Archeology society hunts for treasures in N.L. attics, shoeboxes

The Newfoundland and Labrador Archeological Society is searching for artifacts unearthed by people around the province.

One family donates arrowheads found in Cape Freels

This collection of 17 arrowheads was found by Baxter and Bernice Andrews in the Cape Freels area. (Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeolgocial Society)

The Newfoundland and Labrador Archeological Society is searching for artifacts unearthed by people around the province, and it's already had one exciting donation from a family on the northeast coast.

The society has launched a project to find and record treasured items local people have found, then poked away in a closet or handed down from one generation to another.

John Campbell, a masters student of archaeology at Memorial University and one of the people working on the Community Collections Archaeological Research Project, said he believes there's lots of material out there.

"The amount of shoeboxes out there in the public, I think there's quite a number of them under beds somewhere," he said.

"Be it just a couple of pieces, three, even a singular piece that they found on a beach, to big collections that have been collected over time."

In terms of the kinds of items the society is looking for, Campbell said the field is wide open.

"Essentially anything that is connected to Newfoundland, really connected to place, what speaks about the place that we now reside in, who inhabited it before and who inhabits now."

Campbell says the idea is to use the pieces to help fill gaps in history and to enrich our understanding of the past and its people — particularly our history before European settlement.

"It's these pieces that these private collectors have that really will let us understand the past," he said.

The Cape Freels collection

Campbell has already documented a fascinating and rare collection of artifacts from Cape Island in Cape Freels, found by Baxter and Bernice Andrews.

An arrowhead from the Baxter Andrews Collection found in Cape Island. (Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society)

"[They] would take walks, morning walks, on the beach head at Cape Island and from 1953 when they moved to Lumsden 'til Baxter's passing, they collected all these points and it came out to be 17 different arrowheads," said Campbell.

"All the pieces were gems, real nice pieces."

The collection covers the era from the Maritime Archaic Indians, 8,000 years ago, right up to the Beothuks at the time of European settlement in the province.

"It's extremely rare to find quite an extensive timeline of peopling of a certain area within one collection, especially one with only 17 pieces," Campbell said.

What makes these artifacts so special is their own unique history, both ancient and modern, according to Campbell.

The people who made the artifacts hundreds, or even thousands, of years ago left their mark and their workmanship on the piece, but people of our own generation have also made their mark on them.

"I mean being found from 1953, being used to educate students over time. You could actually see sometimes the wear by just being handled by so many people," Campbell said.

Other collectors coming forward  
The 17 arrowheads in the Baxter Andrews Collection cover an extensive time line, from the era of the Maritime Archaic Indians up to the time of the Beothuks.

That's just one collection, but Campbell said there's more coming. During a public talk in New-Wes-Valley a man came in with an entire basket of artifacts.

"This gentleman coming up with a basket full of these artifacts was just astounding. Imagine if there was ten-fold of that — that's research for a student at the university so, it's amazing."

According to Campbell, there are two options for people who want to share their artifacts.

Their collections can be loaned to the archaeological society or to MUN students for analysis then returned to the owner, or the artifacts can be donated to the province.