A Long-Awaited Synthesis: The Far Northeast
The Far Northeast: 3000 BP to Contact is a long-awaited synthesis representing decades of research in the field of Archaeology across the North Atlantic region of Canada and the United States. It could not have been a better choice as we marked the 50th anniversary of the Mercury Series in 2022. The editors, Kenneth R. Holyoke and M. Gabriel Hrynick, are stellar examples of this dynamic discipline. The 39 contributors were equally enthusiastic to be part of this important edited volume, attesting to the steadfast interest in the Museum monograph series.
“As many of us archaeologists know, we have career goals . . . that we want to check off our bucket list and, typically, this includes things like excavating at a site with an important time period or culture, visiting famous sites . . . and publishing in certain journals or venues like the Mercury Series.” Donald Holly (Professor, Eastern Illinois University)
The book covers not only a wide geographic area of research, but also diverse categories of focus representing the multidisciplinary field of Archaeology. This 600-page volume aims to become a reference in its field.
“There is a real diversity of material in here. There is everything from typology and cultural history, to some methodology, some theory and even issues of policy as well. The geographic extent is quite large, so we are going from Chouacoit (Biddeford-Saco, Maine) to Kamarsuk (Labrador), and from Ndakina (W8banaki Territory) to Unama’ki (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia).” Adrian Burke (Professor, Université de Montréal)
“. . . the volume boasts 17 chapters crafted by some of the region’s top researchers. Their work engages a fascinating regional record of cultural diversity, at times through questions that go beyond the Far Northeast and thus of interest to readers, like me, who work elsewhere on the planet . . . There is much in this book to fulﬁll the desire to narrate the ancient past in humanistic terms.” Kenneth E. Sassaman (Northeast Anthropology 90 [Fall 2022]: 89)
This project came out of a gathering held in 2019, and the book, which required a herculean collaboration, covers around 3,500 years of Indigenous history.
“The book is largely based on a two-day marathon session we organized at the 2019 Canadian Archaeological Association meeting in Québec City, and it was sponsored by the Grand Conseil de la Nation Waban-Aki.” Kenneth R. Holyoke (Assistant Professor, University of Lethbridge)
Indigenous voices are included as contributors and supporters of this project. The northeastern Indigenous communities were at the forefront of contact with Europeans. The book begins with a text by the illustrator of the beautiful book cover, Wolastoqey artist Austin Paul.
“Even after generations of external influences, the Wolastoqey retain their cultural identity and are proud of who they are: people of the beautiful and bountiful river.” Austin Paul
“It is our hope that this volume has in a modest way helped to emphasize the persistence and continuity of Indigenous people in the Far Northeast, some of whom were the ancestors of the men depicted on the cover.” M. Gabriel Hrynick (Associate Professor, University of New Brunswick)
Specialized or non-specialized readers will find interest in the way the book illustrates the evolution of archaeological research in Canada. It is a good example of how this discipline is evolving and also, how it is changing the perspective on the long history of unceded land through the study of material culture. Integrating Indigenous knowledge and way of knowing sheds new light on archaeological objects and promises to transform how we perceive the land we are living on.
“Most importantly, the narratives that are emerging now are significantly shaped by the inside, by Indigenous people . . . The production of this volume . . . finally allows us to consider the Far Northeast in its own terms . . . A volume like this not only is a reflection of what we currently know but it will serve in the years ahead as a stimulus for new ideas, new research programs and for the opening up of multiple ways of knowing the past.” Susan Blair (Professor, University of New Brunswick)
Pierre M. Desrosiers is Editor of the Mercury Series and Curator of Central Archaeology at the Canadian Museum of History.