Date of this Version
Chapter 6 in The Archaeology of Maritime Landscapes (Ben Ford, ed.), pp. 99–128. When the Land Meets the Sea Series. New York, Springer, 2011.
Recent research at Hare Harbor on the Quebec Lower North Shore in the northeastern Gulf of St. Lawrence reveals great potential for archaeological and historical research on Basque and other early European activities in the northwestern North Atlantic. Although considerable data have been retrieved from Red Bay, Labrador, and a few other sixteenth-century sites in the Strait of Belle Isle and Gulf of St. Lawrence, archaeological knowledge of the early European phase of North American history in this region is limited, and information about post-sixteenth-century Basque occupations is nearly nonexistent. This chapter reports on a multicomponent site with late sixteenth-century Basque and late seventeenth/ early eighteenth–century European (possibly Basque) and Inuit occupations at Hare Harbor, Petit Mécatina Island, 200 km west of the Strait of Belle Isle. The later historic occupation includes hearths, middens, and ballast piles from adjacent land and underwater sites. In addition to domestic cooking hearths and ballast piles associated with the sixteenth-century Basque occupation, the site’s later component contains two structures with paved stone floors, one interpreted as a cookhouse and the other as a blacksmith shop. The ethnic/national origin of these structures, which in earlier reports was designated as Basque on the basis of coarse earthenwares and large amounts of roof tiles, is now equivocal. Excavations in 2009 revealed a sixteenth-century Basque component adjacent to and deeper than the cookhouse (Structure 1) paved floor, raising the possibility that the cookhouse and blacksmith deposits may have a north Biscayan or Channel origin. Excavation also revealed a Labrador Inuit settlement that may be contemporary with the later European occupation. Information recovered from the European and Inuit contexts documents changing economic, social, and political conditions, including the appearance of Inuit in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and their participation in a European cod fishery at Hare Harbor. Given the breadth of activity, changes in technology and economy, and complex international and ethnic relations, a maritime landscape approach that links shore deposits with those from the underwater site over a period of more than 100 years provides a useful framework for interpreting the many strands of evidence from this small but fascinating site situated at the interface of European and Native nations, cultures, and traditions.
Utilization of the landscape concept for interpreting maritime anthropology and archaeological sites is relatively novel. Landscape archaeology has traditionally been applied at terrestrial sites to link archaeological components with their broader ecological and social settings, including subsistence resource zones, site hierarchies, settlement patterns, and regional economic networks. Recently, this concept has been extended to maritime anthropological studies in circumpolar and subantarctic settings, but it has rarely been a component of underwater archaeological inquiry. The fortuitous adjacency of both land and marine components at a Basque/European/Inuit site makes Hare Harbor an ideal case study for exploring the utility of the landscape approach in a maritime archaeology context.