Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. Peter G. Ramsden
Six prehistoric archaeological sites on the Bliss Islands are analyzed with the aim of developing an account of the prehistory and human ecology of the insular Quoddy region of southern New Brunswick, Canada. The Bliss islands sites are shown to conform to general patterns of chronology, site typology, location and, structure for prehistoric sites in the region and to be representative of the Quoddy region prehistoric site inventory. Thus, the Bliss Islands are treated as a microcosm of the insular Quoddy region.
The culture history of the islands is approached through a comparison of the two largest sites. Evidence from the Weir site, a large, deep, complexly but distinctly stratified, and undisturbed midden, is used to 'stratify' the contents of the Camp site, a shallow, but extensive shell midden disturbed by historic activity and natural pedogenic processes. The evidence suggests that, while both of these sites were occupied from the later part of the Early Maritime Woodland period through the early part of the Late Maritime Woodland period (ca. 2400bp--ca. 1100bp), they were functionally differentiated. Weir functioned mainly as a marine resource exploitation and processing site, while Camp functioned as a generalized habitation area. In addition to the Maritime Woodland components, the Camp site contains occupations dating to the protohistoric and historic periods (ca. 450bp--present). The four smaller sites on the Bliss Islands represent short term occupations relating to the Late Maritime Woodland and protohistoric occupations at Camp and Weir. The artifact assemblages recovered from the six sites indicate that significant changes in technology occurred in the Quoddy region during the Maritime Woodland period.
The prehistoric human ecology of the islands is investigated through two related phenomena: subsistence and seasonality. Subsistence practices are explored through niche width analysis of each of the analytical units defined, and through isotopic analyses of encrustations on ceramic sherds. Seasonality is explored through ethnohistoric and natural history information, and growth increment analyses of shellfish and mammal teeth. The evidence indicates that the Bliss Islands faunal assemblages represent a relatively specialized subsistence orientation, and that significant changes in substance and settlement patterns occurred in the Quoddy region during the Maritime Woodland period. The model of a relatively stable and generalized prehistoric adaptation to the Quoddy region, spanning the period from 2200bp to the historic period, is challenged; while this model may be accurate for the Late Maritime Woodland period, it does not reflect evidence from the Early and Middle Maritime Woodland periods.
From a methodological point-of-view, two conclusions are stressed. First, the information gained from undisturbed and intact sites is crucial in developing local and regional cultural history models. This study suggests that 'stratifying' the contents of disturbed Northeastern shell middens on the basis of 'imported' culture history models is, at best, potentially misleading. Second, the application of biological models, such as the niche width measurement used in this study, has the potential to substantially revise interpretations of Northeastern prehistoric human ecology. In the Bliss Islands case, this model substantiates the expectation, based on general ecological theory, that subsistence adaptations to highly productive and dynamic environments, such as that of the Quoddy region, will be relatively specialized rather than generalized.
Black, David W., "Living Close to the Ledge: Prehistory and Human Ecology of the Bliss Islands, Quoddy Region, New Brunswick, Canada" (1989). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1958.