(Oct. 31, 2002, Gazette)
|The Porcupine Strand research team.
"Its an incredible experience to actually work with a group
of people whose history is being uncovered, said Dr. Lisa Rankin,
a Memorial University archaeologist who researches Labradors history.
When there is a real connection between the past and the present,
the work just seems that much more interesting.
In the summer of 2001, Dr. Rankin went to Labrador in search of archaeological
sites on Labradors Porcupine Strand. That summer, 37 sites were
identified and the plans were set in motion for a three-year SSHRC project
that started in Labrador this past summer.
Equipped with a strong desire to piece together the cultural history of
southern Labrador, Dr. Rankin, her devoted dog Suzie, several graduate
and undergraduate archaeology students from Memorial, two geo-morphology
students, and local people from Cartwright, worked and lived together
to bring history to life. This life, according to Dr. Rankin, is very
telling of a rich past that is still very present in this region today.
This is an area of Labrador that has remained untapped archaeologically.
There is a 7,500 year history in this part of Labrador. As soon as the
glaciers left, people moved in. And so were really interested in
the connections between the various groups who lived on the Porcupine
Strand, why and how the people lived there, and in seeing the history
of a people whom we live and work with today.
Dr. Rankin explained how there is a full range of different cultures
that inhabited Labradors southern coast. About 7,200 years
ago, the Maritime Archaic Indians settled on the Porcupine Strand, successfully
building a life for themselves. Within about 3,000 years of this settlement,
Paleo-Eskimos, originating from the north, arrived in this same area,
faced with needs similar to those of the earlier settlers.
It is around this time in history that we see a shift in how the
Maritime Archaic Indians lived, said Dr. Rankin. They slowly
moved from the outer coast to more densely populated, but very out of
the way areas. This move may be indicative of their need to defend themselves,
or of a strained relationship between the two groups.
For eight weeks, Dr. Rankin and her team systematically combed the sandy
beaches of the 40 kilometre Porcupine Strand, uncovering a vast array
of bifaces, arrowheads, knives, and other telling artifacts that help
piece together the cultural shifts on this Strand. In addition, Shane
Greene and Jennifer Smith, two geo-morphology students who worked on the
project this summer, examined the development of the Porcupine Strand
itself, how it might have looked 7,000 years ago, and why the environment
was useful for settlement.
From both the archaeological and geo-morphological perspectives,
we are very interested in how the groups of settlers got along, why they
chose this region to live in, and what the environment might have looked
like back then, added Dr. Rankin. These artifacts bring these
groups and this Strand to life again.
The stories, the artifacts, and the journey brought to life by this project
are particularly relevant for the Innu and Inuit who were very much a
part of Dr. Rankins work this summer. The Thule Inuit, for
example, who inhabited the Porcupine Strand at the point of contact with
the Europeans, are ancestors of the Inuit who still live in Labrador today,
she explained. I learned so much working with the people of Labrador.
After all, Im just the researcher. But this is their history.
The future of Dr. Rankins look into the past is very promising.
In the past two years, she has uncovered over 100 new archaeological sites
in the Porcupine Strand region sites that will eventually be inhabited
by Dr. Rankin and her team as they continue their study of how the past
became the present in this historically-rich region.
Labrador is a truly incredible place to work. The people, the sites,
my team, and the experience, are all key to telling the stories of many
cultures, stated Dr. Rankin. I feel so lucky to be a part
of research that simultaneously reveals the history, and present, of the
people of Labrador.
For more information about the project, please contact Dr. Lisa Rankin