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:

PRESS RELEASE: Archaeological Society Documents Collection of Twillingate Artifacts


St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – September 22, 2014 – While archaeologist Robert Anstey was in Twillingate, visiting home from his PhD studies at the University of Cambridge, he had the opportunity to analyze a very special set of artifacts from the area, his father’s collection.    Robert’s work was a pilot project made possible by the Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society (NLAS).

The Community Collections Archaeology Research Project (CCARP) is an initiative of the NLAS that seeks to bring privately held archaeological collections in the Province out of shoeboxes, closets, and basements and showcase them for everyone in the Province to learn from and enjoy.  The goal is not to encourage the private collection of artifacts, but rather to gain a better understanding of important collections that may not be professionally curated in the Province.   Collecting archaeological objects within the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is restricted to licensed archaeological investigation under the Historic Resources Act.

Archaeologists lament the loss of context when an artifact is plucked out of a site without recording its relationship with the other artifacts and features surrounding it.   The systematic recording of all of the various complex components of an archaeological site is what separates the professional discipline of archaeology from the keen-eyed artifact collector, but it doesn’t mean that the relationship between archaeologist and collector is an unfriendly one.

In the spring of 2014, the NLAS received heritage funding through the Provincial Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Cultural Economic Development Program (CEDP) to hire an archaeologist to work with a private collector to analyze, record, and present a private collection to a wider audience.  The end result is a report and an online gallery of the James Anstey Collection on the NLAS website:


The James Anstey Collection is a perfect subject to launch CCARP.  Robert Anstey, who earned a BA and MA in archaeology at Memorial University of Newfoundland is the archaeologist selected by the NLAS to analyze the collection.  Robert Anstey is James Anstey’s son.   On one hand, this research is an archaeological analysis of a private collection of artifacts, but on the other hand it’s the work of a son, who has turned his father’s pursuit into a career.  An object without context is just a thing, whether it’s a report or an arrowhead picked up off the ground.  Understanding the context of that thing adds another layer of meaning and turns an object into a story.

Media Contact:

Tim Rast
President, NLAS
PO Box 23065,
St. John’s, NL
Ph: 709-576-4456

Robert Anstey
Division of Archaeology
University of Cambridge

Anstey Report Cover

Maritime Archaic Indian axe from Back Harbour-6.

Maritime Archaic Indian axe from Back Harbour-6.

Dorset endblades from the Anstey site.

Dorset endblades from the Anstey site.