Augustine Mound

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Temporal Period(s) Early Maritime Woodland Period

Summary Details

Location: Near LOCATION (Approx. 46° 57' 21" N, 65° 49' 46" W)

Period: Early Maritime Woodland

Date Range: circa 1000 BCE to 300 BCE

Why Augustine Mound is Important for Archaeologists

The study of Augustine Mound has made several contributions to our understanding of North American Early Maritime Woodland archaeology. The findings from the site show that the inhabitants of the Eastern Maritimes, specifically the ancestors of Mi’kmaq were in some way socially connected with people as far west as the Ohio River Valley. The evidence for this connection is Augustine Mound itself, which appears to be part of the Adena Mound-Building phenomenon of the Early Maritime Woodland period of Metepenagiag. Excavation of the site also revealed many burials, which offers insight into mortuary practices associated with the people of the Eastern Maritimes in this period. The artifacts provide archaeologists with insight into native copper cultures in addition to other stone tool technologies.

How the Mound was Discovered

Augustine Mound was named after the person who discovered it: Joseph Mike Augustine. Joseph Augustine was leader of and historian for the Metepenagiag Mi'kmaq Nation, which is located in the province of New Brunswick. Augustine found after having read about Early Maritime Woodland burial mounds and having dug several pits into the mound in September 1972. The artifacts that he uncovered included 4 skeletons, 1000 copper beads, a slate gorget, stemmed projectile points, bifacial stone tools (axes and knives), and even well preserved fabric. Joseph Augustine reported the existence of the mound to National Museum of Man. Excavations began in the 1975 field season and were conducted by Provincial Archaeologist Christopher J. Turnbull (Augustine et al. 2006).

Construction of the Mound

Location and Size

Augustine Mound is located in New Brunswick, Canada near the confluence of the Northwest and Little Southwest Miramichi Rivers in the Metepenagiag area. It was originally built very close to the river’s banks have changed and the mound now lies on an elevated terrace of 15m. The mound itself is circular, 1m high, and 11.5m in diameter (Turnbull 1976).

Burial Methods and Construction of the Mound

The pits that make up the central burials of Augustine Mound were made at the same time because these graves are secondary burials, meaning that the bodies had been previously deposited at another location. Other graves were made around the periphery, presumably at a later time (Turnbull 1976). The first step in the mound’s construction involved clearing topsoil and leveling the area in preparation for the burial. Next, 11 graves were dug, each approximately 1m in length and 80cm deep. Then, animals and fish were burned, as indicated by finding their burned remains in the excavation. Dark sediments, including ashes and sand were then scattered in and around the grave. Then the bodies were placed in the graves in a flexed (a crouched position), given the short length of each pit. The mound was then filled with a mostly homogenous mixture of earth with some parts of the fill consisting of higher concentrations of gravel. A depression was left at the centre of the mound; whether or not this was intentional or accidental (possibly from re-entering the tomb) is unclear (Turnbull 1976).

Excavation Methods

The first project that involved digging and retrieval of artifacts from Augustine Mound was in September 1972, which was conducted by Joseph M. Augustine. The archaeological excavations conducted by Christopher Turnbull of at the site took place over two seasons of work, in 1975 and 1976. The first season of excavations involved separating the mound into quandrants, each square measuring 6m2 from a bird’s eye view. Actual excavation was conducted stratigraphically so the findings were catalogued spatially by their respective quadrants and temporally by their respective stratigraphic layers. Examination of the area just beyond the limits of the mound was the focus of research in the next season (Turnbull 1976).

Archaeological Finds from Augustine Mound

Finds and Artifacts from 1972

The findings from the work done by Joseph Augustine in 1972 clearly demonstrated that the mound was used for burials. His findings were 4 skeletons, 1000 copper beads, a slate gorget, stemmed projectile points, bifacial stone tools (axes and knives), and even well preserved fabric (Turnbull 1976).

Finds and Artifacts from 1975 and 1976

The excavations conducted by Dr. Turnbull were apparently difficult because of the heat and flies and a lack of wind. The finds were as diverse as those from 1972. Approximately 20 burial pits were found at the site and each contained a unique assemblage of artifacts. The following are the most significant burial features. This assemblage of at Augustine Mound most closely resembles the Adena complex, although it shares elements with Old Copper, Glacial Kame, Red Ochre, and Meadowood traditions (Turnbull 1986). It resembles Adena because of the mound itself, stemmed points, gorgets of slate and red ochre, animal-jaw gorgets, and the style of pottery (Rutherford 1990).

Human Remains

At least nine thirteen individuals were buried at Augustine Mound. The burials appear to have been secondary burials, meaning that these individuals were not buried at the mound immediately after their death. They may have been moved from another burial or it may reflect an Eastern Woodland tradition of transportation of ancestors when moving settlement. This is believed to be the case because some bones for some individuals are absent. They were buried ceremonially, as described in Construction and Burial Method. They were placed in flexed (crouched) positions. Only one of these individuals was cremated; the cremation may have taken place nearby (Turnbull 1976). It is unclear what position the people buried at the site held in life. Both men and women, old and young individuals (including an infant) were interred at Augustine Mound. Because of the wealth represented by copper and stone artifact deposit, some scholar believe that these people may have been members a leader’s family, which is supported by the presence of the infant. The degree of social inequality that the assemblage displays is consistent with practices of Adena burials that took place further West, supporting the idea that Augustine Mound is part of the Adena tradition (Turnbull 1976).

Stone Artifacts

There is a diverse set of stone tools from the 20 burial features. These include gorgets, chipped celts, ground celts, scapers, anvil-hammerstones, stemmed points, stemmed and unstemmed bifaces (knives and axes), leaf-shaped and triangular bifaces, adzes (cutting tool), and flakes (Turnbull 1976). The projectile points would have been used as spear points, since bow-and-arrow technology did not exist in North America until approximately 500 CE. The Gorgets were made of ground slate and red ochre. The majority of the stone tools were made of quartz and some were made of unspecified ‘exotic material.’ These points have helped to date the site to the Early Maritime Woodland period (Turnbull 1986), (Allen 1984). Imported items included stone tools and pipe-bowls. In the case of stone tools, they were determined to be imports because the specific stone from which they were made could not be found in this maritime region, such as certain types of flint, chert, or quartz from different deposits. Stone pipes were made of ground stone, the kind of which is also not available in the area. Furthermore, there is no evidence that tobacco was grown in the Northern Maritime area during the Early Maritime Woodland period (Turnbull 1976).

Copper Artifacts

Over 4000 copper artifacts were found at Augustine Mound. The copper was made into various shapes including rods, sheets, tubes, round beads, and cones. Some of the copper was deposited in the graves in large unworked nuggets of varying sizes (Turnbull 1976). Most of these artifacts were made of native copper strips, meaning they were made from unsmelted copper and were bent into sheets manually, as opposed to being casted in a mold. Most of the sheets were worked into strips, which were roughly less than half of one centimetre wide, two centimetres long, and one to two and half millimetres thick. These were then rolled into their desired shape. The way these were manufactured reflects a local process that is unique from other native copper users. It is different from other manufacturing techniques such as those used by inhabitants of other sites within the Adena tradition (Jarratt 2013). Many of the beads had a conical shape, which means that they were probably used as tinklers/jinglers. These kinds of pieces not only made clothes visually appealing but also audibly, drawing attention to the wearer. The vast majority of the copper artifacts at Augustine Mound were copper tubes (96%) (Jarratt 2013). Tubes and round beads were used strung on leather thongs to be used as jewelry as well as clothing ornamentation (Taylor & Taylor 2006). They could also be used as pipe stems. Rods had a different function: they were bent into hooks for fishing or pins for nose pins, cloak pins, and ear and tattoo piercers. Copper sheets could have been worked any kinds of artifacts above as well as projectile points and gorgets (Jarratt 2013).

Fabrics and Textiles

Several burials from Augustine Mound produced excellent examples of textiles/fabrics. They were well preserved because the copper beads that adorned the material kept the organic fibres from decaying. The fabrics that Dr. Turnbull excavated were made of a combination of animal and plant fibres. Some examples of clothing items that could be identified included headdresses adorned with copper beads and tubes. Conical tubes were also used to adorn clothing in addition to copper cloak pins (Taylor & Taylor 2006).

Pottery and Ceramic Artifacts

Ceramic remains were not common finds at Augustine Mound. The only pottery that was discovered during the excavation was sherds from a single vessel in a single burial pit. Pottery was not a common grave good in the Adena complex however, these pieces appear to have been mostly undecorated except for one of the vessel’s sherds with leaf-shaped impressions. Fireclay pipes were also found in some of the graves on the site. These, like the stone pipes may have incorporated copper elements in the bowl and stem. Vinette 1 pottery, which is a typical pottery type from the Early Woodland period of the Adena tradition, was not found at this site suggesting that pottery technology arrived as a separate phenomenon from mound burial rituals (Turnbull 1976, Heckenberger et al. 1990).

Bone, Antler, Shell, and Other Animal Remains

Animal bones are not a common feature in the burials on the site. Animals remains from Augustine Mound include jaw bone fragments for a gorget, bone tools, shell pendants, and beaver-tooth tools. Leather and hairs from some animals were incorporated into clothing items. Rawhide was also used as handles for stone tools. Burned mammal and fish remains were found on the site: a result of the burial ritual (Turnbull 1976).

Remains from Plant Materials

Plant materials, like at most archaeological sites, were not common at Augustine Mound in archaeological contexts. The main context in which plant materials are found are in textile production, for clothing and headdresses. In one burial, birch bark was used to contain the teeth of human infant. Carbonized and burned plant support the idea of burning sacrificial items prior to burial, since wood and other plants may have been used as fuel or incense. Other organic materials may have been used, but they do not preserve as well as other materials and therefore do not appear on the site (Turnbull 1976)).

Radio Carbon Dates

Six samples were used to retrieve radio carbon dates for Augustine Mound. Uncalibrated, the results indicate that the mound dates to 2330 +/- 110 BP (Turnbull 1976). Turnbull suggest that these dates are too early (perhaps because they are uncalibrated) and that a date for the use of Augustine Mound that is more accurate, based on the archaeological assemblage is 3000 to 2600 BP. One of the radio carbon samples dates to approximately 2950 BP uncalibrated, fitting well with his ideas. However based on the data available to him, Turnbull indicates that the events of the first and last burial may have been separated by 300 to 700 years (Allen 1980).

Augustine Mound as Part of a Bigger Picture

Connection to the Oxbow Site

Archaeologist Patrica Allen, a former graduate student that was under the supervision of Dr. Turnbull, conducted excavations on the Oxbow Site, which was found less than 1km away from Augustine Mound. The site was used as spring-summer fishing camp to gather fish resources (Atlantic Salmon and Atlantic Sturgeon). If the date of 3000 to 2600 BP that Turnbull gives Augustine Mound, it is contemporary to the radio carbon dates for the Oxbow Site, which roughly date to 2560 +/- 120 BP uncalibrated (Allen 1980). Similar types of pottery were found at both sites in addition to similar stone tools. Since the two sites appear to be contemporary, it is probable that Augustine Mound served as a burial site for the inhabitants of the Oxbow Site (Allen 1984). As discussed above, the role that those buried at Augustine Mound had at the Oxbow Site is not very clear, although the burials appear to reflect a certain degree of social inequality.

The Adena Burial Complex and Augustine Mound

The Adena Burial Complex originated in Ohio, with the Adena Mound acting as the type site. Adena is not a culture, but a practice in which different cultures and groups engaged with to varying degrees. The people who took part in the burial rituals (the deceased and the living) at Augustine Mound are believed by most scholars to have been active participants in this burial complex. One of the biggest questions that Augustine Mound has posed scholars is “how did the Adena complex reach New Brunswick: was it migration or was it a spread of ideas through trade?” Some scholars like James A. Tuck believe it that it was through migration and that people were moving East to get away from agricultural practices that were beginning to appear along the Ohio River Valley, bringing their burial practices with them to the Atlantic Maritimes (Tuck 1984). Other scholars support the idea that the movement of the these ideas occurred through trading and interaction along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence and that some local inhabitants engaged in these practices at their own discretion (Rutherford 1990). The degree of engagement in these practices varied even within communities, for example only some families or individuals of a single group were buried in the Adena style. The nature of the movement of the Adena Burial Complex is still debated amongst scholars today, although the hypothesis of migration appears less likely to be the case. It is more likely, since the pottery types are different, that the Adena Burial complex reflects a spread of ideas that some groups participated in to varying degrees.

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