Long-term Coastal Occupancy between Cape Charles and Trunmore Bay, Labrador

  • Marianne P. Stopp
Keywords: Southern Labrador, prehistoric sites, culture history, systematic survey, prehistoric Indian versus Palaeoeskimo subsistence-settlement systems, extended Middle Dorset occupation


Ninety-three prehistoric components were discovered during this first comprehensive archaeological survey of the Labrador coastline between Cape Charles and Trunmore Bay. The newly discovered sites show that there was continuous prehistoric occupation from northern Labrador through to the Quebec North Shore and the island of Newfoundland, with radiocarbon dates ranging from 5070±170 to 1050±50 B.P. Dates from Late Palaeoeskimo sites suggest that Middle Dorset occupation of southern Labrador may have begun as early as 1940±70 B.P. and lasted until 1050±50 B.P. Comprehensive survey strategy revealed three broad trends of prehistoric land use and occupation in southern Labrador: the inner coastal zone, in particular the coastline of the largest bays, does not retain any traces of prehistoric coastal occupation; coastal presence by all culture groups is concentrated at or near the mouths of bays and the outer island archipelagoes; and certain coastal locations were preferred areas of land use for prehistoric peoples. At a more specific level, prehistoric Indian sites tend to be situated in protected locations, oriented to both mainland and saltwater resources. Groswater Palaeoeskimo and Late Palaeoeskimo sites, on the other hand, have a decided outer island orientation, which suggests an adaptive focus on saltwater resources. A brief summary of the historic sites recorded during the survey is included.