Lecture Notes Week Four: Anthropology 3291

© 2001 Michael Deal

Late Archaic (ca. 5000-3800 B.P.)

Archaeologists working in the Maritime Peninsula recognize two distinctive Late Archaic cultural traditions. One tradition is primarily a coastal marine adaptation that probably developed in situ from the Middle Archaic population. This population was originally referred to as the "Red Paint" people, because of their extensive use of red ochre in burials (Sanger 1979; Willoughby 1935). Warren K. Moorehead (1922) and his excavation crew, the "Force," traveled extensively in northern Maine and western New Brunswick in search of Red Paint cemeteries. Today some authors link this group to the northern Maritime Archaic Tradition (Tuck 1975, 1991), while others associate them with the Moorehead Phase (Bourque 1995). The second tradition is the interior adapted Laurentian Archaic tradition, which is considered to an extension of the Late Archaic culture of the Lower Great Lakes and Upper St. Lawrence Valley region (Wright 1997).

The geographical boundary between the interior and coastal populations is difficult to define, because the two cultural traditions had a number of common tool forms. In particular, the Laurentian assemblages in the area include ground slate points and semilunar knives (ulus), as well as bone points. These tools are believed to appear first in coastal Archaic areas. The assemblages of coastal sites often include projectile points and spearthrower weights that are more diagnostic of interior or more southern archaeological cultures. Another problem in defining cultural boundaries is the relative lack of archaeological research in the interior versus coastal areas of Maine and New Brunswick.


Interior Late Archaic

The interior Late Archaic of the Maritime Peninsula is generally assigned to the Laurentian Tradition, which is the eastern component of the broad Lake Forest Archaic (Snow 1980). The Lake Forest cultural manifestation extends from the Great Lakes to the St. Lawrence River estuary. The Laurentian Archaic manifestation in the Maritime Peninsula may represent an actual migration of people into the interior portions of Maine and New Brunswick, during an early phase of the northern New England Laurentian sequence, known as the Vergennes Phase (Cox 1991). Their appearance in the area seems to coincide with the development of a mixed hardwood forest in the Northeast. Sites are found in interior riverine and lacustrine contexts, and are generally disturbed. Laurentian technology and site locations suggest a hunting and fishing subsistence pattern based on white-tailed deer, beaver, rabbit, and freshwater fish and anadromous fish species.

Two styles of projectile points have been identified in the Maritime Peninsula that are related to the Laurentian Tradition. These are side-notched and triangular, "eared" points. Side-notched points are frequently large, with parallel to concave blade edges and basal grinding. Cognates are known from Ontario and New England, where they are identified with the "Otter Creek" style (e.g., Bourque and Cox 1981; Sanger 1975; Sanger et al. 1977). Radiocarbon dates associated with this side-notched style from other regions ranges from ca. 6500-4500 B.P. Ritchie 1980:89). Deal (1984) reports 12 large side-notched specimens from six site collections on the Chiputneticook Lakes and two specimens from Magaguadavic Lake, in southwestern New Brunswick. However, this style is rarely found east of the Saint John Drainage. Deal and Rutherford (1991) report only 16 specimens, from 14 different sites in Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotian sites are distributed along the present northern coastline of both mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island, with some examples known from southern Cape Breton and the Gaspereau Lake and Lake Rossignol areas (Deal and Rutherford 1991). Deal (1996:30) reported an additional specimen in a collection from Steele's Island, in Tatamagouche Bay.

The triangular points are smaller in size and possess characteristic flaked "ears" at the base. Similar forms are known from southern New England, dating between ca. 5000-4000 B.P., and are identified with the "Lamoka" style (Ritchie 1980:91). Deal (1984) recorded seven specimens from five site collections from the Chiputneticook Lakes and one specimen form Magaguadavic Lake. Deal and Rutherford (1991) report eight specimens for Nova Scotia; six from Gaspereau lake, one from Rafter Lake and one from Indian Gardens. Their distribution is primarily in the western half of the province, and all three are located on large interior lakes beside stream or river outlets.

The best known Laurentian Archaic site in the Maritime Peninsula is the Hirundo site, in northern Maine (Sanger and MacKay 1979). Hirundo is located on the right bank of Pushaw Stream, which drains water from Pushaw Lake and eventually into the Penobscot River. Near the site is a long stretch of rapids that would have teamed with salmon, shad, and alewife during the spring spawning season (Sanger and MacKay 1979:37). The exploitation of these anadromous fish species was probably the main reason for selecting this location as a campsite. Charcoal from a hearth feature dates the Laurentian component at this site to about 4295 +/- 95 B.P. Assemblage 2 from this site contained numerous large, side-notched projectile points, as well as a perforated abrasive stone, slate points, rods, a shallow grooved gouge, plummets and a winged spearthrower weight. Sanger and MacKay (1979:37) indicate that the stratigraphy for this site is ambiguous. Bourque (1995:228) suggests that there is probably some mixing of components and that the Laurentian component probably pre-dates the hearth feature. A more recent excavation of a single component site with Vergennes-like elements, at site 95.20, on the Grand Falls Drainage, produced three radiocarbon dates averaging 5073+/-112 B.P. (Cox 1991). Bourque (1995:228) indicates that these are very close to Vergennes Phase dates from elsewhere in the Northeast.

Coastal Late Archaic

The coastal Late Archaic is characterized by coastal habitation sites and elaborate cemeteries. Subsistence patterns varied throughout the region. Swordfish and sturgeon are believed to be important in the Gulf of Maine (Spiess 1993), while sea mammal hunting was more likely along the coasts of the Maritime Provinces. Barbed and toggling harpoons, and bone and slate points, were probably used for harvesting seals and swordfish. Short stemmed projectile points were used for hunting deer and moose, and possibly caribou in Nova Scotia. Their tools also included chipped stone butchering knives, bone scrapers, needles and awls, and ground stone woodworking tools. Woodworking tools may have been used in the construction of dugout canoes, house frames, bowls, and even artwork. The diagnostic tool form of this period is the slate bayonet, which is often associated with burials. One burial collection of bayonets from Union, Maine, even had the impressions of a twine woven reed bag or mat etched across the artifacts (Whitehead 1987).

There has been considerable debate concerning the nature and origins of the coastal population of the Maritime Peninsula during the Late Archaica. The chronological flow of this debate is reviewed by Bourque (1995:225-231). Byers (1959:242) was the first researcher to suggest that coastal Archaic peoples of the Northeast, including Maine and the Maritimes, might have followed a marine adaptation, based partly on the recovery of swordfish remains at the Niven site. Tuck (1984, 1991) believes that coastal Late Archaic of the Maritime Provinces and adjacent areas of Maine is a regional variant of a broader maritime cultural manifestation that extended from southern Maine to northern Labrador, and from the island of Newfoundland west to the St. Lawrence Estuary. This "Maritime Archaic Tradition" focused on the hunting and fishing of marine species, although the major species exploited varied from region to region. Wright (1997:180) suggests that cultural similarities over this vast area during the Late Archaic can probably be attributed to a number of interrelated factors, including ... "a shared technology, a similar way of life, interlocking trade networks, a common cosmological view, and the mobility of marriageable females within a framework of exogamous, partrilineal hunting bands."

Bourque (1995) treats the Late Archaic of coastal Maine and southwestern New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as a separate development out of a local Middle Archaic culture. He has coined the term "Moorehead Phase" for this cultural manifestation (Bourque 1971, 1992:26-39). He believes that the long slate bayonets that characterize the coastal Archaic are stone imitations of swordfish bills, that may have been distributed to the north through trade, and possibly in exchange for Ramah chert points (Bourque 1994:27). Because of the difficulty of establishing a long temporal continuity for the important Maritime Archaic traits south of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Bourque (1995:229) prefers to view this period as a "horizon" that resulted from shared technologies and ceremonial behaviour. Bourque (1995:230) points out that Moorehead burials have not been found east of Cow Point, on the Saint John River. However, Allen (1989) excavated what appears to be coastal Late Archaic cemetery at the Garish site, on a high terrace overlooking the junction of the Southwest Miramichi and Renous rivers. The cultural affiliation is based on a comparison of the four large, red ochre coated, bifaces and a pecked and ground stone axe recovered from what is believed to be a burial pit with similar specimens from sites in Newfoundland and Labrador and the Hathaway site, Maine (Allen 1989:33-34). The burial ceremony at the site may have involved the use of fire, red ochre, and the addition of cobbles and large stone slabs.

Sanger (1991) suggests that Moorehead phase peoples were also boating across the Bay of Fundy to southwestern Nova Scotia. In fact, the diagnostic slate bayonets seem to be more common in Nova Scotia than in New Brunswick. Deal and Rutherford (1991) report 47 slate bayonets for the province, which represent two basic subclasses. Twenty-four specimens have long narrow blades, with hexagonal or biconvex cross-sections, and straight or contracting stems. Decorative elements occur on three specimens. These are variants of the bayonets found at the Cow Point (Sanger 1973). Although relatively rare, these specimens are widely distributed throughout the province. The remaining 23 specimens are characterized by broad blades, hexagonal cross-sections and contracting stems. Most of the stems are notched. Two of these specimens are relatively large, and are believed to have come from naturally eroded burials. The workmanship on the slate bayonets is quite variable, and some examples of the smaller version of this class exhibit evidence of use-wear. Based on the stratigraphic record or graves at Cow Point, these functional slate bayonets may be the more recent of the two styles. Except for one specimen found on the Tantramar Marshes (Turnbull 1988), this form is found exclusively in the western part of the province. Ten slate projectile points were collected at Barren Lake, near the southwestern coast of Nova Scotia (Davis 1991b:Plate 2). This area is the portion of the province closest to northeastern coast of Maine, where this artifact class seems to occur most often (e.g., Smith 1948:44-46; Willoughby 1935:55ff.). The Nova Scotian examples can be characterized as barbed, biconvex in cross-section and having a straight stem. A section of a ground slate harpoon, found along the Mersey River, in southwestern Nova Scotia , is also believed to date to the Late Archaic (Davis 1991).

The "narrow stemmed" points of this period have straight stems and straight blade-edges. Examples frequently exhibit the striking platform at the base of the stem. Shoulder form, predominantly rounded, differs from the frequently angular forms seen on examples from other parts of the Maritime Peninsula. Similar forms are dated at ca. 3700 B.P. in New Brunswick (Sanger 1973) and ca. 5000-4000 B.P. in Maine (Bourque 1975:40). Deal and Rutherford (1991) report 52 specimens from 25 site collections in Nova Scotia. Their distribution in Nova Scotia is at principally interior riverine/lacustrine locations in the western half of the province. To date, no specimens have been recovered east of the Shubenacadie River.

The clearest evidence of coastal Late Archaic habitation sites comes from the Turner Farm and Stanley sites in Maine (Bourque 1975; 1995; Sanger 1975). No structures were uncovered in Occupation 2 at Turner Farm, but large working areas were identified, along with several hearth and pit features. Five human burials, with red ochre, were excavated, as well as five dog burials. This component also provided the first faunal assemblage from a Late Archaic site in the Maritime Peninsula. It included swordfish, seal, white tailed deer, sea mink, a herring-sized fish and soft shell clam. Based on the faunal data, Bourque (1975) suggests a settlement pattern consisting of summer maritime hunting and fishing, fall and spring riverine fishing, and winter interior hunting. The Stanley site, on Mohegan Island, near Pemaquid, Maine, has not been systematically excavated, but the Stanley collection contains a similar range of material culture to Turner Farm, including a large sample of swordfish remains (Sanger 1975:62). No Late Archaic habitation sites have been excavated in the Maritime Provinces, although a collection of narrow stemmed projectile points from the Bain site, Nova Scotia, indicates that one may yet to be found in that area (Davis and Sanger 1991). Ground slate points and bayonets are also known from collections in this area (Deal and Rutherford 1991).

The recovery of large oyster shells along with Archaic period artifacts by scallop draggers off the coast of Maine, suggests the presence of prehistoric oyster shell middens (Speiss et al. 1983:93). Evidence for Archaic shellfish exploitation has been found elsewhere in Maine and New England (Sanger and Belknap 1987; Brennan 1974). Marine biologists from Acadia University have recently documented a 4400 year old forest and an extensive oyster bed off Long Island, in the Minas Basin (Bleakney and Davis 1983; Ferguson 1983). These areas were exposed by a recent ouflow channel of the Gaspereau River through the intertidal mud flats over two kilometers off shore. Oyster shells, measuring up to 20 cm in length have been recovered, and three specimens produced an average radiocarbon date around 3800 B.P. Today, oyster beds are only found in the warmer waters of northeastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island (Stewart 1984), but oyster shells are relatively common in late prehistoric middens and oysters commonly appear in historic Micmac folklore (Black and Whitehead 1988:17, 24). It is quite possible that the submerged oyster bed off Long Island and others along the Nova Scotian coast, were utilized during Archaic times.

Moorehead and his crew excavated numerous boneless cemeteries and burials in Maine, but came up empty in their survey of the Upper Saint John and St. Croix River Drainages in New Brunswick (Moorehead 1922:233-238; also Belcher et al. 1994; Smith 1948). A large boneless cemetery was excavated at Cow Point, located on a channel between Grand and Maquapit Lakes, New Brunswick, by David Sanger (1973). It contained 65 red ochre burials, which are believed to have contained either flexed or bundle burials, or a combination of the two. The burials were lavished with grave offerings including stone pendents, adzes, gouges, narrow stemmed projectile points and elaborately incised bayonets. Earlier graves contained gouges, plummets and ceremonial slate bayonets, while the later graves contained functional slate bayonets and perforated and notched abrading stones. Another small, disturbed cemetery at excavated by Russell Harper (1956) at Portland Point, in the Saint John Harbour. It produced gouges, plummets, abraders, hammerstones, a ground slate points, and a plummet in the form of a fish effigy.

The Niven site, near Blue Hills, Maine, has the best organic preservation of any of the Moorehead burials. Skeletal analyses of the Niven burials indicated that the Late Archaic population had a high protein diet and were in good health (Bourque and Krueger 1994). This site was excavated in the 1930s by Douglas Byers and Frederick Johnson of the Peabody Museum (Byers 1979). Organic artifacts included harpoon foreshafts made from swordfish bills, barbed harpoons, points and small bird darts, moose bone daggers, needles, skate teeth beads, and even modified human bones. The incised designs on the moose bone daggers from Niven, along with the incised bayonets from Cow Point and elsewhere, may represent the earliest prehistoric decorative tradition in the Maritime Peninsula. A wide variety of design motifs were produced, but the symbolic significance for these motifs has been lost (Wright 1997:210).

References (see Notes for Week 5)

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