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PLACES MENU GASPÉ PENINSULA EASTERN TOWNSHIPS ABITIBI-TEMISCAMING NUNAVIK QUEBEC CITY REGION (CAP-TOURMENTE AREA) NORTH SHORE LOWER ST.LAWRENCE MONTÉRÉGIE OTTAWA VALLEY INTRODUCTION SAGUENAY-LAKE-SAINT-JEAN
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Gaspé Peninsula

LANDSCAPE

«On a foggy spring day, a young hunter decides to explore the territory around his encampment. As he climbs up a mountainside, he comes across an outcropping of beautifully colored stone. Immediately attracted by the texture of this stone, he recalls what he knows about recognizing material suitable for tool flaking, knowledge passed down from father to son for generations.

He takes a hammerstone in his hand and with a single blow extracts a piece of stone that will make an ideal core from which tools can be flaked.»

ONE OF THE OLDEST SITES

After the glaciers began to melt 13 000 years ago, groups of Paleoindians began to spread out throughout North America. They gradually established themselves in the northeast corner of the continent.

 

FOREST
 

It is assumed that the first people to arrive in the Gaspé Peninsula originated in the western Prairies, crossing the Ottawa Valley or following the St. Lawrence River. Later, other groups travelled along the Atlantic coast and reached the Strait of Belle Isle.

The village of La Martre, which sits on either side of the river bearing the same name, has the privilege of being an ideal place for studying some of the oldest sites of human occupation in Quebec.

ALERT HUNTERS

Eight thousand years ago, the Gaspé Peninsula was a cold, desert territory. The tundra environment was probably home to herds of caribou that the hunters could spy from far away. Although bone remains have not been found on the sites, it has been possible to analyse microscopic blood residues left on the cutting edges of certain implements discovered by archaeologists and thus learn about the diversity of the wildlife hunted at the time.

 

HUNTER
ALERT HUNTER

The initial results of this analysis support the hypothesis that the Paleoindians hunted a variety of animal species, including caribou, perhaps black bear, hare, at least one species of rodent (lemming) and possibly certain marine mammals (seal and walrus). In addition to hunting and trapping, salmon fishing was also probably a source of food.

EXPERT TOOL MAKERS

Paleoindians developed unparalleled skill in the art of flaking stone. No subsequent prehistoric group fashioned tools with such dexterity.

 

STONE FLAKING DEMONSTRATED BY MICHEL CADIEUX, ARCHÉOFACT INC.
STONE FLAKING
DEMONSTRATED BY MICHEL CADIEUX, ARCHÉOFACT INC.

It seems likely that the people who travelled through the region made use of its chert quarries. Chert is a type of stone that is ideal for making tools and weapons. Archaeological work has uncovered several thousand blank flakes and hundreds of tools, including points with parallel retouches, hand drills, side-scrapers and lanceolate biface knives.

CHERT QUARRIES

The most abundant raw material on Paleoindian sites in this region is radiolarian chert, a mineral formed during the Ordovician period, 450 million years ago. The color of this local chert may be black, beige, grey or green. Like flint, it is a siliceous stone that lends itself to tool making.

 

CHERT BLOCK (DETAIL)
CHERT BLOCK (DETAIL)

In the summer of 1998, archaeologists discovered a site on a mountainside close to La Martre. The site contained an enormous quantity of blade detachment debris, among which lay a projectile point with the narrow, regular parallel flaking characteristic of the tradition that archaeologists designate as Plano. This is the name given to a culture whose earliest traces have been found on the western plains.

 

REGION'S PROFILE

PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGION:
The Appalachians

The Appalachians consist of an immense chain of mountains stretching from the America southeast (Alabama) to Newfoundland. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the same formation extends from Ireland to northern Norway. In Canada, the chain thus goes through the Eastern Townships, the Lower St. Lawrence, the Gaspé Peninsula and the Atlantic provinces.

In North America, the Appalachians began to rise 500 million years ago, when a zone of water-eroded debris from the Canadian Shield was pushed upwards. With the resulting folding and faulting, magma intruded and sedimentary layers turned into metamorphic rock.

Mont Jacques-Cartier (1 268 m), in the heart of the Gaspé Peninsula, is the highest Appalachian summit in Quebec.

PLANT COVER:
Boreal forest (mainly coniferous trees)

Mixed forest (coniferous and deciduous trees) on the north and south shores of the peninsula

PRESENT CLIMATE:
Humid continental

Mean annual temperature between 0.8 and 4.7°C

Warm summers, mean temperature for the three warmest months between 13.6°C and 15.7°C

Cold winters, mean temperature for the three coldest months between –11.6°C and –9.7°C

Length of average growing season between 143 and 182 days

 

RESEARCH

The first archaeological discoveries were made here in the 1960s, thanks to Father Roland Provost, then the parish priest at the village of La Martre.

In 1969, an archaeological excavation undertaken by the Société d'archéologie préhistorique du Québec led to the discovery of the first parallel-flaked point. José Benmouyal conducted archaeological work throughout the Gaspé Peninsula between 1972 and 1980. In 1995, the Corporation du Centre d'interprétation archéologique de la Gaspésie entrusted the Ethnoscope inc. company with a project to research and develop the region's archaeological heritage (1995-1996). Subsequently (1997-1999), Éric Chalifour and his team from the anthropology department of the Université de Montréal undertook three seasons of digging at eight Late Paleoindian sites (between 8 000 and 10 000 years ago).

To date, nearly 25 archaeological sites have been found around La Martre alone; at least 12 of them are associated with Late Paleoindian occupations.

© Exhibit Center, Université de Montréal 2006. All rights reserved. Questions/comments?

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