Early Maritime Culture (Précis, Chapter 5)
Early Maritime culture developed out
of the Eastern Early Archaic complex in the maritime regions of the
Gulf of St. Lawrence and probably the Maritime provinces around
6,000 B.C. Coastal submergence has destroyed the archaeological
evidence along the coasts of the Maritime provinces while the rising
coast of the northshore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence has elevated the
earliest sites on the highest ancient beachlines above the present
sea level. Early Maritime culture developed into the Middle Maritime
culture of Period III (4,000 to 1,000 B.C.). Prior to 4,000 B.C.,
Early Maritime people spread north to the central Labrador coast and
there is tentative evidence that they also penetrated up the St.
Lawrence River as far as Ontario. The sites along the Upper St.
Lawrence River, however, are characterized by mixed cultural
deposits that include contemporary Early Great Lakes-St. Lawrence
culture materials. As both cultures shared certain elements of
technology it has been difficult to isolate one from the other.
There is currently a difference of opinion of whether the Period II
materials near the embouchure of the Saguenay River into the St.
Lawrence and immediately upriver represent Early Maritime culture
(Maritime Archaic) or Early Great Lakes-St. Lawrence culture
(Plumet et al. 1993;
Early Maritime culture people were capable maritime hunters who also
exploited land resources such as caribou. A chronology based upon
elevated marine strandlines and radiocarbon dates has outlined a local
sequence of development characterized by changing projectile point
styles and other artifact categories. The occurrence of ground stone
axes, gouges, lances, projectile points, and knives, is suggestive
of southern influences. A significant addition to the weapon system
is the earliest evidence in the Western Hemisphere of the toggling
harpoon. Settlement pattern distributions indicate that Early Maritime
culture societies were composed of small family groups who coalesced
into bands during the portion of the yearly rounds spent on the coast.
Marriages were likely contracted with neighbouring bands resulting in
a broad social network of blood related families. One of the most
striking features of Early Maritime culture is the construction of
complex burial mounds. Such mounds represent the earliest evidence in
Canada to date of monumental construction. It is suspected that the
special need for cooperation among maritime hunters may have led to
some degree of ranking although the ranking was likely personal
rather than hereditary as well as being temporary. The possibility
of some form of social ranking in the society is also inferred from
the organization and cooperation required by mound construction.