Nova Scotia: the Protohistoric Period 1500-1630 (Curatorial Report #75)

Ruth Holmes Whitehead


Technically, the protohistoric period in the Maritimes could be said to have begun about 1000 A.D., with the venturing of Norse ships into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Evidence for their presence in this area, however, is as yet sparse: the recovery from the L'Anse aux Meadows Norse site in Newfoundland of several butternuts, and a butternut burl worked with metal tools.

Due to the scarcity of historical records for this period of Norse exploration,  protohistory in the Maritimes really can only be said to begin with the sixteenth century, after the voyages of John and Sebastian Cabot had informed the Old World of the vast fisheries to be exploited on the Grand Banks.  Knowledge of Native life takes a quantum leap with the opening of this era. For the first time since humans came into this continent, their actual words-rather than the mute speech of lithic fragments-are recoverable.

With the beginning of the sixteenth century, a whole range of ephemera-thoughts, songs, stories, ways of looking at the world--can be accessed. It is a tremendous turning point. The ethnographic sources now available, combined with the archaeological information, deepen exponentially knowledge of the area. With the arrival in the New World of the written word one can begin to put flesh on the bones of the archaeological evidence.


Please note: This resource is presented as originally published. The content of older reports may not reflect the current state of knowledge on the topic documented. Please be aware of this when using this resource.


Nova Scotia; Protohistoric Period 1500-1630; Antiquities; Indians of North America; Mi'kmaq Indians

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