Late Holocene Hunter-Gatherers at L’Anse aux Meadows and the Dynamics of Bird and Mammal Hunting in Newfoundland

Todd J. Kristensen and Jenneth E. Curtis

Abstract

This paper explores pre-contact hunting at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site in Newfoundland, Canada during the Late Holocene. Data from over 40 years of excavations are interpreted in light of recent insights into the subsistence activities of Recent Indian people (2000–500 B.P.) and their historic Beothuk descendants. The site’s lithic assemblage is dominated by large bifaces, scrapers, and late-stage reduction debris that appear related to caribou and/or seal exploitation. However, the majority of the small sample of faunal remains consists of bird bone. We utilize historical records of Beothuk subsistence to argue that birds were harvested while mammal hunting tools were prepared for use at other locales. Ethnographic and archaeological examples from other northern regions portray similar seasonal relationships between warm weather bird harvesting and cold weather mammal exploitation with resultant implications for the interpretation of lithic assemblages.

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