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Glimpses of Atlantic Canada’s Past – Page 4

– Page 4 –

Summary and Conclusion

Wintemberg at Nova Scotia shell midden, (1913/1914)

In tracing the story of early peoples in the Maritimes, I have attempted to provide a brief glimpse of some archaeological highlights which illustrate the antiquity and diversity of Maritime peoples. Much of the archaeological record has been lost, to coastal submergence and the resulting erosion as well as to destructive human agencies. Nevertheless, the pattern which emerges illustrates the changing nature of cultural expression through time and space. People were generally mobile, seeking out the best nature had to offer.

Although the Maritimes is characterized by its own distinctive look, archaeologically speaking, it did not develop in isolation, even from its earliest roots 11,000 years ago. It is clear that there were extensive trade networks and considerable mobility of family groups seasonally, and over time. In some instances, such as the appearance of ‘mound builders’ across the Maritimes 2500 years ago, this may have involved actual migration of small populations over thousands of miles. Although the mention of mobility is often perceived as simply ‘wandering’, this was certainly not the case. People who depended on seasonal peaks and fluctuations, that is to say, seeking out the best nature had to offer, were by the very nature of this dependence, opportunistic and adaptable to changing conditions – their lives and their family’s lives depended on it.

Merigomish Harbour, Nova Scotia artifacts

The Atlantic coastal and Maritimes ecosystem, as it has gradually evolved during the post-glacial Holocene, has offered a wide range of terrestrial and marine resources, some available only at seasonal peaks, few others on a year-round basis. Perhaps not generally appreciated is the important part sea mammals played in the aboriginal diet, in particular various seal species and the now, exterpated walrus in Atlantic Canada. Changing adaptations over the past several centuries have tended to change our perception of resource-use patterns of the more distant past.


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