Vignette 3.1: Lithic Periods of the Maritime Peninsula

© 2006 Michael Deal

Dramatic changes to the regional flora and fauna at the end of the Younger Dryas would have forced the Paleoindians to develop new procurement strategies, including changes to their lithic toolkit. The most significant difference is the replacement of fluted projectile points with non-fluted forms (Newby et al. 2005; Wright 1995:35). This technological change is generally used to signify the beginning of a new era in Paleoindian occupation, known simply as the Late Paleoindian Period. Variations in the style of spear points during the Paleoindian Period also allow us to designate a series of lithic periods, similar to the ceramic periods developed by Peterson and Sanger (1991), which can be used to associate isolated finds and undated sites to general time periods (i.e., as first suggested by Leonard 1995:27-28). Researchers in the Maine/Maritimes region have tried to avoid naming lithic and ceramic types. Instead, emphasis has been place on attribute analysis. This method is more inclusive of rarer styles and avoids the proliferation of named types that cause confusion when comparing projectile point and ceramic styles between states and provinces. However, named typed from other areas are not ignored when drawing comparisons. We can tentatively divide the Paleoindian Period into three Lithic Periods, characterized by fully fluted projectile point styles, single fluted (and non-fluted) point styles and non-fluted point styles (Table 3.1). Dates for these periods are based on ratiocarbon dates from only a few sites, and therefore are only tentative (see Dumais 2000; Keenlyside 1985; Spiess et al. 1998).

Table 3.1: Paleoindian Lithic Periods for the Maritime Peninsula (adapted from Bradley 2001).*

Lithic Periods General Style Isolated Finds Sites Total
LP1 Fully Fluted Points 12 17 29
LP2 Singleor Non-fluted Points 5 4 9
LP3 Non-fluted Points 25 14 39

* This table includes sites from Maine, Quebec (including the Magdelan Islands) and the Maritime Provinces.

Lithic Period 1 (LP 1), ca. 10,800-10,500 BP: This period is characterized by the use of large spear points with basal fluting on both sides. The two major styles are typified by point styles from the Bull Brook site, Massachusetts, and the Debert site, Nova Scotia. Newby and others (2005:148) draw similarities between these styles and the named Gainey Point type from the Great Lakes area. Fluted points from Bull Brook generally range from 7 to 10 cm in length, have straight to slightly excurvate sides and moderate basal concavities. The flutes vary from one-third to one-half the length of the point. These points also exhibit ground lateral edges on the lower half of the point, which are believed to facilitate hafting of the piece between two bone foreshafts. This style of projectile point is widely distributed in New England. In Maine, they have been identified at the Dam (ME 36.17), Searsmont (ME 39.1), Windy City (ME 154.16), Spiller Farm (ME 4.13), Point Sebago (ME 12.24) sites, and isolated finds come from Lake Auburn, Desert of Maine (ME 14.160), and possibly Boothbay (Bradley 2001; Spiess et al. 1998: 214-217; Spiess and Wilson 1987:193-200).

Three specimens of this style are known from the Maritimes. The first was found by a collector at Kingsclear, New Brunswick (Turnbull 1974). It appears to manufactured from Munsungun chert (Bonnischsen et al. 1991:fig. 1.2g: MacDonald 1968:124, fig. 24d). The second artifact was collected by a field hand on a farm in Medford (near Blomidon), Nova Scotia. In a letter to John Erskine, George MacDonald (1965) noted that the point is definitely made form North Mountain material. This specimen is now believed to be in a private collection in the United States. The third specimen was picked up from the creek bed at New Horton Creek, New Brunswick, about one km north of the Bay of Fundy (Turnbull and Allen 1978:447). It is described as lanceolate, with excurvate edges, a concave base, lateral grinding, and retouched on both sides after fluting. It is made from a banded green chert that may have been heat-treated before knapping.

The second major style is characterized by spear points form the Debert and Belmont sites in Nova Scotia (Davis 1991; Ellis 2004; MacDonald 1968). The Debert excavation produced 140 whole and fragmentary points in virtually all stages of manufacture, and range from 3 to 10 cm in length (MacDonald 1971:32-33). They feature recurved edges, parallel to converging margins and deeply indented bases (< .6 cm). Projectile points of this style are found primarily in Maine and the Maritimes, but are known as far west as the Lamb site below Lake Ontario (Gramly 1999). They are well represented at a cluster of sites in northwestern Maine, including the three sites at Vail (ME 81.1), and the Adkins (ME 81.4), Morss, Upper Wheeler Dam (ME 81.3), Lower Wheeler Dam (ME 81.2) sites, and isolated finds at Flagstaff Lake and Rumford Center (Bradley 2001; Gramly 1982, 1988; Spiess et al. 1998:236-237; Spiess and Wilson 1987:199).

Five isolated finds of the Debert/Vail point style are also known from the Maritimes. MacDonald (1968:124, fig. 24b; Bonnischsen et al. 1991:fig. 1.2f) reports a large Debert style point from Quaco Head, New Brunswick. A second isolated find was collected from a sand beach along the Amherst Shore, in an area that was probably grassland in early Paleoindian times (Bonnischsen et al. 1991:6, fig. 1.2e; Davis and Christianson 1988:190). It is made from chalcedony. Murphy (1998:46) discovered a similar specimen made from chert when he re-analysed the material recovered by John Erskine in 1967 from the Gaspearu Lake site (BfDb-5). This specimen (BfDb-5:158) is missing a tip and one ear, but exhibits the deeply concave base and double fluting of this style. A single Debert style point was also collected about 4 km inland from North Tyron, Prince Edward Island (Bonnischsen et al. 1991:6, fig. 1.2h). It is also made from chalcedony. The fifth specimen, known as the Chamber's point, was collected at a private residence in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (Christianson 1991; Davis and Christianson 1988). It is described as a fluted point preform, made from the brecciated chalcedony specific to the Debert site, and similar in appearance to a specimen depicted by MacDonald (1968:fig. 20a). It is described by Christianson (1991:8) as representing the manufacturing stage immediately before the first channel flake is removed to form the first flute.

Three lanceolate bifaces (or preforms?) made from a high grade, light grey chert, were recovered from the Pirate Cove (BkDw-3) site, Spednic Lake, New Brunswick (Deal 1984:24-25). The artifacts were collected at an eroding beach face. The original site would have afforded an excellent view of the main body of Spednic Lake to the south. These points exhibit a high degree of workmanship, with parallel thinning flake scars, but no basal grinding or fluting. One specimen exhibits a fracture pattern familiar to artifacts from the Vail site (Arthur Spiess, per. comm. 1984). One additional specimen from the site is a large biface of reddish-brown, high grade jasper, which also exhibits fine bifacial retouch. The one complete lanceolate specimen has slightly excurvate. These specimens are tentatively attributed here to the Paleioindian period, based on the quality of raw materials and level of workmanship compared to Archaic and Woodland chipped stone tools from southwestern New Brunswick.

Lithic Period 2 (LP 2), ca. 10,100-10,050 BP: This period is characterized by small (>6 cm) projectile points with excurvate sides, narrow bases and shallow basal concavities (>2 cm). Some specimens have short flute scars on one side, and some exhibit lateral grinding. This style may represent a transitional technological form between the early fluted and late unfluted spear points. The majority of specimens of this style come from the Nicholas site (ME 22.10), Maine. Newby and others (2005:148) point out the close similarity between these points and the named Holcombe point style from the Great Lakes. Other specimens have been found in Maine at the Esker site (ME 22.10) and site ME 142.25, along with isolated finds from sites ME 12.30 and ME 12.29 (Bradley 2001; Spiess et al. 1998). A single radiocarbon date of 10,090 +/-70 BP is associated with this point style at the Esker site (Spiess et al. 1998).

In the 1960s John Erskine (1998:12, Pl. 2) reported a lanceolate spear point in the collection of John Gertridge of Gasperau, Nova Scotia, and he suggested that it was very similar to the Holcombe named type. Laybolt (1999:49-50) also reports convex-sided, straight based, single fluted specimens from two sites on Gaspereau Lake (BfDd-5:194; BdDf-1:8, 9). The Gertridge specimen was collected from the huge, multicomponent site at Melanson, along the lower reaches of the Gaspereau River. Gertridge's specimen has a distinctive fluting scar (~1.5 cm long) on one side (MacCarthy 2003:fig. 3.7). A very similar specimen was recovered by Ronald Nash (1978:136) from uncertain context at Geganisg (CeCc-4), which is the well-known rhyolite quarry site on Ingonish Island, Cape Breton. This island was attached to the mainland prior to 4000 BP and the quarry appears to have been in use from Paleoindian to Woodland times. The specimen is made from Ingonish rhyolite (Nash 1978: fig. 1). One additional, unfluted point, tentatively attributed to this period, comes from a private collection from the Indians Gardens site, southwestern Nova Scotia. It measures 6.3 cm long, 3 cm wide. Bradley (2001) also attributes a projectile point from the Hogan-Mullen site (CfDk-1), Red Bank/Sunny Corners, New Brunswick, to this style. The specimen was originally recovered from an excavation by William Wintemburg in 1930, from a disturbed context. It is described as a lanceolate point with a slightly concave base, convex lateral edges, basal thinning on both faces, and a single fluting scar (Turnbull and Allen 1978:150). It also features grinding on both base and lateral edge junctions, and portions of the basal concavity. It is made from white quartz. The Paleoindian affiliation of this and a second similar point from the same site has recently been questioned, based on raw material, flaking characteristics, and the fact that all other artifacts from the site seem to date to the Woodland period (Leonard 2005:13-14).

Lithic Period 3 (LP 3), ca. 10,000-8,000 BP: This period is characterized by nonfluted projectile point styles. Two distinct, widely distributed styles are known from the Maritime Peninsula. The first style is characterized by long (6-10 cm), thin bodies with finely executed parallel flaking, and generally have a flat base and sometimes feature small side notches. They are best known from sites on the Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec, and northern Maine. The Gaspé sites include Saint-Anne-Des-Monts, La Martre (DhDm-1), Mitis (DdEa-1, 3), Bic, Squatec (ClEe-9), Saint-Romuald, and Rimouski (Benmouyal 1987; Bradley 2001; Chapdelaine and Bourget 1992; Chalifoux 1999; Chalifoux and Burke 1995; Dumais 2000, Dumais et al. 1993, Laliberté 1992). The Maine sites including Varney Farm (ME 36.57), Pittson Farm (ME 130.26), site ME 134.8, Blackman Stream (ME 74.19) and isolated finds from Blackhawk Island (ME 130.12), Vail Kill Site 1 (ME 81.1), Moose River Outlet (ME 117.4), East Branch (ME 106.23), Grand Lake Throughfare (ME 94.10), Brockway (ME 90.3), Mattawamkeag (ME 123.6), Basin Island (ME 13.5), and Leighton (ME 13.3) (Bradley 2001; Doyle et al. 1985; Petersen et al. 2000; Sanger and Kellogg 1992). Varney Farm has produced six dates, with one at 9410 +/-190 and five clustering between 8,700 +/-60 and 8380 +/-100 BP. Radiocarbon dates from the Rimouski site (8150 +/-130 BP), Squatec (8,400 to 7,800 BP), and Saint-Romuald (7,990 +/- 80 BP), indicate that Late Paleoindian occupation in the Gaspé probably began around 8,000 BP (MacCarthy 2003).

Specimens representing this style are relatively rare, but have been recovered from the Gaspereau Lake area, Nova Scotia, along with isolated finds from Windsor and the Little Narrows site, Cape Breton (Keenlyside 1984:slide 7b, c; Laybolt 1999; Murphy 1998). A complete specimen, with small side notches, was recently reported from Windsor (Steve Davis, pers comm.). Although the point was brought to the site in landscaping fill, the presence of other points of this style at Gaspereau Lake suggest that it originated in the general area of Windsor. Murphy (1998:47) reports a finely parallel-flaked point from the Gaspereau Lake site (BfDb-5:193), recovered from a disturbed context (see Keenlyside 1984: slide 7b). Davis and Christianson (1988:fig. 2a) report another complete Plano style point collected from a small terrace above the harbour at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. It is described as lanceolate, with slightly concave base, slight basal ears, and co-lateral flaking. It is made from chert. Keenlyside (1984:slide 7a) reports a lanceolate point of this style as an isolated find from French Lake, New Brunswick, and Turnbull and Allen (1988:252) note that at least two "Plano-like" points have been collected from the Saint John River Valley. Scott Buchanan has also reported a parallel-flaked point with a small stem, possibly a reworked Plano-style point found in a house garden at Point Deroche, Prince Edward Island. It is made from a fine grey chert with black veins.

The second Lithic Period 3 style was originally identified by David Keenlyside (1985:82) as having a broad triangular outline, with excurvate lateral edges and a pronounced rounded, indented base. Basal thinning occurs as step fractured flake scars on one or both faces, but basal edge grinding is generally absent. Basal tangs seem to be intentionally asymmetric. Twenty-two specimens from Prince Edward Island averaged 5.1 cm long, 3.2 cm wide, .65 cm thick and .61 cm in basal depth (Keenlyside 1985:82). This point style is associated with the Gulf of St. Lawrence area, and particularly Prince Edward Island. Bradley (2001) refers to these points as "Maritime Triangle," while Leonard (2005) calls them "Southern Gulf" points. The majority of specimens were recovered at sites in Prince Edward, including the Jones site (CcCq-3), Basin Head (CcCm-6), and Greenwich (CcC-7), and isolated specimens come from New London Bay, Savage Harbour (CcCr-1), St. Peter's Bay, and Little Harbour (Keenlyside 1985; Bonnichenson et al. 1991; MacCarthy 2003). Keenlyside (1985:81) also identifies two isolated finds on the Tracadie River, New Brunswick, at Tracadie Lagoon (CiDf:3) and along the estuary. Recent survey work on the Magdalen Islands has produced isolated finds at three sites (ChCl:4, ChCl:5, ChCl:6; McCaffrey 1992). A serious perusal of private and museum collections in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia would likely turn up additional examples. There appear to be at least three small specimens in a private collection from Indian Gardens, Nova Scotia.


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