History buffs will dig a northern vacation to the Blanc-Sablon archaeological sites

The Blanc-Sablon National Historic Site, with 8,000 years of near-continuous human history, is a rich source of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artifacts, says the lead archeologist.

Amateur archeologists can help search for artifacts at the national historic site this summer

A participant at a Blanc-Sablon dig holds an uncovered artifact. (Submitted by Archéo-Mamu Côte-Nord)

Amateur archeologists can get their hands dirty and join in a dig in Blanc-Sablon this coming July.

The non-profit Archéo-Mamu Côte-Nord is working in Blanc-Sablon, a national historic site on the Lower North Shore — between Côte-Nord-du-Golfe-du-Saint-Laurent, Quebec and L'Anse-au-Clair, Labrador — where humans have lived almost continuously for millennia.

"It's very rich," said François Guindon, head of Archéo-Mamu and its lead archeologist at Blanc-Sablon. 

"We call it a national historic site, but it's actually more than the one site. It's over 60 archeological sites that are known to date."

Participants dig at an archeological site at Blanc-Sablon. (Submitted by Archéo-Mamu Côte-Nord)

The organization, which partners with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups, is uncovering artifacts from 8,000 years of human history in the area, which includes Innu and Inuit ancestors, Beothuks and Europeans.

Over a three-week period in the summer, there were more than 30,000 artifacts collected from one place in the area, Guindon told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning Show.

'There's been very little investigation'

The research being done through Archéo-Mamu aims to fill in knowledge gaps about the early contact between Indigenous peoples living in Blanc-Sablon and the first arrivals of Europeans, who initially came to the area to fish and hunt sea mammals, particularly whales.

"The contact between the two groups, the Europeans and the Aboriginals, there's been very little investigation," Guindon said.

"Right now what we're trying to focus on with our project, Archeological Adventure in Blanc-Sablon, is really the first encounters and the history of ongoing interactions between these two groups in the area."

In July, non-professionals can go to Blanc-Sablon to participate in digs. (Submitted by Archéo-Mamu Côte-Nord)

Part of that involves bringing both Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants together to work side by side to learn about and appreciate each other's history, and work to their strengths to unlock the archeological heritage of the area.

"Archeology has been conducted for decades by professional archeologists in the North Shore," said Guindon.

"Professional archeologists who are in the vast majority non-Aboriginal, who investigate the history and construct versions of Aboriginal history that is not necessarily felt as representative or respectful of the Innu ancestors by the Innu people nowadays, or other Aboriginal people," he said. 

Visit for half a day, or stay an entire week

Soon amateur archeologists can get in on the action.

In July, non-professionals can go to Blanc-Sablon — for as little as a half-day or as long as a week — to participate in digs that aim to find evidence of early contact between Europeans and the Aboriginals already established in the area.

Over a three-week period in the summer, there were more than 30,000 artifacts collected from one place in the area. (Submitted by Archéo-Mamu Côte-Nord)

Visitors will be supported by a group of lead archeologists, including Guindon. There will be an element of field training as well, so the experience may be of interest to those who want to work in the field, as well as tourists and community members, Guindon said.

"People are really well treated, really good food, and on top of that they get to experience the beautiful area of Blanc-Sablon, the national historic site, and make a few discoveries."