Research begins on 4,000-year-old site in Labrador

Josh Pennell
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Unique location has brought people together for millennia

The fiord to the right, known as North Arm, has been a gathering spot for different cultures for at least 4,000 years. Evidence of several cultures can often be found on top of the ground. — Submitted photo

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Stopp says it’s a great place for catching Arctic char, a variety of birds and sea mammals such as seals.

It’s also an ideal spot to begin a trek into interior Labrador where caribou could be hunted, the antler and skins of which were vital to many northern people.

Baikie says it’s also near the overland route that connects Ungava Bay with the Labrador Sea.

“These people would have been going back and forth and would have used this area as a gathering spot to meet up with old friends, to meet up with relatives, to carry out feasts and to just carry out hunting activities,” he says.

In addition to the tent rings, researchers have found burial sites and food caches.

While there have been people for millennia using the site, there’s no evidence of overlap of the various cultures.

Stopp says some researchers theorize there may be some overlap between some of the earliest people in the area, but the site has drawn the various people independently by the resources it offers.

“People come to the same places repeatedly to live. Where there is a community today, one can be confident we’ll find archeological evidence of past peoples,” she says.

Stopp sees North Arm of unique significance and value to visitors, as it allows them to see the remnants of past peoples in the setting that these former inhabitants would have experienced. She says it allows a visitor to understand something about a long-gone way of life — that of the hunter-fisher-gatherer peoples who adapted so well to these environments.

Stopp’s goals for the summer are to record the site properly and give the park the tools it needs to make decisions about keeping the impact of visits to a minimum while still allowing access to this location.

“There are many, many opportunities to understand the past at these places, by being there yourself, standing where Inuit, Paleo-Eskimos or Maritime Archaic Indians once stood — a somewhat more breathtaking experience than artifacts in museum cases offer, although these, too, have great value,” says Stopp.

There are 50 or more archeology sites in Torngat Mountains National Park. While North Arm is recorded as one site, it has 60 or more cultural features to it and may very well have more by the end of the summer.

Organizations: Parks Canada, Maritime-Archaic, Canadian Arctic

Geographic location: North Arm, Labrador, Torngat Mountains National Park Arctic Torngats Saglek Bay Northern Labrador Alaska Ungava Bay

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