L’Anse aux Meadows Faunal Analysis

October 5, 1977

Birgitta Wallace, Archaeologist
Research Division (Archaeology)
National Historic Parks and Sites Branch
Parks Canada
1600 Liverpool Court
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H4

Dear Birgitta:

I had promised you some concluding remarks about the L'Anse aux Meadows faunal remains to supplement my report of March 29, 1977.

Because the bone remains are extremely scarce and poorly-preserved they have yielded little information concerning animal utilization at the site. Additionally, the compressed stratigraphy as well as other problems made it difficult for you to unequivocally assign bones to the Norse component, thus further reducing the value of any bone analysis. Despite these drawbacks, I do have a few comments about the faunal material. Please refer to my report for further discussion.

A number of fragments could be identified as sea mammal, a category which includes whales, seals and walrus. Remains of large vertebrae (4A21K1-4, 4A600A1-307) indicate the presence of whales while a toe bone (4A600Al-20a) represents the seal category. The only definite land mammal specimen is 4A76K2-17, a fragmentary toe bone possibly from a bear. You assigned a late Archaic provenience to this specimen. At a Norse site one might expect traces of domestic mammals as well as other land mammals such as caribou and furbearers, but none were found at the site (however, pig bones were identified among material excavated by the Ingstads and now lost). The few bird bones in the collection are associated with the Archaic occupation adjacent to the Norse ruins. Six bones submitted to me are worked and many others are charred or calcined.

Only 14 specimens were identifiable beyond the most general categories, and of these, only a seal toe bona relates to the Horse occupation according to your provenience designations (other 'Norse' bones were either unidentifiable or put in the sea mammal category). […] Another toe fragment (4A600Al-20a) is one of the best-preserved bones from the site and is referred to the seal genus Phoca. It would be unwise to attempt a specific identification since three members of the genus are found in the region […]

Since many L'Anse aux Meadows bones are burned and six are worked there is no doubt that these were utilized by one or another of the human groups […] some sea mammal fragments could be from beached individuals whose bones were scattered naturally at a time when no humans were in the area.

This letter, together with my report and the analysis of seven confusing fragments made by Mary-Lou Florian of the Canadian Conservation Institute, concludes the L'Anse aux Meadows bone study. If you have any questions I will be happy to answer them. Your copies of the park mammal and bird studies are being returned to you under separate cover.

Anne M. Rick, Head
Zooarchaeological Identification Centre
National Museum of Natural Sciences Ottawa

Source: National Museum of Natural Sciences, , , Anne Rick, "L'Anse aux Meadows Faunal Analysis," October 5, 1977.

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