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New Discoveries

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Page 8 of 8

Date: Oct. 20th '05
Title: Elizabethan Thruppence from New Perlican
October 20, 2005

Excavations Continue at New Perlican/Elizabethan Thruppence Found.

Excavations ended for this year at Cupid on September 23 and we moved on to New Perlican to conduct further excavations at the Hefford Plantation site. This season we have been working in two different parts of the site: Area C and Area D.

Area C is located in the southwest corner of the site near the edge of the bank above the beach. Last year we uncovered part of a rubble filled, seventeenth-century pit here and this year we have continued excavating this pit. At this point roughly two thirds of the pit has been excavated down to a layer of burnt timbers located below the rubble. The pit is ten feet wide and roughly three feet deep and appears to have been part of a building that burnt sometime late in the seventeenth century.

Area D is located on the western side of the site between a bedrock outcrop to the east and the bank above the beach to the west. It appears to have been a popular spot to have a smoke in the late seventeenth century. The area is producing a wide range of artifacts but by far the most common items recovered from Area D are clay tobacco pipe stems and bowls. Hundreds of pipe stems and dozens of bowls have been recovered from an area measuring roughly 3m x 3m. Located in the lee of the bedrock outcrop and with an excellent view of the harbour, Area D would have been an ideal place for a seventeenth-century smoke break.

All of the pipe bowls recovered to date appear to date from between roughly 1670 and 1700 but some of the other artifacts are of an earlier date. These include a small copper thimble from the first half of the seventeenth century and an Elizabethan silver thruppence (three pence) bearing the date 1573. Given the context in which they were found, it seems likely that these objects were lost around the same time that the pipes were discarded: the coin had clearly been in circulation for a long time and the thimble could have been in someone’s possession for many years. However, it is also possible that these artifacts may relate to an earlier chapter in the history of New Perlican.

Date: Apr. 30th '05
Title: Recent Indian Linear Hearth, Dildo Island, June 2004
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
Title: Rectangluar Pit West of the Dwelling House
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.

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