Most of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador was covered
with ice during the last ice age, but by about 10,500 years BP
(Before Present) the ice sheets began to recede. The first human
beings to arrive in the province reached southern Labrador almost
9000 BP. Archaeological evidence suggests that these people were
descended from Palaeo-Indians (palaeo old), the first human
occupants of the hemisphere.
Over time, these first settlers developed a culture that was
strongly dependent upon the resources of the sea, and as a
result archaeologists refer to these people as members of the
Maritime Archaic tradition, which is recognizable by about 7500
BP in Labrador and about 5000 BP on the island of Newfoundland.
The Maritime Archaic tradition disappears from the archaeological
record by about 3000 BP.
|Maritime Archaic bone and stone lances from Port au Choix, Newfoundland ca. 4000-3200 BP.
Original artifacts housed in the Newfoundland Museum.
Courtesy of Dr. Ralph Pastore, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland.
About 4000 BP, a people archaeologists call Palaeo-Eskimos
reached northern Labrador, and sometime before 3000 BP they
reached the island portion of the province. The last of the
Palaeo-Eskimos appear to have died out before 1000 BP on the
island and a few centuries later in Labrador.
In Labrador, it is possible that the Maritime Archaic people
were the ancestors of a people archaeologists call Intermediate
Indians although this connection is not at all clear. Sites
assigned to the Intermediate Indian culture in Labrador date from
perhaps 3500 BP to 2000 BP. Their tools are much different than
those of the Maritime Archaic people, and they appear to have
been more oriented toward the resources of the interior.
There is a similar debate between archaeologists as to the
origin of a people referred to as Recent Indians. On the island
of Newfoundland, it is clear that these people are the ancestors
of the Beothuk, the aboriginal people of Newfoundland. A number
of archaeologists believe that the Recent Indian people of
Labrador are the ancestors of the Innu.
The ancestors of the Labrador Inuit are a people
archaeologists call the Thule. The earliest Thule sites in
northern Labrador are dated to 700 to 800 BP and within a few
centuries the Thule had occupied the coast of northern Labrador.
© 1997, Ralph T. Pastore
Archaeology Unit & History Department
Memorial University of Newfoundland