Paleogeography, Sea-level Change and the Peopling of the Maritimes: an Archaeological Perspective
Taylor, Conrad Aaron
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This thesis examines specific areas of the landscape of the Maritimes as they changed over the past 13 thousand years, focussing specifically on how sea level has affected shorelines and how these changes have shaped the lives of people in precontact and proto-historic times. This is important because we do not have historical records on which to base our understanding. Through an examination of past geological research and a subsequent mapping of paleo coastlines, this thesis seeks to provide an alternative to the theory of a “Great Hiatus” with one of a drowned landscape. Much of the current narrative on precontact groups' lifeways is based on early ethnographies by European men. These depictions were recorded with clear objectives- exploration, colonization, and evangelical pursuits. These primary documents, whether they were journals, illustrations, or cartography, served to exploit and marginalize the Indigenous population. In other words, they provide a perspective from outside the culture that does not necessarily reflect an accurate picture. Using current knowledge of sea level change for the Bay of Fundy, a corridor was selected along the Annapolis River which was deemed as high potential for archaeology. The head of tide on a tidal river is an area where anadromous fish congregate and was an important resource procurement site for precontact groups. Integrating known sea-level rise rates, the movement of head-of-tide through time was predicted. Archaeological investigations, including canvassing landowners, field walking and sub-surface excavations, were conducted along this corridor. Lithics were analysed and matched with known quarry sites to clarify precontact lithic acquisition in the northeast. Ultimately, this thesis provides a tool to predict where precontact sites may be located and/or offer explanations as to why they have not been found. Through an acceptance and appreciation of oral traditions including the names of culturally relevant places, combined with the recovery and interpretation of material culture, Canada’s First Nations’ long history on the landscape can be better understood.