Cou­ple makes rare find

Ar­ti­facts found on Changes Is­lands could date back up to 2,000 years


CHANGE IS­LANDS — Wait­ing at the ferry ter­mi­nal on Change Is­lands this past Septem­ber, a cou­ple de­cides to stretch their legs by tak­ing a stroll down to the beach. What hap­pened next is a story they will be telling for many years to come.

Neil White and his com­mon-law part­ner Mar­ion Adams walked to an area just off the paved park­ing lot. It was there that White no­ticed an un­usual ob­ject pro­trud­ing from the ground about four inches. It was a bluish tone stone with a dis­tinc­tive tip.

“It stuck out so that I knew it wasn’t nat­u­ral,” White said. “I had seen pro­grams on TV about flint knap­ping and I be­lieved that what I saw had been flint knapped.”

Flint knap­ping is the process of shap­ing stone into an im­ple­ment such as a knife or ar­row­head.

“It had very dis­tinc­tive ridges,” White ex­plained. “ It was man­made, but it looked very prim­i­tive.”

White knew ex­actly what it was the mo­ment he picked up the ob­ject, and was sure its ori­gins were from an Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture.

He said it felt like steel grat­ing on steel. What he felt was the ar­ti­fact grind­ing against an­other one. Not want­ing to draw too much at­ten­tion to the area from other peo­ple wait­ing to board the ferry, the four in­di­vid­u­als even­tu­ally boarded the ves­sel and went about the ap­point­ments they had that day.

All the while they were ea­ger to get back to Change Is­lands and de­ter­mine just what they were deal­ing with.


They re­turned later that day with a cam­era to doc­u­ment their find. White and his fa­ther, Bert White, re­moved 30 items sim­i­lar to what had first emerged from the soil. They were “ like a deck of cards on its edge,” White ex­plained.

They made the de­ci­sion to re­move the items from the site be­cause it was so ex­posed. They also feared other peo­ple might come along and take the items.

“All I could think was ‘ wow.’ I couldn’t de­scribe it. Like I told my brothers, I will never look at a rock the same again.”

“I was think­ing about the per­son who put so much work into this,” Adams said. “ Was it a young boy or an old man? What was go­ing through their mind? How long were they here? Are they the an­ces­tors of some of the peo­ple on this is­land? Ev­ery­thing went through my mind.”

Over­whelm­ing feel­ing

While they still didn’t know what they had, they were de­ter­mined to find out. They made the dis­cov­ery on Sept. 13 and af­ter mak­ing in­quiries about what to do with their find, within days they made their way to the Beothuk In­ter­pre­ta­tion Cen­tre in Boyd’s Cove.

It’s here where site su­per­vi­sor Karen Le­Drew-Day first saw the ar­ti­facts. She took the cou­ple to a se­cured area and pro­ceeded to look at the pre­cious items care­fully wrapped up in the box.

“My first re­sponse look­ing at the ar­ti­facts was magnificent, re­mark­able,” said LeDrewDay. “It was an over­whelm­ing feel­ing to hold these ar­ti­facts and to know they had been found.”

She im­me­di­ately con­tacted ar­chae­ol­o­gist Ken Reynolds from the pro­vin­cial ar­chae­ol­ogy of­fice with the Depart­ment of Tourism, Cul­ture and Re­cre­ation. Later that month, Reynolds went to Change Is­lands to in­ves­ti­gate the site.

What the cou­ple had dis­cov­ered was a “spec­tac­u­lar cache of 30 rhy­o­lite bi­faces.” In gen­eral, bi­faces are two-sided tools worked on both sides by a flint knap­per into knives, spear points, ar­row­heads, etc. It is not known yet what the bi­faces on Change Is­lands were used for. It is thought, though, that one per­son likely shaped the stones, be­cause they are styled sim­i­larly.

The visit from Reynolds re­sulted in the dis­cov­ery of an­other com­plete bi­face, as well as a tip and base that has been dis­lodged from pieces re­cov­ered ear­lier. A fur­ther search of the gravel apron of the park­ing lot led to the dis­cov­ery of two more ar­ti­facts — a base and a tip with paint. This brought the to­tal in the col­lec­tion to 32.

Gather­ing in­for­ma­tion

In­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the prov­ince in­di­cates that

It’s not known which Abo­rig­i­nal group is re­spon­si­ble for the col­lec­tion, but in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the prov­ince in­di­cates it could have been re­cent In­dian, and and date from 1,000 to 2,000 years ago. Fur­ther re­search is be­ing done, and car­bon dat­ing is im­pos­si­ble be­cause no wood or other or­ganic ma­te­rial was re­cov­ered.

A small sam­ple from the cache is be­ing sub­jected to non-de­struc­tive test­ing to try and de­ter­mine the source of the rhy­o­lite. As for how they were found like a “deck of cards on edge,” it seems to in­di­cate that the ar­ti­facts had been placed in some type of or­ganic con­tainer such as birch bark or an­i­mal skin that had dis­in­te­grated in the acidic soil.

White said the ar­ti­facts were at least a cou­ple of feet un­der­ground. They were likely ex­posed by a back­hoe that had dug a trench for run-off from the park­ing lot. The paint on the tip found by Adams was from the paint­ing that had been done on the park­ing lot.

Rare find

Pro­vin­cial of­fi­cials have la­belled it a rare find, since it is only the sec­ond such dis­cov­ery on the is­land. The other was Port au Choix. Sim­i­lar dis­cov­er­ies have been un­earthed in Labrador.

Reynolds in­tends to visit the site again very soon, and will work with col­leagues from his of­fice and Me­mo­rial Univer­sity to an­a­lyze the ar­ti­facts. They will be mak­ing com­par­isons with other caches found in Labrador.

Once the cache has been thor­oughly an­a­lyzed, it will be stored at The Rooms. The cache could pos­si­bly be ex­hib­ited at a se­cured site, such as the Beothuk In­ter­pre­ta­tion Cen­tre.

Le­Drew-Day com­mended the cou­ple for the ac­tions they took and for “ what they have given to this prov­ince.”

Cul­ture Min­is­ter Terry French noted, “ They did ev­ery­thing right by call­ing us. We thank them for their con­tri­bu­tion. The cache is sig­nif­i­cant and will help us gain knowl­edge about the Abo­rig­i­nal in­hab­i­tants of New­found­land and Labrador.

French en­cour­ages any­one who finds some­thing of this na­ture to leave the ar­ti­facts where they find them and call the pro­vin­cial ar­chae­ol­ogy of­fice at 729-2462.

Pic­tured is the cache of bi­faces that was dis­cov­ered on Change Is­lands last fall.

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