Arctic Studies Center
||| St. Lawrence Gateways Project |||
Smithsonian - National Museum of Natural History

HARRINGTON HARBOUR & PETIT MÉCATINA
 
Harrington Harbour
Harrington Harbour from the water  

Our next stop, in the Harrington Harbour region, produced even more important archaeological results and became the primary focus for Gateways 2002-2004. Harrington Harbour, an English-speaking community established by Newfoundland fishermen, was visited by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and became a major fishing community in the 19th century.

 

Monument commemorating the landing by Jacques Cartier
Monument commemorating the landing by
Jacques Cartier

Larry Ransom

Larry Ransom with axe in Harrington
 
   

In the early 20th century it was the medical center for the Lower North Shore after the Grenfell Mission, the seaman's hospital charity founded by Wilfred Grenfell, in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, established a base there in the early 1900s. Today the town is a bustling community whose industrious residents run a fish plant, cater to tourists, and maintain a picturesque harbor-side town whose houses and facilities are connected by elevated boardwalks and four-wheelers rather than by roads and cars. Recently the town has been featured in the 2003 French-Canadian film comedy, La Grande Seduction. More particularly, Harrington is important to our crew for friends, fuel, food, showers, and laundry facilities. Two sites on Petit Mécatina are of particular interest. Havre de la Croix (Cross Harbour) at the southern end of the island is a small, narrow inlet with an entrance that is only navigable at, or near, high tide.

old axe found in Chevery garden

Old axe found in a Chevery garden
Pitsiulak at Havre de la Croix in 2001
Pitsiulak anchored in Havre de la Croix in 2001  
For most of the twentieth century this harbor was the center of a flourishing cod fishery. Today only the rotting remains of sheds and shores strewn with broken crockery and rusted iron attest to its heyday. But the harbor was well-protected from gales, had some good bakeapple bogs, and was within walking distance of beaches on the outer coast where we had found an early Maritime Archaic Indian site.The foundation of a longhouse, segmented into five rooms accompanied by food cache pits, was clearly discernable on the surface of the boulder beach. This was the first sign of early Indian longhouses known south of the central Labrador coasts; its discovery was of great importance. 

overhand at Mecatina Basque site, 2003  
Overhang at Mécatina Basque site, 2003  
 
Basque tiles at Hare Harbour-1
Basque tiles eroding at the shore at Hare Harbour-1

A few kilometers east of Havre de la Croix is a small bay dominated by a prominent overhanging cliff that provided a natural shelter for human settlement.  This feature was so remarkable that we could not resist going ashore to explore, even though the day was cold, windy, and wet. It turned out that the overhang was caused by glacial scouring of a geological cleft that created a dry overhang about 25 m deep and about 100 m long. As we sat inside watching the rain pour down outside the drip-line we imagined that many earlier visitors must also have taken shelter here.

Pitsiulak anchored off the Petit mecatiina Basque site 2001

Pitsiulak anchored off the Petit MÈcatina Basque site in 2001

 

Landing in the cove below the cliff shelter we spotted bright red ceramic fragments eroding at the shore; they were immediately identified as Basque roof tiles. Test pits near the shelter yielded more tiles, and large iron spikes like those found at Basque whaling sites at Red Bay and other locations in the Strait of Belle-Isle. These tiles were brought from the Iberian Peninsula to the New World in huge quantities by Basque whalers and fisherman, who used them for ship ballast on the outward leg of their voyage and for roofing their blubber furnace shed and other workshops on shore. Being abundant and nearly indestructible, the tiles make excellent archaeological signposts. Hare Harbor, with its deep water, abundant fresh water, dry rock shelter, access to outer coast whaling grounds, and distance from the river-mouth locations favored by contemporary Indian peoples, would have been a major attraction for Basque fisherman. Since few Basque sites were known for this region of the Lower North Shore, this indeed was a site to return to.

maritime Archaic hearth, Mutton Bay, 2001

Time warp: Ancient Maritime Archaic hearth against modern Mutton Bay, 2002  

The final leg of the 2001 survey included brief stops at Vieux-Fort, Middle Bay, Havre des Belles Amours, Brador, and then into the last coastal village in Québec, Blanc Sablon.

 

 
gray fox, Baie des Belles Amours, LNS

Young gray fox, Baie des Belles Amours, LNS

Clifford and Flora Hart with their artifact collection

Clifford and Flora Hart with their Maritime Archaic artifact collection

 

These surveys produced information on several cultures, including a Dorset and a late prehistoric Indian site, a large 2,000-3,000-year-old boulder pit house village at Belles Amours, a small Maritime Archaic longhouse site, and some fascinating Maritime Archaic collections found by Clifford Hart of Brador while excavating his basement and clearing the land around his chalet at the head of Brador Bay.