones in House 2.  In the centre some people are laying out the flagstones for House 2  while others light a fire on the beach.  Pam Williams, 2005.