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: