2022 NLAS News- Blog from the President

Hello readers, its been a while! This is Robyn Lacy, 2022 president of the NLAS. Since our last blog post and AGM, our board members have taken a much-needed break, and have been working hard behind the scenes to get the NLAS ready for the 2022 season. We had our second meeting of the year with the board, and have a lot of really exciting things in the works for the upcoming year! It’s getting warmer outside, archaeologists are itching to pick up their trowels and shovels, and we hope you’ll join us for some cool events!

NLAS x Admiralty House Dig

We have teamed up with Admiralty House Communications Museum in Mount Pearl this year! Our board member Elsa Simms is the museum director there, we are planning a small survey and excavation to take place on the grounds of the museum. The NLAs hasn’t directed an excavation in many years, and we are really excited to undertake this project in such a public setting, and give visitors to the museum the chance to see archaeology in action, while finding out a little more about the museum property. This excavation is TBD, but we are hoping it will take place in May/June, with more news coming soon (watch our socials for information as it comes). The Admiralty House grounds are free to visit for the public, so there will be no admission fee to watch our archaeologists excavating and recording artifacts…and maybe even get you hands dirty too!

F.A.B.S. Talks: Ferryland & More!

Dr. Barry Gaulton speaking to our field trip group at Ferryland, 2022

We are finally getting the FABS (Friday Afternoon Beer Sessions) series rolling again for the springtime. We are within the 400th anniversary year of the founding of the Colony of Avalon at Ferryland, and are tailoring our FABS talks this year to have many speakers who research and work at the site. Last summer, we did a field trip with our members to Ferryland, with lunch at Ferryland Picnics, and had an amazing time! We’re setting up our spring/summer FABS schedule right now, and I’ll be posting it as soon as dates and speakers are finalised. Talks will include graveyards, the famous ‘Colony Cook-off’ and working in the historic kitchen, and industry at the site. It’s not just Ferryland, and we hope that you’ll join us for some interesting talks from researchers in the province.

1st Annual Mount Pearl Renaissance Fair

We at the NLAS are so excited to be participating in the 1st annual Mount Pearl Renaissance Fair, to be held on August 27-28th, 2022, at the rugby field on Ruth Ave, Mount Pearl. This two-day weekend event will be family friendly, and involve medieval story lines arcing over the weekend, sword fighting, food and vendors, and archaeology! We’ll have a tent with our Edukit, artifacts, and hopefully some demonstrations of tool making and other historic skills. We invite you to stop into the tent and learn about archaeology in our province. Costumes are encouraged!

New Logo Rollout & Upcoming Merch!

Finally, we are so pleased to formally announce the new NLAS logo! Created by local artist and illustrator, Mike Feehan, our new logo features some elements of the original design in the form of the font choice, the onion bottle, and the harpoon head, as well as many other images that reflect the vibrant and varied archaeology present in the province. From top centre, moving clockwise, we have: historic nails, onion jug, a beaker, bird tracks, harpoon head, lead cod jigger, oyster shell, heart-shaped locket, human tooth, bone comb, fish skeleton, kaolin clay pipe, the classic trowel, an ulu, and a projectile point.

This new logo represents the cultures and peoples across Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as many aspects of archaeology, from Indigenous to historical, zooarch to labratory analysis, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

The NLAS is currently working with a printer to get new merch underway, in the form of tshirts, potentially hoodies, and tote bags…and mugs were in the discussion at last night’s meeting as well!

It’s going to be an exciting year for the NLAS, as we find new ways to engage with you, our members. If you attended our AGM last fall you’ll know that we have had some issues with our banking, which have nearly been sorted. If you have been trying to email us through our old email regarding membership dues, or pay your dues for 2022, please hold off at the moment until we announce that our online banking is up and running. And please reach out if you have any ideas or events you’d like to see us involved in, or ways you’d like to join us to learn more about the archaeology in this incredible province. We look forward to connecting with you!


NLAS 2021 AGM Keynote Lecture: Thirty Years of Archaeology at Ferryland, Newfoundland

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the 2021 Annual General Meeting, both in person and online! This year, Dr. Barry Gaulton delivered the keynote lecture at the AGM, in honour of the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Ferryland, Newfoundland and Labrador. He has graciously written his lecture up as a blog post, for those who were unable to attend the AGM. Enjoy!

“Thirty Years of Archaeology at Ferryland, Newfoundland” by Dr. Barry Gaulton

2021 is the 400th anniversary of the founding of the English colony of Avalon established in Ferryland in 1621 by Sir George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore. This year also marks the 30th season of continuous archaeological excavation, analysis and interpretation at Ferryland. Therefore, it’s an ideal time to reflect upon this longstanding community archaeology project: from its heyday in the 1990s, to economic downturns in the 2000s, to a changing climate and rising sea levels. Throughout it all, faculty and staff at Memorial University and employees and volunteers with the local not-for-profit Colony of Avalon Foundation (COA) have adapted in the face of various challenges to strengthen this community-university partnership.

Image 1: 1986 excavation, Area C (Courtesy: Ferryland Archaeology Project/Colony of Avalon Foundation).

Setting aside limited exploratory work in the first half of the 20th century, the archaeology at Ferryland really begins in the mid-1980s with two field schools led by Dr. James A. Tuck from Memorial University. These excavations were conducted along the southern end of Ferryland’s sheltered inner harbor known as The Pool. It’s important to note that local Ferryland resident Arch Williams had previously convinced Dr. Tuck that the remains of Lord Baltimore’s colony was located in the Pool area, and that several local residents allowed Jim and his team to undertake excavations on their lands.

The discoveries made back in the mid-80s — including sections of 17th century stone walls, a rectangular feature that was later determined to be a flushing privy and the colony’s early forge built in 1622 — were so well preserved and the site so rich in artifacts that Jim reluctantly backfilled the excavation until such a time when adequate resources and funding could be marshalled to conduct a more thorough investigation (Tuck 1993).

The site then lay dormant for five years.

In 1991, a multi-year federal-provincial agreement provided funds to further investigate the archaeological remains of Ferryland’s buried history. This cost-sharing arrangement was finalized shortly before the Newfoundland Cod Moratorium. Thus, when excavations restarted again in 1992, the archaeology brought with it the added benefit of employment and retraining opportunities for community members in both Ferryland and surrounding towns (Tuck 1993).

Image 2: 1992 excavation, Jim Tuck talking with staff and visitors (Courtesy: Ferryland Archaeology Project/Colony of Avalon Foundation).

Following the formative years of the early 1990s, as more of the 17th-century colony was uncovered, interpreted and made available to the public, Jim’s vision for the site evolved in close collaboration with local staff and community members. In 1994, the local not-for-profit Colony of Avalon Foundation was established. Together, archaeologists and volunteer members of the Foundation sought to make this archaeological site a key tourist attraction for the region. But of equal importance, they sought to make it a source of collective pride for the community and a way to embrace our past to build a viable and vibrant future (Gaulton and Rankin 2018).

In partnership with the COA, the level of interpretation and public dissemination grew in leaps and bounds. An old school not far from the site was renovated into an interpretation centre, with an in-house conservation lab and collections room to display, conserve and store our finds. Guided tours were available throughout the summer months and three heritage gardens were established in and around the archaeological site (Gaulton and Rankin 2018).

Image 3: Reproduction 17th-century kitchen room shortly after completion (Courtesy: Ferryland Archaeology Project/Colony of Avalon Foundation).

In the late 1990s, the COA also acquired a former bait shed and repurposed one half as a gift shop, and directly behind it created a reproduction 17th-century kitchen room. Once completed, the kitchen room boasted a large stone fireplace, a flagstone floor, wood paneling and a collection of period oak furnishings including a table, cupboards, chests and chairs all hand made by Jim at his home workshop on Mt. Scio Road. Also incorporated into the kitchen were reproductions of the same ceramic and glass vessels found during the excavations at Ferryland. Visitors could therefore learn about where these objects were found on the site and what they were used for (Gaulton and Rankin 2018).

With the addition of these new components, community members received further training and employment opportunities as tour guides, heritage gardeners, living history interpreters and retail staff. Local artists were commissioned to produce accurate reproductions of site-specific objects for sale in the gift shop. Local businesses also flourished due to the popularity of the archaeological site and its thousands of annual visitors (Gaulton and Rankin 2018).

The archaeology at Ferryland saw a notable downturn in the late 2000s due, in part, to the global financial crisis and Jim Tuck’s retirement from Memorial University. The result was a shorter season with fewer staff, and big shoes to fill by one of Jim’s protégées. Around the same time, we started to note significant erosion events along the shoreline, in particular a large area at the eastern end of the site, combined with increasing occurrences of flooding around The Pool caused by rising sea levels and storm surges (Gaulton 2019).

In the context of funding constraints and climate change, we embarked, in 2012, on the next stage of this community-university partnership, one that involves a greater variety of experiences and opportunities for visitors and locals of all ages and interests. While still maintaining the core experience of active archaeological research and on-site conservation, visitors can now participate in the Archaeologist for a Day program. In addition to the educational and public outreach benefits of the program, would-be-archaeologists, under direct supervision of the archaeology team, excavate along the actively eroding eastern side of the site as part of our ongoing mitigation efforts to record in-situ deposits before they are lost to the sea (Rankin and Gaulton 2021).

Since 2012, lab staff have also enhanced the visitor experience by developing a series of revolving displays called “Finds from the Vault” focusing on themed artifact types to show visitors more of our existing collections. At the same time, graduate student research has been incorporated into the visitor experience as part of a guided tour. This practice allows students to disseminate their field or lab research to the public on a daily basis, honing their presentation skills, building their confidence, and learning to respond effectively to questions. For the general public, it provides a behind the scenes look at various stages of the research process, often involving large or diverse archaeological assemblages (Rankin and Gaulton 2021).

Image 6: One of several ‘Finds from the Vault’ displays produced by lab staff at Ferryland (Courtesy: Ferryland Archaeology Project/Colony of Avalon Foundation).

Young children are now engaged during guided tours through the COA’s “Baltimore’s Backpacks” program, working to complete an on-site scavenger hunt and participating in dry sifting and lab activities. Finally, members of the general public as well as local knitters have also partnered with the COA in the ‘Stitching Time over Nine’ project, a multi-year endeavor in the form of a large hooked rug with 9 panels, each representing an important part of Ferryland’s history, based in part on archaeological evidence (Gaulton and Rankin 2018; Rankin and Gaulton 2021).   

Looking back at the last 30 years of archaeology at Ferryland, what have we learned about this place that we didn’t already know from historical records?

In truth, beyond a handful of early letters from 1621 and 1622 we knew next to nothing with regard to the When, What, Where and How of the colony’s development back in the 1620s and 1630s. We have no sketches or maps from this early period, nor do we have any additional surviving letters stating what was built where, or how and when it was constructed.

Image 7: Aerial of the Ferryland site (2009) showing two distinct terraces (Courtesy: Gord Carter, National Currency Museum, Bank of Canada).

It has taken upwards of twenty five years of archaeological investigation to paint a comprehensive, albeit still incomplete, picture of George Calvert’s colony of Avalon. That picture, however, reveals the well-planned and substantial nature of this early British settlement. When you examine the overall placement of the early structures and their elevations on the 17th-century landscape, as revealed through archaeology, you can clearly see that the Ferryland colony was built on a series of anthropogenic terraces (Gaulton 2012).

Essentially, this was a terraced seaside village built into a hillside.

The archaeology has demonstrated that Ferryland’s lowest terrace (alongside the inner harbor) was built on reclaimed land using the earth which was dug out to make a second terrace to the south. In places, upwards of 6 feet of fill was used to build up this first terrace and at the north end was a massive stone retaining wall that also served as the colony’s quayside. A large stone warehouse was constructed at the eastern end and immediately to its west, an ingeniously built, stone-lined privy, equipped with two openings at the north end so that the rising tides could enter twice each day to ‘flush out’ its contents.

Image 8: Waterfront buildings (ca. 1620s) including sections of the stone quayside, warehouse and privy (Courtesy: Ferryland Archaeology Project/Colony of Avalon Foundation)
Image 9: George Calvert’s ‘Mansion House’ (ca. 1620s) (Courtesy: Ferryland Archaeology Project/Colony of Avalon Foundation).

Eight feet above the quayside, warehouse and privy is a second terrace containing the domestic core of the Ferryland settlement, including a cobblestoned street measuring 13 feet wide and running 400 feet from the east to west end of the village. Directly south of the street are the remains of several dwellings and a variety of outbuildings including a stable, a brew house and bakery, and a blacksmith shop. Some of these structures were even built with subterranean slate drains that allowed liquid waste (in various forms) to be redirected away from these spaces and into the inner harbour.

Image 10: Beothuk hearths in 16th-century contexts at Ferryland (Courtesy: Ferryland Archaeology Project/Colony of Avalon Foundation).

Another important fact that we’ve learned thanks to the archaeology is that there was a significant Beothuk occupation at Ferryland during the 16th century. Jim first found evidence for the Beothuk in pre-colonial deposits during the 1986 field school, and up to that point there was no historical or archaeological evidence to suggest that the Beothuk ever inhabited the eastern Avalon Peninsula (Tuck and Robbins 1986). As excavations continued, evidence for the Beothuk presence became more substantial with over 14 hearth features and many more artifact scatters spread out over various parts of the site, suggesting that the coastlines of the eastern Avalon were in fact familiar territory and visited frequently back in the 16th century.

The final lesson that the community archaeology project at Ferryland has taught me, and many others, is that archaeology is as much about people and places in the present as it is about the past. Archaeology is about including local residents and local priorities in your daily routine. Archaeology is about job and retraining opportunities, about local economic diversification and rural rejuvenation. Longstanding community archaeology projects enrich the lives of everyone involved, they provide a collective sense of identity, and probably most important, a renewed sense of optimism in the future (Gaulton and Rankin 2018; Rankin and Gaulton 2021).    

Image 11: Ferryland field and lab crews 1993 (Courtesy: Ferryland Archaeology Project/Colony of Avalon Foundation).

References cited:

Gaulton, Barry C.
2012    A Terraced Village at ‘Avalon’: The Construction and Evolution of George Calvert’s 1621 Colony at Ferryland, Newfoundland. Paper presented at the Council for Northeast Historical Archaeology conference held in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

2019    Climate Change at the Colony of Avalon National Historic Site. Presentation to the Climate Change & Heritage Places Information Forum and Adaptation Workshop (Parks Canada) held in St. John’s.

Gaulton, Barry C. and Lisa K. Rankin
2018    Archaeological heritage as a catalyst for pubic engagement, rural rejuvenation, and rethinking our shared past: perspectives from a quarter century of community archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador. História: Questões & Debates 66(2): 19-44.

Rankin, Lisa K. and Barry C. Gaulton
2021    Archaeology, Participatory Democracy and Social Justice in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. In Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress (Special Issue: Archaeology as a Public Good). Guest editors Stanton Green, Claudia Green and Joseph Schuldenrein.

Tuck, James A.
1993    Archaeology at Ferryland, Newfoundland. Newfoundland Studies, special issue Archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador 9(2): 294-310.

Tuck, James. A. and Douglas T. Robbins
1986    A glimpse at the Colony of Avalon. In J. S. Thomson & C. Thomson (Eds.), Archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador 1985 (pp. 237–249). Historic Resources Division, Department of Culture, Recreation and Youth.

Women in NL Archaeology: Selma Barkham

In honour of International Women’s Day & Women’s History Month 2021, the NLAS is profiling women who have made contributions to archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador. Inspired by TrowelBlazers “We’re here. And we always have been,” we celebrate all women in archaeology.

Selma Barkham, though remembered as a historian-geographer, made significant contributions to the archaeology of this province (and indeed the North Atlantic as a whole) through her decades-long research on the historic Basque presence here, and the discovery of their 16th century whaling industry along southern Labrador and Quebec’s North Shore.

In 1954, Selma married Brian Barkham, an architect who had a special interest in Basque rural architecture. The following year, they visited the Basque Country, where the priest Don Pío de Montoya told them he’d seen mentions of voyages to “Terra Nova” in the local archives. This was Selma’s introduction to Basque archives, but her research didn’t begin immediately.

Brian passed away in 1964, and Selma with four children under the age of ten, became the family’s sole breadwinner. She had contract work as a historian with National Historic Sites, which included the research for the restoration of the Fortress of Louisbourg. It was here Selma developed a plan to research archives on the region’s Basque fisheries in the 16th and 17th century. At the time, it was recognized there has been Basque fishing and whaling expeditions in those centuries but very little was known about them.

The records Selma wanted to access were mostly in Spanish, which she did not speak (yet). In 1969, with her children, she moved to Mexico where she stayed for 3 years working as an English teacher and learning the language. In 1972, she applied for a Canada Council grant and travelled by cargo ship to Bilbao. Upon arrival, Selma found the grant had been turned down, but she was not deterred. She continued teaching English and received a $1000 donation from an anonymous Canadian who thought she was on to something. In 1973, she negotiated a part-time contract with the Public Archives of Canada and moved to Onati (to conduct research at the local archives) where she lived for the next 20 years.

Selma Barkham, in black and red plaid, was on hand to advise archeologists during a 1979 excavation on Saddle Island (Image from About Basque Country)

Little by little, Selma uncovered thousands of manuscripts associated with the Basque presence in Terra Nova and reconstructed many aspects of their historic fisheries, particularly in the 16th century. Crucially, she concluded that the “Gran Baya” corresponded to present-day Strait of Belle Isle, and identified individual whaling ports, matching them to their modern names. Selma knew in those ports, there had to be remains of the Basque whaling industry and she wanted to find them.

Backed by her research thus far and a grant from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Selma organized an archaeological survey of southern Labrador in 1977. With two of her children, and archaeologist Graham Rowley and his family, she explored many harbours, identifying archaeological remains of Basque whaling bases and found red roof tile in a cabbage patch at Red Bay. Later that summer, she led MUN archaeology professor, Jim Tuck, to the sites.

Based on information Selma provided, a team of Parks Canada underwater archaeologists led be Robert Grenier conducted surveys at Red Bay and Chateau Bay in 1978. Selma had pinpointed almost the exact location of the San Juan which sunk at Red Bay in 1565. From this point on, Selma continued her work parallel to the land and underwater excavations at Red Bay which were led by Tuck and Grenier respectively.

Selma Barkham in 1982 (Photo from Canadian Geographic)

In 1982, Selma organized another expedition. This time, sailing by boat from Cape Breton to southern Labrador and the Quebec North Shore. She identified 17th-century Basque cod fishing locations on the west coast of Newfoundland and further archaeological remains of the 16th century whaling industry in Quebec.

Selma Barkham published extensively and received numerous honours for her contributions to maritime history, geography, and archaeology. In 1980, she was the first woman to receive the Gold Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. She was named a member of the Order of Canada (1981), received honourary doctorates from University of Windsor (1985) and Memorial University (1993), the Basque Country’s Lagun Onari (2012), and the Spanish Geographical Society’s International Prize from King Felipe VI of Spain (2018). Selma passed away of natural causes in May of 2020, at the age of 93.

Women in NL Archaeology: Priscilla Renouf

In honour of International Women’s Day & Women’s History Month 2021, the NLAS is profiling women who have made contributions to archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador. Inspired by TrowelBlazers “We’re here. And we always have been,” we celebrate all women in archaeology.

Dr. Priscilla Renouf. Photograph from the Globe and Mail 2014

Dr. Priscilla Renouf devoted her career to understanding past human occupation on Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula, particularly at Port au Choix. She was an outstanding researcher, mentor, teacher, and supervisor, with a wicked sense of humour and the ability to bring the best out of everyone who crossed her path. Born in St. John’s, Dr. Renouf studied archaeology at Memorial University, supervised in her Master’s thesis by Jim Tuck. Her PhD thesis at Cambridge examined the settlement and subsistence patterns of past hunter-gatherers on the northern coast of Norway.

She returned to Memorial University and in 1984 she began a 30-year research programme at Port au Choix, focused on the unusually large Dorset site of Phillip’s Garden, understanding the cultural entanglements of different cultural groups that simultaneously occupied the same landscape. Her investigations revealed both short- and long-term variability in architecture, household structure, and settlement organization at the site over its 800-year history of occupation. She also led or was associated with investigations at over 150 different sites within Newfoundland and Labrador, researching the role of material culture in traditional small-scale societies, and the interactions between people and their environments.

Priscilla was awarded a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in North Atlantic Archaeology in 2001. She was a member of the founding board of directors at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History). In 2003, she became Chair of the founding board of directors of The Rooms Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador. When she became a faculty member at Memorial in 1981, Arctic archaeology was a particularly male-dominated specialty within an already male-dominated discipline. Although not writing from a feminist perspective per se, Priscilla opened space for other women in this realm. Her presence and formidable research output proved an example to students and younger colleagues that Arctic archaeologists did not have to be burly men with beards: women could run major northern field projects and become highly respected researchers in the field. She cared deeply about her students. Lisa Hodgetts and Patty Wells wrote that:

All sites in Newfoundland and Labrador that Dr. Renouf worked on throughout her career.

Her respect for her students, fairness, and confidence in their abilities were an inspiration to them. None wanted to disappoint her, and all endeavored to meet the standard she had set through her own example. Priscilla saw her students through to completion using a mixture of firmness and humour. We recall her thorough and meticulous edits of our written work, which often included witty illustrations of trash cans filled with jargon and guns aimed at poorly worded phases.

Another student, Steve Hull, has calculated some of her impact:

Depending on the research she would have a team of about six students assisting her. So, after nearly 30 years of work that would be 120 to 150 students she directly influenced with her fieldwork. This doesn’t include students she had working in other areas of the Province off the Northern Peninsula like Tim Rast at Burgeo or Lisa Fogt at Cape Ray. It also doesn’t include the thousands of students she would have taught during her university teaching career. The impact she had on Newfoundland and Labrador archaeology just through her students is immeasurable.

She was married to Roger Pickervance, a biologist and chef who supported her career at home as resident editor, and accompanied her into the field, where he participated in her research and conducted his own. On occasion, he also filled in as cook, much to the delight of hungry field crews used to plainer fare. More significantly, with her beloved Roger, Priscilla realized the joys of a balanced life. As Lisa Hodgetts and Patty Wells have written: “To Priscilla, Queen of the Dorset, who helped us discover Sivullirmiut archaeology, inspired us to persist through adversity, and made us laugh. We are better scholars for having worked with her, and better people for having known her.”

With thanks to Lisa Hodgetts, Patricia Wells, Tim Rast, and Steve Hull. Hodgetts, Lisa and Patricia Wells.

Additional Articles:
Priscilla Renouf Remembered: An Introduction to the Special Issue with a Note on Renaming the Palaeoeskimo Tradition. Arctic, 69(5), Supplement 1. https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/arctic/article/view/67716/51612

Hull, Stephen. 2014. Dr Priscilla Renouf. Inside Archaeology. https://nlarchaeology.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/dr-priscilla-renouf/

Rast, Tim. 2014. Dr. Priscilla Renouf. Elfshot. http://elfshotgallery.blogspot.com/2014/04/dr-priscilla-renouf.html

Women in NL Archaeology: Birgitta Wallace

In honour of International Women’s Day & Women’s History Month 2021, the NLAS is profiling women who have made contributions to archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador. Inspired by TrowelBlazers “We’re here. And we always have been,” we celebrate all women in archaeology.

Photo by Rob Ferguson

Anyone interested in Norse archaeology in Newfoundland will likely be familiar with the work of Birgitta Wallace, who has been an instrumental part of the work at L’Anse aux Meadows and wrote the book ‘Westward Vikings: the Saga of L’Anse aux Meadows‘ on the site, which was published in 2006. Today she is retired, but remains an active part of the Norse Archaeology community.

Born in 1944, Wallace completed her degree in Nordic Archaeology and Anthropology from the University of Uppsala, and received her Masters in 1975 in Pittsburg, with her main research area being the western expansion of the Norse into North America. She worked for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburg, PA, prior to heading north to Canada in 1975 to join Parks Canada as the archaeologist for the Atlantic region.

With an excavation career to make all early-career researchers envious, Wallace has excavated sites in Sweden and Norway, Israel, the USA, and Canada. She worked on both the Norwegian expeditions at L’Anse aux Meadows and the later Parks Canada work at the site, and became responsible for the archaeological material recovered there. The first woman to be awarded the Smith-Wintemberg Award from the Canadian Archaeological Association (CAA) in 2015, the president at the time wrote:

Although most of us recognize the work that Birgitta has undertaken in Norse archaeology, especially at L’Anse aux Meadows, her research was much broader.  She undertook significant work with Parks Canada at the Fort Anne National Historic site in Nova Scotia, at Nicholas Deny’s 17th- century trading post in Cape Breton and throughout the shell middens of Prince Edward Island.

Along with traditional excavations, Wallace has worked as the curator of multiple museum exhibitions and have been praised for her work as a public educator, to teach those interested in the “realities of Norse North America”. Those in Newfoundland and Labrador who have gotten the chance to work with her, attest to her expertise and passion for the field. Wallace is currently Parks Canada Archaeologist Emeritus, and remains engaged as an advisor in the interpretation and promotion of L’Anse aux Meadows.

Her husband, Rob, wrote:

She not only put an end to the age-old question “Where is Vinland?”, but correctly identified the mis-located site of the first Scottish settlement in Nova Scotia (yes, the one that gave us our name and flag), and used an innovative strategy to look at pre-contact shellfish processing in PEI by stripping sod from an entire site to reveal individual work stations of shell. She was instrumental in bringing overhead photography techniques to Parks Canada, and has been involved, through L’Anse aux Meadows, in many technological developments in archaeological science, such as AMS dating. Despite working in a glamorous field (Viking archaeology) where egos frequently take precedence, she has always maintained that the results of research are far more important than who found what first. Ok, I’m a little bit proud. It’s International Women’s Day. I’m allowed to be.

If you are interested in reading more about Birgitta’s work, check out her book, or this open-source article!

Women in NL Archaeology: Anne Stine Ingstad

In honour of International Women’s Day & Women’s History Month 2021, the NLAS is profiling women who have made contributions to archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador. Inspired by TrowelBlazers “We’re here. And we always have been,” we celebrate all women in archaeology.

Anne Stine Moe married Helge Ingstad, an explorer and larger than life personality 18 years her senior, in 1941. In the 1950s she studied archaeology at the University of Oslo, completing her Masters degree in 1960. She took a position at the Forest Museum in Elverum but received no family support for her career in archaeology. She made several attempts on her life and her mental health at this time was precarious. As her daughter Benedicte has written:

The belief that she actually had a right to live a fulfilled life, in whatever way she felt most compelled to do so, deeply conflicted with her ingrained traditional beliefs and developed into feelings of a life not worth living.

As Anne Stine struggled to create a professional life for herself, Helge Ingstad identified settlement traces at L’Anse aux Meadows. From 1961-1968, Anne Stine Ingstad led these excavations with an international team, greatly assisted by volunteers from L’Anse aux Meadows. The findings of these excavations were heavily scrutinized as the amateur Helge was deemed to be the leader. Anne Stine’s expertise and knowledge was dismissed. This negative opinion gradually changed, but the initial response to her work by other archaeologists caused her to doubt her abilities for a long time.

Anne Stine published the first of the two-volume L’Anse aux Meadows site reports in 1977 and suffered a minor stroke. In 1978 she defended and was awarded her doctorate from the University of Oslo. Anne Stine was also awarded her Honorary Doctorate from Memorial University in 1979, ten years after Helge.

Dr Anne Stine Ingstad studied the tapestries from the Oseberg ship burial and textiles from the Viking-Age trading site at Kaupang, producing exceptional work, advancing our understanding of the role of women in mortuary ritual.

She died of cancer in 1997 at the age of 79, under her own terms, in her own time.

For the story of Anne Stine Ingstad and Helge Ingstad, read Benedicte Ingstad, A Grand Adventure (Montreal, 2017). 

Women in NL Archaeology: Helen E. Devereux

In honour of International Women’s Day & Women’s History Month 2021, the NLAS is profiling women who have made contributions to archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador. Inspired by TrowelBlazers “We’re here. And we always have been,” we celebrate all women in archaeology.

Helen E. Devereux was an archaeologist who came to work in Newfoundland between about 1964-1969. As we learned from Steve Hull’s talk at the NLAS 2019 AGM (linked at the end of this post), Helen never published on her work or ended up finishing her doctoral thesis. Nevertheless, Helen Devereux was still responsible for some excellent early archaeology work in the province and her archaeological legacy lives on.

Photo courtesy of the Provincial Archaeology Office of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Helen came to work in Newfoundland in 1964 with the National Museum of Canada. Much like Dr. Anne Stine Ingstad, Helen E. Devereux is a significant figure in Newfoundland and Labrador archaeology because she was one of the first women to lead excavations in the province. According to her filed reports, the main goal of her work was to begin identifying the archaeological identity of the island’s Beothuk people. Helen wanted to know who they were, where they’d come from, and when they came to Newfoundland. Helen’s goal was to complete just enough archaeology to be able to compare her results with the anthropological and historical data that already existed on the Beothuk through the works of Howley and the like. Knowing her research would be at the foundation of much future work, Helen wrote “when a representative sample of all expressions is available, one may speak of the archaeological identity of the Beothuk.”

Photo from Devereux’s 1965 report on Pope’s Point, courtesy of the Provincial Archaeology Office of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Today, several decades later, it is apparent Helen’s work significantly contributed to what we now understand to be the archaeological signature of the Beothuk and ancestral Beothuk. She identified 23 archaeological sites during her time on the island, some of which are very well known and important sites like Cape Ray (near Port-aux-Basques), North Angle (on the Exploits River), and Indian Point (on Red Indian Lake). Helen was also the first archaeologist to excavate at one of the island’s best-known Indigenous sites, the Beaches, which is a large multi-component pre-colonial and historic site. At the time of her work, the Beaches site was actually the oldest identified site in the province!

Helen passed away peacefully in April of 2019 at the age of 96.

For more information about Helen and her work:

The Community Collections Archaeological Research Project

The Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society (NLAS) is keen on engaging with private collectors of archaeological material. Under the recently-developed Community Collections Archaeological Research Project (CCARP) the NLAS hopes to locate and record these private collections as well as facilitate public education and awareness of heritage and archaeological resources. The following photo gallery showcases artefacts from the James Anstey collection from Back Harbour, Twillingate which is the first collection catalogued under this project.

It’s important to note that collecting artifacts is contrary to Newfoundland and Labrador’s Historic Resources Act. With this project, the NLAS does not condone the future collection of artifacts, but rather, it serves as a mechanism which allows existing collections to be shared for educational purposes.

The Community Collections Archaeological Research Project was funded through the Cultural Economic Development Program – Heritage, Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. The work was carried out by Robert Anstey, Division of Archaeology, University of Cambridge.


Robert Anstey has completed his analysis of the James Anstey collection from Back Harbour, Twillingate. His report is available here as a PDF.  Thanks to Steve Hull and the Provincial Archaeology Office for the in kind contribution of formatting the report for publication.

The Anstey Site 

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Back Harbour-3

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Batrix Island

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Maritime Archaic Indian axe from Back Harbour-6.

Maritime Archaic Indian axe from Back Harbour-6.

We look forward to future CCARP projects, and if you have a private collection you would like to share with us for this endeavour, please email us at nlas@nlarchsociety.ca

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Plummet: A ground stone weight with incised grooves for attaching a suspension line. Possibly used as a net or line sinker.

Biface: A stone tool with flakes removed from two surfaces.

Preform: An unfinished tool.

Endscraper: A stone tool with a scraping edge made by chipping the end of a flake of stone. Used to scrape animal hides, wood and bone.

End-of-blade scraper: A scraper made from a blade or microblade. The working edge is on the narrow end of the blade.

Concave sidescraper: A scraper with a concave working edge. The working edge is on the long edge of the tool.

Endblade: A small pointed flaked stone tool used to tip harpoon heads.

Dart: Similar to an endblade but with two or more side notches. Possibly used in bird hunting.

Microblade: A small thin flake with parallel sides removed from a core.

Core: A chunk of stone from which flakes are removed during tool manufacture.

Burin-like tool: A flat ground nephrite or silicified slate tool used for graving, scoring or planing hard organic materials like bone.

Abrader: A stone tool with abrasive qualities used for grinding, sharpening, or shaping other stone tools.

Adze: A stone woodworking tool with one end ground down to a sharp working edge. The working edge is set at a right angle to the handle. These tools usually have a flat cross-section.

Axe: Similar to an adze but the working edge is parallel with the handle. These tools usually have a triangular cross-section.

Celt: A thick ground stone woodworking tool. It may have been used as an adze or axe.

Gouge: A ground stone woodworking chisel with a concave working edge.

Bayonet: A long ground stone projectile point that may have been used for marine mammal hunting. These tools are often found in burials.

Hammerstone: A hard stone used as a hammer during tool manufacture and other activities. One or both ends usually show evidence of battering.