Old Badger

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Say "archeology" these days in terms of Newfoundland and Labrador, and some might think of the discoveries at L'Anse aux Meadows, or traces of the extinct Beothuk.

They don't think of Badger.

But Stephen Hull, an archeologist who is responsible for and maintains an awardwinning archeology blog pertaining to the province, said that human prehistory on the island and mainland parts of the province goes a lot further back than the Vikings.

Pope’s Point in the Badger area is of archeological significance, but regular flooding, as experienced in the town in 2003, has impacted on sites that otherwise could be promising in terms of artifacts and structures used by aboriginal peoples over thousands of years.

"Many people do not realize the amount of history here, and that is part of the reason for the blog," he said.

Many don't think of Badger having a prehistory, in terms of humans, that dates before Beothuk occupation. But thanks to a particular area known as Pope's Point, not far from the Exploits and Badger rivers, researchers over the years have uncovered evidence for a series of indigenous peoples that have used the area over the centuries.

"Pope's Point has had a very long history," stated Hull in his archeology blog. "In terms of its cultural history, the site has evidence for Maritime Archaic, Palaeoeskimo, Recent Indian, Beothuk, Mi'Kmaq and European occupations. In terms of archeology it was first recorded by T.G.B. Lloyd, an English geologist with an interest in archeology and the Beothuk, in the early 1870s and reported on by him in his 1876 article 'A Further Account of the Beothuks of Newfoundland' in The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland Journal.

One observation an American anthropologist, Frank Speck, made at Pope's Point was of aboriginal house pits. He described the house pits as being about 15 feet in diameter and about 12 inches deep, and having the shape of rings or rude angular circles. Speck described removing the mossy sod covering to find cracked caribou bone, the occasional stone pebble for cracking open the bone and nondescript iron fragments. Near the center of each pit was an area covered with fire-cracked rocks, quantities of charcoal, charred bones and iron. In some places bone deposits extended six to eight inches thick.

Researchers had found 13 house pits all the way up to Red Indian Lake.

According to Hull, the area was again revisited by Peter Harrison and Garth Taylor in 1963 during their brief survey of Red Indian Lake and the Exploits River.

It wasn't until 1964 that professional archaeologist Helen Devereux and her crew of four spent July and August of that year excavating at Pope's Point on behalf of the National Museum of Canada. By that time the site had been disturbed by the construction of a fenced off forestry compound with several buildings.

Another challenge to the area for researchers was erosion damage from spring flooding. However, artifacts like iron nails, beats, spear points and stone tools have been discovered over the years.

"While Pope's Point is often thought of as a Beothuk site there is much evidence for a Palaeoeskimo occupation at the site," stated Hull. "In 1967, just a few years after Devereux, Pope's Point was revisited by Don Locke, an amateur archaeologist from Grand Falls-Windsor. According to his notes,he collected pieces of metal, bone, ceramic and stone artifacts."

According to Hull, Pope's Point is one of the few deep interior sites which has evidence for nearly every culture that has inhabited the island of Newfoundland. "Maritime Archaic Indian, Groswater and Dorset Palaeoeskimo, Recent Indian, Beothuk and Mi'kmaq artifacts and features have either been recovered or historically recorded to have existed there at one time," he said.

Maritime Archaic culture dates back the longest on the island, to at least 4,000-5,000 years ago.

"Unfortunately river erosion and flooding, illegal pot-hunting, building and landscaping associated with both the provincial and national forestry services impacted greatly on the site over the past 100 or so years," said Hull in his archeology blog.

Organizations: Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland Journal.One, National Museum of Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Red Indian Lake

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