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A History of the Native People of Canada
Volume I (10,000 to 1,000 B.C.)

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 (Laurentian Archaic) (Plumet et al. 1993; Wright 1994).

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.

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