An archeological dig on an island in the middle of Newfoundland's Exploits River is shedding light on how the Beothuk people cooked, lived and socialized.

A team of researchers have spent the last six years unearthing what is thought to be a communal fireplace once used by the Beothuk, in a location that is being described as a "last bastion"  before they became extinct.

"So you might've had a communal activity [here]," said archeologist Laurie McLean.

"A group of people, a number of families sharing a meal, having an annual get-together, something like that — a ceremonial feast," he added.

It is thought the hearth may have originally been anywhere from 12 to 15 metres long. 


This scorched rock is one thought to be part of a Beothuk fireplace that could have been as large as 15 metres. (CBC)

Today all that remains are some scorched rocks of what was once a focal point for the Beothuk.

The dig is helping to shed some light on hundreds of years of human history.

McLean and his team hope to fully excavate what is left of the hearth by the end of 2014 —the first one of its kind ever dug up along the Exploits River.

More than some old fireplace shedding light

It is thought that at least seven Beothuk homes once stood in the surrounding area, in addition to the discovery of mounds of caribou bones nearby.

"We know there was a substantial Beothuk occupation here," said McLean. 


Archeologist Laurie McLean uses a bucket and dust pan to remove earth from the research site on an island in Newfoundland's Exploits River. (CBC)

"But we don't know the details of it, so this [dig] will give us the chance for hopefully some insights into [their] hunting and cooking patterns," he said.

Don Pelley is a dig assistant on the job.

He said with much more human history still to discover, he and his team are hoping they can return to the site to continue their digging.

"This was the sort of a last bastion of the Beothuks before they became extinct," Pelley said.

"We're sort of trying to redefine everything and reinvent everything, and try to provide a better picture of how it was when the Beothuks were here, especially pre-contact, before the Europeans came," he said.