Lecture Notes Week Five: Anthropology 3291

© 2001 Michael Deal

Transitional Archaic

Towards the end of the Late Archaic there is a new cultural presence in the Maritime Peninsula. It is generally agreed that there was a movement of people, identified with the Susquehanna tradition, into the region by as early as 4000 B.P. (Bourque 1992:39-43, 1995; Deal 1986; Sanger 1975; Spiess et al. 1983:97-98; Tuck 1991). The Susquehanna people can be characterized by a distinctive tool-making tradition and the practice of cremation burial. They are generally considered to be the technological innovators responsible for the transition, via soapstone vessels, toward the use of pottery in the Northeast (Tuck 1978b:37-39). The distribution of steatite bowls in New England corresponds with the distribution of broad-bladed, stemmed projectile points and drills. These points are also known as "Broadpoints" or "Broadspears" and are related to the broad-bladed styles of the "Savannah River Complex." The named styles that are similar to variants in the Maritime Peninsula are "Snook Kill" and "Susquehanna Broad." In the south, these point styles are also associated with spearthrowers and grooved axes. The relationship between the Susquehanna tradition and other interior and coastal groups is a matter of debate, as is their relationship in time to historic native cultures in the Maritime Peninsula (Wright 1995:181). Turnbull and Allen (1988:255) indicate that the Susquehanna appear to mark the beginning of closer cultural contacts with continental areas, as opposed to the North Atlantic.

The argument for Susquehanna migration is based on criteria derived from Rouse's (1958) research on migration theories (see Sanger 1975; Bourque 1995:252-253). First, a homeland for the tradition can be identified in southern New England, with ties to archaeological cultures in the southeast. Secondly, elements of the Susquehnna tool assemblages appear over a broad area of eastern North America in a short period of time, around 3800 B. P. (Bourque 1995:253). Third, environmental conditions were favourable. Sanger (1975:61) points out that after 5000 B.P. the increase in tidal amplitude caused a decrease in the numbers of swordfish in the Gulf of Maine and a concomitant increase in the soft shell clam. Furthermore, a cooling climate was unfavourable to deer. Swordfish and deer are believed to be important species to the resident Late Archaic population, but not critical resources for Susquehanna Archaic peoples. Fourth, Sanger (1975) points out that all systems of this archaeological culture are present in Maine and adjacent New Brunswick. Both habitations and mortuary sites have been identified, as well as a toolkit comparable to those of southern New England. By contrast, the later Adena presence in the Maritime Peninsula appears to be represented only by a mortuary subsystem. Fifth, Sanger points out that no suitable alternate model has been put forward.

Dincauze (1975:27) agrees with the migration hypothesis, but suggests that it was a movement of small groups of people, with a distinctive technology, rather than a mass migration. Certainly, the Susquehanna presence is stronger in Maine than in the Maritime Provinces, with only transient population east of the St. Croix River Drainage and into southwestern Nova Scotia. However, Bourque (1995:247) sees the Susquehanna migration as a movement of large groups of people into Maine following the demise of the Moorehead phase. Bourque also feels that this migration was a short term (c. 3800-3500 B. P.) infiltration of an exploratory nature. He bases this interpretation on significant north-south differences in technology (i.e., the scarcity of steatite bowls and spearthrower weights) and what he sees as a one-way, north-south, distribution of exotic lithics (Bourque 1995:247).

Sanger (1975:69-72) suggests that the Susquehanna tradition may be the basis for later Algonkian-speaking cultures in Maine and the New Brunswick. Tuck (1984) argues that the Maritime Archaic are more likely ancestors for later aboriginal groups in the Maritime Provinces, based on the lack of Susquehanna sites in eastern portions of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Rutherford (1990), in his study of Late Archaic and Early Woodland projectile points, found a greater similarity between Moorehead Phase (Coastal) Late Archaic points and Early Woodland points. He completely rules out a connection between the Susquehanna Tradition and Early Woodland biface technology, and favours an in situ development from the resident Late Archaic population. Rutherford's conclusions are generally in agreement with those of Tuck (1991), yet he differentiates between Moorehead and Maritime Archaic populations. Later Early Woodland population movements in the area may also have a baring on the origins of the modern aboriginal populations (McEachen 1996).

The Northeastern Susquehanna Tradition is characterized by a more diversified subsistence pattern than that of the resident Archaic populations. Sites are located both on coastal and interior riverine and lacustrine locations. Tuck (1978b) suggests a deer-bear-moose hunting focus. Evidence from Turner Farm indicates that coastal groups also exploited waterfowl, sturgeon, and shellfish (Bourque 1995). Wright (1995:192) points out that early coastal fishing technology in New England is demonstrated by the Boyleston Fish Weir site in Boston. Tuck (1991:53) suggests that the richness of resources evident at Turner Farm might not be applicable to other Susquehanna sites along the Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy coast. While organic preservation is not as good at interior sites, anadromous fish exploitation is suggested by calcined fish bones and characteristics of site location (Borstel 1982; Deal 1985).

The Turner Farm site provides our best evidence of the Susquehanna Tradition in Maine (Bourque 1975, 1995). The Susquehanna Archaic occupation, which dates to about 3600 B.P., includes three basin-shaped "living floors" that are covered with beach gravel and littered with bone and artifact refuse. The living floors range from 3 m. to 5 m. in diameter. One of these living floors is encircled with fire-cracked rock, suggesting a tent ring, and another feature is partially encircled by post molds, suggesting a wood framed structure (Bourque 1975:39; Tuck 1991:53). There are also ten cremation burials with grave inclusions, which are often ritually "killed." The Susquehanna component includes broad-bladed projectile points, drills, chipped stone knives, scrapers, and pestles. Several other Susquehanna components have been identified at sites in Maine, including several sites in the Fox Islands, as well as the Goddard, Stanley, Eddington Bend, Hathaway, Walter B. Smith, and the Hirundo/Young sites (Bourque 1992:39-43). It is quite common to find Susquehanna cremation burials intruding on earlier Archaic red ochre burials, as at the Walter B. Smith site on Alamoosook Lake (Moorehead 1922:140).

In New Brunswick, the densest occupation of Transitional Period peoples is along the Chiputneticook-St. Croix Drainage and Passamaquoddy Bay, where their material culture has been identified at 13 sites, including Deer Island and Teacher's Cove (Davis 1978:plate Vd, h; Deal 1984a). However, the only excavation of an undisturbed Susquehanna component is at Mud Lake Stream (Deal 1986). This site is situated below a rapids on Mud Lake Stream, which drains Mud Lake into Spednic Lake. The Susquehanna component is represented by two features in the basal stratum of the site. Charcoal samples from the two features date the component to about 4000 B.P. These features produced 14 broad-bladed points and fragments similar to the Snook Kill style of New England, as well as three drill fragments, two small bifaces, and a chipped stone celt. A fully-grooved axe an ovate plummet, which were collected on the beach in front of the site are also believed to be part of the Susquehanna component. A stemmed graver recovered at the Diggity site, Spednic Lake (Deal 1984b) is stylistically similar to the Mud Lake Stream specimens and may be a reworked stemmed point (also see Ritchie 1980:151). The chipped stone tool assemblage from this site is very similar to that of the Hirundo/Young sites (Borstel 1982). Eight of the chert specimens were made from a poor grade chert and are heavily bleached. The only faunal remains recovered from the component were 31 calcined fish bones, 14 of which have been identified as American shad (Alosa sapidissima; Deal 1986:89). Certain factors indicate a ceremonial or mortuary function for feature 1, which contained seven large bifaces and the calcined fish bones. These include the presence of charcoal, a relatively high phosphorous content, predominantly heat damaged artifacts, and the presence of incomplete (killed?) artifacts, while the lack of both red ochre and human remains is not uncommon in early Susquehanna features (Borstel 1982:61; Dincauze 1975:29, 31). Dincauze (1975:31) also suggests a possible relationship between ceremonial features and spring fishing sites.

Susquehanna tradition artifacts are relatively rare east of the St. Croix River Drainage, but diagnostic broad-blades projectiles have been identified along the Saint John River Drainage, in surface-collected materials from Woodstock, Grand Lake, and Portland Point. The Portland Point component consists of seven artifacts that were recovered by Harper (1956) from disturbed contexts. These include three soapstone bowl fragments, three transitional Archaic projectile points, and a drill (Jeandron 1996:12-13). The projectile points include a complete "Snook Kill" specimen and basal fragments representing two other Late Archaic styles. While few soapstone bowl fragments have turned up in excavations or collections, two complete bowls are known from Maquapit and French Lakes, in the Lakes Region. These vessels are similar to the two-lugged varieties reported for New England (Fowler 1966; figure 1), where they most likely originated.

A single Susquehanna tradition cremation burial has also been identified at Ruisseau-des-Caps, in the Gaspé area (Dumais 1978). The burial is situated on a terrace, about 20 m. above the St. Lawrence River. It consists of an elliptical-shaped pit, about 25 cm. deep, and 1.2 m. long, with its long axis oriented to the north. The burial contained small calcined bone fragments, and has been dated to 3720 +/- 90 B.P. The grave inclusions include two broad-bladed projectile points, a drill and drill tip, biface fragments, a possible pestle, and an abrading stone. Red ochre was absent.

Deal and Rutherford (1991) identify eight sites in Nova Scotia, based on 28 diagnostic broad-bladed projectile points and drills in private and museum collections. The largest single collection consists of eight projectile points and a small, shallow grooved gouge from Tusket Falls, near Yarmouth. Other sites cluster in the Lake Rossignol-Mersey River Drainage and the Gaspereau Lake-Gaspereau River Drainage systems. The lone excavated Susquehanna tradition component in Nova Scotia comes from Gaspereau Lake (Erskine 1998; Murphy 1998). Group 4 projectile points from the Erskine site includes six broad-bladed specimens, similar to the Snook Kill style. Single specimens are also known from the Indian Gardens, Eel Weir VI, and Bear River sites in southwestern Nova Scotia (Christianson 1986:9; Connolly 1977; Ferguson 1986). Site locations suggest a preference for river outlets on large lakes, although rising sea levels may have inundated any coastal Susquehanna sites.


Allen, P.
1989 The Gerrish Site (CeDk2): A Report on Preliminary Excavations. Man in the Northeast (37):25-34.

Black, D. W., and R. H. Whitehead
1988 Prehistoric shellfish preservation and storage on the Northeast coast. North American Archaeologist 9(1):17-30.

Belcher, W. R., D. Sanger, and B. J. Bourque
1994 The Bradley Cemetery: A Moorehead Burial Tradition Site in Maine. Canadian Journal of Archaeology (18):3-28.

Bleakney, J. S., and D. Davis
1983 Discovery of an undisturbed bed of 3800 year old oysters (Crassostrea virginia) in Minas Basin. Proceedings of the Nova Scotia Institute of Science 33:1-6.

Borstel, C.L.
1982 Archaeological Investigations at the Young Site, Alton, Maine. Occasional Publications in Maine Archaeology 2. Maine Historic Preservation Commission, Augusta.

Bourque, B. J.
1971 Prehistory of the Central Maine Coast. Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, Cambridge. University Microfilms, Ann Arbor.

1975 Comments on the Late Archaic Populations of Central Maine: The View from Turner Farm. Arctic Anthropology 12(2):35-45.

1992 Prehistory of the Central Maine Coast. Garland, New York.

1994 Evidence for Prehistoric Exchange on the Maritime Peninsula. In Prehistoric Exchange Systems in North America, edited by J. E. Ericson and T. Baugh, pp. 17-46. Plenum, New York.

1995 Diversity and Complexity in Prehistoric Maritime Societies: A Gulf of Maine Perspective. Plenum, New York.

Bourque, B. J., and S. L. Cox
1981 The Maine State Museum Investigation of the Goddard Site. Man in the Northeast (22):3-27.

Bourque, B. J., and H. W. Kruger
1994 Dietary Reconstructions from Human Bone Isotopes for Five Coastal New England Populations. In Paleonutrition: The Diet and Health of Prehistoric Americans, edited by K. D. Sobolik, pp. 195-202. Southern Illinois University Center for Archaeological Investigations Occasional Papers 22, Urbana.

Brennan, L.A.
1974 The Lower Hudson: A Decade of Shell Middens. Archaeology of Eastern North America 2(1):81-93.

Byers, D. S.
1959 The Eastern Archaic: Some Problems and Hypotheses. American Antiquity 24(3):233-256.

1979 The Niven Shellheap: burials and Observations. Papers for the Robert S. Peabody Foundation for Archaeology 9, Andover.

Cristianson, D.
1985 Archaeology and Lake Rossignol. Mersey Quarterly (Winter):8-9.

Connolly, J.
1977 Bear River, Nova Scotia: A Collection analysis. Man in the Northeast 14:35-47.

Cox, S. L.
1991 Site 95.20 and the Vergenes Phase in Maine. Archaeology of Eastern North America 19:135-161

Davis, S. A.
1991 Yarmouth Coastal Survey. In Archaeology in Nova Scotia 1987 and 1988, edited by S.A. Davis, C. Lindsay, R. Ogilvie, and B. Preston, pp. 69-88. Nova Scotia Museum, Curatorial Report 69, Halifax.

Davis, S. A., and D. Sanger
1991 Preliminary report on the Bain site and the Chegoggin archaeological project. In Archaeology in Nova Scotia, 1987 and 1988, edited by S. A. Davis, C. Lindsay, R. Ogilvie and B. Preston, pp. 165-171. Nova Scotia Museum, Curatorial Report 69. Halifax.

Deal, M.
1984a Archaeological significance of the Chiputneticook-St. Croix Drainage System. Ms., on file, Archaeological Services, Department of Municipalities, Culture and Housing, Fredericton.

1984b Diggity (BjDu-17): A Ceramic Period Site on Spednic Lake, Southwestern New Brunswick. Ms. on file, Archaeological Services, Department of Municipalities, Culture and Housing, Fredericton.

1986 Late Archaic and Ceramic Period Utilization of the Mud Lake Stream Site, Southwestern New Brunswick. Man in the Northeast 32:67-94.

1996 Western North Shore Survey 1991: Archaeology of Tatamagouche Bay and Vicinity. In Archaeology in Nova Scotia 1991, edited by S. Powell, pp. 27-52. Nova Scotia Museum, Curatorial Report 81, Halifax.

Deal, M., and D. Rutherford
1991 The Distribution and Diversity of Nova Scotian Archaic Sites and Materials: A Re-examination. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Archaeological Society, St. John's.

Dincauze, D.
1975 The Late Archaic Period in Southern New England. Arctic Anthropology 12(2):23-34.

Dumais, P.
1978 La Bas Saint-Laurent. In Images de la Préhistoire du Quebec, compiled by C. Chapdelaine. Recherches Amérindiennes au Québec (1-2):63-74.

Erskine, J. S.
1998 Memoirs on the Prehistory of Nova Scotia, 1957-1967, edited by M. Deal. Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax.

Ferguson, R S. O.
1986 Archaeological Sites in the Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia. Ms. on file, Enironment Canada, Parks Canada, Halifax.

Ferguson, S. A. (Compiler)
1983 Geological Map of the Hantsport Area Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia Department of Mines and Energy, Map 83-1, Halifax.

Fowler, W. S.
1966 Ceremonial and Domestic Products of Aboriginal New England. Bulletin of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society 27(3/4).

Harper, J. R.
1956 Portland Pont, Cross Roads in New Brunswick History. Historical Studies 9. New Brunswick Museum, Saint John.

Jeandron, J.
1996 Portland Point Revisited. B.A. Honours thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton.

Moorehead, W. K.
1922 A Report on the Archaeology of Maine. The Andover Press, Andover.

McEachen, P. J.
1996 The Meadowood Early Woodland Manifestation in the Maritimes: A Preliminary Interpretation. M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's.

Murphy, B. M.
1998 Researching the Early Holocene of the Maritime Provinces. M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's.

Petersen, J. B., B. S. Robinson, D. F. Belknap, J. Stark, and L. K. Kaplan
1994 An Archaic and Woodland Period Fish Weir Complex in Central Maine. Archaeology of Eastern North America 22:197-222.

Ritchie, W. A.
1980 The Archaeology of New York State (revised edition). Harbour Hill, Harrison Hill, New York.

Robinson, B.
1996 A Regional Analysis of the Moorehead Tradition: 8,500 - 3,700 B. P. Archaeology of Eastern North America 24:95-148.

Rouse, I.
1958 The Inference of Migrations from Anthropological Evidence. In Migration in New World Culture History, edited by R. H. Thompson., pp. 63-68. University of Arizona Social Science Bulletin 27.

Rutherford, D. E.
1991 Continuity of Moorehead Phase Populations in New Brunswick and Maine. Proceedings of the 1990 Algonquian Conference, St. John's, pp. 329-336.

Sanger, D.
1973 Cow Point: an Archaic Cemetery in New Brunswick. National Museum of Man, Archaeological Survey of Canada, Mercury Series, Paper 12. Ottawa.

1975 Culture Change as an Adaptive Process in the Maine-Maritimes Region. Arctic Anthropology 12(2):60-75.

1979 Who Were the Red Paints? In Discovering Maine's Archaeological Heritage, edited by D. Sanger, 67-82. Maine Historic Preservation Commission, Augusta.

1991 Cow Point Revisited. In Prehistory of the Maritime Provinces: Past and Present Research, edited by M. Deal and S. Blair, pp. 73-88. Council of Maritime Premiers, Fredericton.

Sanger, D., and D. F. Belknap
1987 Human Responses to Changing Marine Environments in the Gulf of Maine. In Man and the Mid-Holocene Climatic Optimum, edited by N. A. McCinnon and G. S. L. Stewart, pp. 245-261. Proceedings of the 17th Annual Chacmool Conference. University of Calgary, Calgary.

Sanger, D., R. B. Davis, R. G. MacKay, and H. W. Borns
1977 The Hirundo Archaeological Project - An Interdisciplinary Approach to Central Maine Prehistory. In Amerinds and Their Paleoenvironments in Northeastern North America, edited by W. S. Newman and B. Salwen, pp. 457-471. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 288.

Sanger, D., and S. A. Davis
1991 Preliminary Report on the Bain Site and the Chegoggin Archaeological Project. In Prehistory of the Maritime Provinces: Past and Present Research, edited by M. Deal and S. Blair, pp. 59-71. Council of Maritime Premiers, Fredericton.

Sanger, D., and R. G. MacKay
1973 The Hirundo Archaeological Project - Preliminary Report. Man in the Northeast (6):21-29.

Sanger, D., and M. J. Sanger
1986 Boom and Bust on the River: The Story of the Damariscotta Oyster Shell Heaps. Archaeology of Eastern North America 14:65-78.

Smith, B. L.
1948 An analysis of the Maine Cemetery Complex. Bulletin of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society 9(2/3). Attlebo

Snow, D. R.
1975 The Passadumkeag sequence. Arctic Anthropology 12(2): 46-59.

Spiess, A. E.
1992 Archaic Period Subsistence in New England and the Maritime Provinces. In Early Holocene Occupation of Northern New England, edited by B. S. Robinson, J. B. Petersen, and A. K. Robinson, pp.163-185. Occasional Papers in Maine Archaeology 9, Maine Historic Preservation Commission, Augusta.

Spiess, A. E., B. J. Bourque, and S. L. Cox
1983 Cultural Complexity in Maritime Cultures: Evidence from Penobscot Bay, Maine. In The Evolution of Maritime Cultures on the Northeast and Northwest Coasts of America, edited by R. Nash, pp. 91-108. Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby.

Stewart, K. D.
1984 Oyster. Underworld World Series, Fisheries and Oceans, Ottawa.

Tuck, J. A.
1975 The Northeastern Maritime Continuum: 8,000 Years of Cultural Development in the Far Northeast. Arctic Anthropology 12(2):139-147.

1978a Archaic Burial Ceremonialism in the "Far Northeast." In Essays in Northeastern Anthropology in Memory of Marion E. White, edited by W. Engelbrecht and D. Grayson, pp. 67-77. Occasional Publications in Northeastern Anthropology 5.

1978b Regional Cultural Development, 3000 to 300 B.C. In Northeast, edited by B. G. Trigger, pp. 28-43. Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 15, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

1984 Marime Provinces Prehistory. National Museum of Man, Ottawa.

1991 The Archaic Period in the Maritime Provinces. In Prehistory of the Maritime Provinces: Past and Present Research, edited by M. Deal and S. Blair, pp. 29-57. Council of Maritime Premiers, Fredericton.

Turnbull, C. J.
1988 Reflections on a Ground Slate Bayonet Fragment from the Tantramar Marsh, Upper Bay of Fundy. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 12:87-107.

Turnbull, C. J., and P. M. Allen
1988 Review of Maritime Provinces Prehistory, by J. A. Tuck. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 12250-260.

Willoughby, C. C.
1935 Antiquities of the New England Indians. Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology. Harvard University, Cambridge.

Wright, J. V.
1995 A History of the Native Peoples of Canada, Volume I (10,000 - 1,000 B.C.). Mercury Series, Archaeological Survey of Canada, Paper no. 152. Canadian Museum of Civilization, Ottawa.

Back to Course Schedule