The Dirt on Your Directors: Corey Hutchings

Since the current Board of the NLAS is also its first formal Board and there is an AGM coming up in November where many of these people will be replaced, we thought it would be interesting to get each board member to answer a series of questions about themselves and their role with the NLAS. Over the next few weeks we will post each board members response to those questions. Up next is Corey Hutchings, a member of the Board of Directors.

  • How did you get interested in Archaeology?

I have the opposite story of most of the professional archaeologists that I have met. With few exceptions most of my colleagues say that they went to university with an entirely different profession in mind and happened across an archaeology course and got hooked. I on the other hand always liked reading about the past and came straight from high school with an interest in archaeology/history. In fact I was lucky enough to participate in a cooperative learning program in grade 12 that let me spend my afternoons at the university working with archaeological materials.

  • Do you have a favourite site or artifact from the Province?

Nulliak Cove!!! Nulliak Cove, Labrador is the location of one of the largest Labrador Archaic sites in the province and the site consist of a series Archaic longhouses as well as structures and features from nearly all the cultures that have lived in Labrador. I have visited the site twice, once to surface collect artifacts and for a second visit for my Masters field work in which I mapped and identified undocumented longhouses. The site itself is amazingly beautiful, with large hills encompassing a high beach and the inland pond. Nulliak has an important place in the history of archaeological work in the province with site visits taking place for over 50 years. Despite this long history only superficial excavation of the site has been completed. I hope to have the opportunity to work there again in the future; barring that it would be fantastic to see other researchers take up an interest.

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The Labrador Archaic site of Nulliak Cove.

  • What was the most interesting artifact(s) you found?

The most interesting object that I have personally found is a soapstone plaque I surface collected from Nulliak Cove. Since the beginning of my work in archaeology I have wanted to recover a piece of “art” a carving or etching etc. This piece is the closest that I have ever come; it is a very plain ground piece of stone 15cm in size with a very fine etching that can be seen on one surface. The pattern is very faint and open to interpretation, which I think makes the object more interesting. As I see it the etched lines form a series of points at different heights across the whole of the object. These could represent anything from the profile of the Nulliak’s surrounding hills to a map of points along the coast or they may be completely abstract. That there are multiple possible explanations of this small piece represents a lot of archaeology in that there are so many questions to answer and so many ways to interpret the available data.

The soapstone plaque.

The soapstone plaque.

  • In your opinion, what is the one thing that no archaeologist should be without?

The ability to tell a story. Being able to tell the story of the people you are studying is incredibly important. I think too often the fact that we are working with peoples personal histories is forgotten, being able to use the facts that we discover to tell their story is the most important part of what we do. Add to this that I think archaeology really works best as a collaborative activity and the more people share and talk about what they are working on the better the overall outcome. Some of my favourite stories come from archaeologists talking about field work and often times you get a real sense of how dedicated people are to getting to the story of people they are studying.

One of my favourite archaeology stories happened while I was working for another NLAS board member at White Point, Labrador. We had experienced some of the worst weather possible resulting in our kitchen tent being demolished in a wind storm. After days of pouring rain and no real way to prepare warm food the Field Director had managed to find a crack in a cliff that the two of us were able to cover in a tarp so we could get a stove going. The first thing we did was make a pot coffee which we promptly drank, we then set to work making a second pot of coffee which we also drank. After 10 cups each of some of the worst coffee ever made which we drank in a freezing dripping wet cave he turned to me and said “You know a month ago I was drinking coffee at Starbucks.”

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