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New Discoveries

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Date: Apr. 30th '05
Time:
Title: Recent Indian Linear Hearth, Dildo Island, June 2004
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Entry:
The Analysis of the Bones from the Recent Indian Linear Hearth on Dildo Island has been Completed.


Kathlyn Stewart of the Canadian Museum of Nature in Hull, Quebec has just finished her analysis of the bones recovered from the 1200 year old Recent Indian fireplace on Dildo Island. Many of the bones were in pretty bad shape but Kathy was able to identify 89 of the 922 samples sent to her by genus and/or species and to determine the approximate age of a number of the animals.

Not surprisingly, the most common bones recovered were seal bones. A total of forty-four seal bones were identified including bones from harp, harbour and grey seals. However, what was rather more surprising was the high proportion of beaver bones that were identified. A total of thirty beaver bones were recovered from the fireplace. Also present were five bones from caribou representing at least two different animals.

Only one bird bone was identified in the collection. The type of bird could not be determined and Kathy simply described it as a “duck sized bird”. It’s hard to imagine that the Indian people who occupied Dildo Island were not hunting the many birds that nest on the south end of the island and on nearby Ross’s Island in the last spring and early summer. The absence of more bird bones in the collection is probably more a reflection of the fragile nature of these bones then the lack of exploitation. As Kathy points out “bird bone preserves poorly due to its thin bone cortex, and birds probably comprised a much higher percentage of the original bone assemblage, particularly given the poor condition of this assemblage.”

The results of Kathy’s analysis has caused us to reevaluate some of our earlier assumptions about the Recent Indian occupation of Dildo Island. Initially we had assumed that the site was probably a hunting camp occupied for only a short time each year - most likely during the late spring and early summer when resources such as birds and harp seals would have been available. However, the evidence from the faunal analysis strongly suggests that the site was a base camp occupied for an extended period of time.

The presence of beaver and caribou bones indicates that, in addition to hunting birds and seals, the people who lived at the camp where also using it as a base from which to launch hunting expeditions into the interior. While we can’t go into a lot of detail here, Kathy’s analysis has led her to suggest that the site was probably occupied “in spring, summer, and early fall”. One piece of evidence that indicates an occupation extending into the late summer is a bone from a young harbour seal that was about three months old when it was killed. Since harbour seals are usually born in May, this animal was probably killed sometime in August.





Date: Jan. 17th '05
Time:
Title: Rectangluar Pit West of the Dwelling House
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Entry:
Faunal Analysis from Cupids.

Kathlyn Stewart of the Canadian Museum of Nature in Hull, Quebec has completed her analysis of the faunal material (bones, teeth, etc) recovered from the Cupids site between 1995 and 2002. Over the course of this winter we will be conducting our own analysis of Kathy’s findings to see what they can tell us about the animals raised and hunted by the people who lived in seventeenth-century Cupers Cove.

Preliminary analysis so far indicates that both cattle and pigs were being raised (or at least butchered) in Cupids in the second half of the seventeenth century and/or early eighteenth century. The evidence for this comes from a number of bones and teeth recovered from in and around a rectangular pit located just west of the north end of the dwelling house. This pit probably was used originally for storage and seems to have been enclosed until the fire which destroyed the dwelling house in the 1660s. After the fire the pit was left exposed and seems to have served as a dump until the site was abandoned sometime around 1700. Among the artifacts recovered from the pit were two clay tobacco pipe bowls dating to between 1680 and 1720 and two fragments of a Westerwald jug made sometime between 1680 and 1710.

The pit also produced a number of jaw bones and teeth from both cows and pigs including a cow mandible (lower jaw) and three cow teeth; two complete pig mandibles, two pig mandible fragments and a pig incisor. More bones, including leg bones from both cows and pigs, were uncovered in the occupation level immediately south of the pit and a cow’s tooth was found above the cobblestones west of the pit.

Given that the head is usually one of the first parts of an animal removed during butchering, it seems unlikely that these animals were killed elsewhere and shipped to Cupids. It is far more likely that they were killed and butchered in Cupids - probably somewhere very close to the pit in which their remains were found. To our surprise the pit also produced a phalanx (foot bone) from a hawk. We will probably never know how or why this bird was killed.

In December 1030 bone fragments recovered from the Recent Indian hearth on Dildo Island were sent to Kathy for analysis. When her analysis is completed (hopefully by March 31, 2005) the results will be posted here in New Discoveries.





Date: Nov. 14th '04
Time:
Title: Bulldozed Site at Old Perlican
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Entry:
Later that same afternoon we discovered a second site south of the fish plant on a piece of land roughly 50 metres east of the beach and just north of a steam that flows into Old Perlican Harbour. Scattered over the surface here we found numerous fragments of coarse earthenware, including South Somerset, Verwood and Meridaware; shards of dark green bottle glass, including a rim fragment from a late 17th century bottle; a number of clay pipe bowl fragments, among them a late 17th century bowl with a mulberry design; and 32 clay pipe stems. The bore diameters of these stems range from 8/64 to 5/64. However, the stems with the larger, and presumably older, bore diameters predominate and when we applied Binford’s straight-line regression formula to this sample, we came up with a mean date of 1676 for the site.

Unfortunately, the artifacts that we found scattered on the surface were there because this area had been bulldozed only about a year before. When we dug test pits here, we soon discovered that almost all of the topsoil had been removed. We later discovered a mound of dirt and rocks between the site and the beach where all the topsoil had been dumped. In all, an area measuring roughly 100 ft by 100 ft had been leveled in this manner. This unfortunate situation underlines the urgent need to conduct a thorough archaeological survey of the Baccalieu Trail region. It is only when we know where the sites are that we can move to protect them. Had this site been found a year earlier, it could have been saved from destruction. We can only hope that some portion of it remains undisturbed outside the bulldozed area.





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