Lecture Notes Week Six: Anthropology 3291

© 2001 Michael Deal


Early Woodland: Meadowood

A Meadowood influence in the Maritime Provinces has long been acknowledged (Turnbull and Allen 1988:256), yet the pervasiveness of this cultural manifestation was not evident until recently (McEachen 1996). At least seven habitation and three burial sites have been identified in the Maritime Provinces, along with numerous artifacts in private collections. In fact, there is more evidence for Meadowood in the Maritimes than further south, suggesting closer ties between the lower Great Lakes area and the Maritime Peninsula than with New England at this time. Dated contexts at St. Croix, Nova Scotia and Mud Lake Stream and Jemseg, New Brunswick, indicate a Meadowood presence by at least 2500 B.P. (Blair 1997; Deal 1986; Deal et al. 1994).

McEachen (1996) reviewed the research on Meadowood in the lower Great Lakes area and has suggested that the Meadowood presence in the Maritimes was an actual population movement, linked to an east to west interaction sphere that involved exchange of goods, and later, to religious ideas and paraphernalia. He likens the Meadowood manifestation to the early hypothesized Susquehanna migration from northern New England. Both habitation and mortuary sites are found in the area and virtually the entire range of Meadowood material culture has been recovered. The latter includes side-notched projectile points and drills, cache blades, slate gorgets, birdstones, copper awls, pecked and polished celts, and Vinette-like pottery. McEachen suggests a tentative settlement and subsistence model for the Maritimes. Habitation sites are located on terraces beside major river systems, while mortuary sites are located near habitation sites or on the coast. Subsistence is believed to be primarily a riverine/lacustrine, hunting and fishing pattern. Site locations indicate that freshwater and anadromous fish were important resources

Meadowood sites have been identified in southwest, central, and northeast New Brunswick. Three Meadowood features were excavated at Mud Lake Stream (Deal 1985, 1986). Feature 20 was a burial pit that had been partially eroded at the beach face. It contained faunal elements that have been identified as dog, beaver, and a salmonoid fish species. No human remains were included, which suggested that it may have a dog burial. Several artifacts, some of which were intentionally broken, were placed in the grave, including a slate gorget, a side-notched projectile point, and a serrated biface. Feature 23 consisted of a small cache of nine Meadowood projectile points. A third feature, tentatively associated with the Meadowood component, contained only a calcined fragment of a barbed bone point. Charcoal from this feature has been dated to about 2750 B.P.

Excavation at the Jemseg site, in the Lake Region, in uncovered a large Meadowood habitation area (Blair 1997). Artifacts recovered from this area included ground stone celts, abrading stones, hammerstones, scrapers, two Meadowood style projectile points, and Vinette-like pottery. The pottery sherds were found in a hearth feature with radiocarbon dates of 2140+/-60 and 2520+/-70 B.P. One feature containing red ochre, but no artifacts, is believed to be a burial. Two birdstones were also collected by George Clarke from along the Tobique and Saint John rivers. The Gaugenn site, on the Tobique, which has been dated to about 2890 B.P., has produced artifacts that thought to be made from Mistassini quartzite from Quebec McEachen et al. 1999:161).

A number of Early Woodland sites are known from the Red Bank area, along the Northwest Miramichi River. The Tozer site consists of two circular features containing a few calcined bones and typical Meadowood grave inclusions (McEachen et al 1999; Wintemberg 1937). The latter included 17 red ochre-stained cache blades, one lanceolate and one stemmed biface, a copper awl , and a nearly complete slate gorget. The cache blades were originally believed to be made from chert originating in the Great Lakes area, but recent geochemical and petrographic analyses suggest a local source (McEachen et al. 1999). Three nearby sites have also produced Early Woodland materials, but all have been damaged by plowing. The Wilson site is a campsite, about one kilometer above Tozer, which has produced cache blades, side-notched projectile points and drills, and double-ended and triangular scrapers. The Howe site, located on an elevated terrace above Wilson, and Hogan/Mullin, located further up river, have both produced Meadowood style projectile points.

In Nova Scotia, Meadowood sites and materials are known almost exclusively from the southwestern part of the province. Meadowood style projectile points have been identified on Lake Kejimkujik and the short section of the Mersey River conecting this lake and Lake Rossignol (Ferguson 1986). The Eel Weir complex is a group of sites associated with a series of triangular-shaped, stone fish weir bases along the Mersey River. These weirs are believed to have been used to capture eels in the fall and gaspereau in the spring. At Eel Weir Site 6, five Meadowood style points were recovered. Similar points have been recovered at the Merrymakedge site, which is a multicomponet site at the north end of Lake Kejimkujik.

In 1992, an amateur archaeologist excavated two Meadowood features on his property in Port Medway, which have been reported by McEachen (1996). The first was a small circular pit with an artifact cluster, including Meadowood points, cache blades, copper awls, gorgets, and red ochre. It is believed to be a burial pit, although no bones were recovered. The second feature was a row of artifacts, about one meter long, which consisted of Meadowood style points, cache blades, abraders, birdstone fragments, celts, and hammerstones. The function of this feature is unknown, but it seems to be associated with the burial pit.

A Meadowood campsite has also been reported at Rafter Lake, which drains into St. Margaret's Bay (Davis 1987). A possible semi-subterranean dwelling has been identified, with a hearth feature containing a Vinette-like potsherd and a Meadowood style projectile point. The dwelling is oval in floor plan and measures approximately 3.5 x 2.5 meters. This site is considered to be an interior extractive site, located on an anadromous fish run.

The St. Croix site, a large village on the St. Croix River, Hants County, has also produced a Meadowood component, underlying a Middle Woodland component (Deal et al. 1994). This site is at the head of tide for the St. Croix River, which drains into the Avon River and Minas Basin. It is also at the northern end of an important historic portage route, via the Ponhook Lakes to the Atlantic. The main reason for choosing this site may have been the spring runs of salmon and gaspereau. The Meadowood materials included sherds of Vinette-like pottery and a side-notched projectile point made from an exotic material, which has been identified by Moira McCaffrey (1996: personal communication) as Mistassini quartzite. This piece may have been an heirloom, since virtually all of the other chipped stone artifacts were made from Scotts Bay cherts, White Rock quartzite, or local quartz.


Blair, S. E.
1997 (editor) JCAP Preliminary Technical Report. 4 Vols. Archaeological Services, New Brunswick Department of Municipalities, Culture and Housing, Fredericton.

Davis, S.
1987 Man, Molluscs and Mammals: A Study of Land Use and Resources in the Late Holocene of the Maritime Provinces of Canada. D.Phil. thesis, University of Oxford, Cambridge.

Deal, M.
1985 Final Report on the 1983/1984 Excavations at the Mud Lake Stream Site, Southwestern New Brunswick. Manuscripts in Archaeology 15. Department of Historical and Cultural Resources, New Brunswick, Fredericton.

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

Deal, M., G. Best, C. Cullingworth, J. Grant, M. Lawton, K. Osmond, M. Renganthan, & T. Schell
1994 Preliminary Report on the 1993 Excavations at the St. Croix Site, Hants County, Nova Scotia. Ms., on file, Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax.

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

McEachen, P.
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.

McEachen, P., P. Alln, P. Julig, & D. G. F. Long
1999 The Tozer Site Revisited: Implications for the Early Woodland Period in New Brunswick. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 22(2):157-166.

Turnbull, C. J., and P. Allen
1988 Review of "Maritime Provinces Prehistory" by J. A. Tuck, National Museum of Man, 1984. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 12:250-260.

Wintemberg, W. J.

1937 Artifacts from Presumed Ancient Graves in Eastern New Brunswick. Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Section II, pp. 205-209.

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