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Submerged Archaeological Landscapes and the Recording of Precontact History: Examples from Atlantic Canada

  • Dominic Lacroix
  • Trevor Bell
  • John Shaw
  • Kieran Westley
Chapter

Abstract

The paleogeography of Atlantic Canada has changed dramatically during the postglacial period. Following glacial retreat, a complex pattern of sea-level change led to the subaerial exposure of large landforms, and archaeological evidence suggests some human presence. The highest potential for the preservation of submerged archaeological landscapes is at the local scale where conditions combine to create low-energy environments. Evidence for the presence of submerged archaeological landscapes is seen through relict coastal, fluvial, and deltaic features preserved on the seafloor. Two test cases illustrate how submerged landscape archaeology provides an insight on the impact sea-level change has had on the region’s precontact population and how it changes our understanding of the history. Undated artifact assemblages from Prince Edward Island and the Magdalen Islands previously thought to date to the Late Paleo-Indian period (ca. 10,000–9,000 uncal BP) are reinterpreted as dating to the Late Archaic or later. Local indigenous groups have remembered for over 3,400 years the sudden linkage between the Minas Basin and the megatidal environment of the Bay of Fundy through a local legend in which the events are interpreted in their own terms and given social meaning.

Keywords

Prehistoric archaeology Underwater archaeology Paleogeography Atlantic Canada Sea-level change Late Paleo-Indian period Late Archaic period Indigenous Communities 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This chapter is the product of research collaboration between members of the Submerged Archaeological Landscape Network (SLAN). This research would not have been possible without the support of the National Research Council of Canada, the Geological Survey of Canada, the Canadian Hydrographic Survey, and the Bedford Institute of Oceanography for allowing access to multibeam and subsurface data from various regions of Atlantic Canada, and more particularly the help of Gary Sonnichsen and Donald Forbes. Many thanks also go to the Newfoundland Provincial Archaeology Office for providing easy access to grey literature. We are indebted to Charlie Conway of Memorial University’s Department of Geography for drafting the final versions of the figures presented with this article. Finally, additional thanks go to Priscilla Renouf and other SLAN members including Rory Quinn, Ruth Pleths, Aidan O’Sullivan, and Stephen Davis for their ideas and support.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dominic Lacroix
    • 1
  • Trevor Bell
    • 2
  • John Shaw
    • 3
  • Kieran Westley
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyMemorial UniversitySt. John’sCanada
  2. 2.Departments of Geography and ArchaeologyMemorial UniversitySt. John’sCanada
  3. 3.Bedford Institute of OceanographyGeological Survey of Canada (Atlantic)DartmouthCanada
  4. 4.Centre for Maritime ArchaeologyUniversity of UlsterColeraineUK

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