Rescue of a threatened archaeological site

A team from Université Laval took part last summer in archaeological digs that saved hundreds of artefacts, possibly over 3,000 years old, found on a site threatened by erosion in Saint -Pierre-et-Miquelon.

Four students and two professors from Laval University were part of an international team that also included French people.

“We built a team to save this archaeological site which had already been the subject of other excavations at the end of the 1990s – at the beginning of 2000 in another part”, indicated Réginald Auger, professor emeritus of archeology at the Laval University.

The excavations were carried out in an area subject to strong soil erosion caused by the sea and the wind.

Several artifacts, such as this arrowhead, were discovered during excavations at Anse-à-Henry, in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon.

Courtesy picture

Several artifacts, such as this arrowhead, were discovered during excavations at Anse-à-Henry, in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon.

“It’s an extraordinary site located at the northern end of Île Saint-Pierre, in an area that is really being eaten away by the waves. Already, the erosion is major,” mentioned his colleague Najat Bhiry, geomorphologist and professor in the Department of Geography.

« We see that the site was formed by the deposits of the last glaciation and that it was then subjected to several environmental processes, » she said.

For six weeks, starting in mid-August, the team carried out fieldwork as part of this project funded by the French government.

Very old remains

The remains, which have been identified, could date back more than 3000 years. Different populations in search of food from fishing have occupied the site throughout history.

“We find here three Aboriginal groups previously identified in Newfoundland and who lived at different times. These are the people of the Maritime Archaic culture, Cow Head Complex and Beaches Complex,” adds Mr. Auger.

Unfortunately, due to the acidity of the soils, the organic preservation of artefacts is practically impossible, so the excavations are composed mainly of stone objects such as arrowheads and harpoons. The researchers also observed combustion hearths and living structures.

“Among the finished tools, it’s less than a hundred artefacts, but among the debitage objects, it’s over 5,000 objects. We have 80 pieces that include different points of different styles, which allows us to assign cultural designations. We also found scrapers that made it possible to clean the skins, ”explained Mr. Auger.

Advanced analyzes

The artifacts are stored in a local museum. Some will be subject to extensive laboratory analysis.

“It is a very rich site that needs to be studied before it is destroyed by erosion because erosion is ongoing,” Ms. Bhiry argued.

These discoveries are a good illustration of the mobility of populations, adds Mr. Auger. Among the stones found, some come from local quarries, but others come from northern Labrador, more specifically from Ramah Bay.

A documentary filmed during this campaign is expected during the winter.

Do you have information to share with us about this story?

Got a scoop that might be of interest to our readers?

Write to us at or call us directly at 1 800-63SCOOP.


Back to top button