"Beothuk Indians (?-A.D. 1829)"

The Beothuk Indians of Newfoundland were the first native people of North America to be seen by European explorers. They are mentioned in the accounts of French and English explorers and colonists of the sixteenth century, and there is a good chance that they were the Skraelings mentioned in the Norse Sagas dating from around A.D. 1000. We cannot say with any degree of certainty who the ancestors of the Beothuks were. Studies by linguists tell us that the few surviving Beothuk vocabularies, written down in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, show relations to the Algonkian language family that includes both the Micmac of the Maritime Provinces and the Naskapi of the Labrador Peninsula. The Beothuks could, therefore, be historically related to either group.

The physical anthropology of the Beothuks is even less well known than their linguistic relations. Dozens of burials have been removed from caves or rock shelters, but none has been professionally excavated. Most have been looted, and are completely unreported. The bodies seem to have been wrapped in a bark shroud, covered with red ochre, and provided with tools, weapons, and ornaments. The skeletons indicate a people of Indian physical type, in some ways not unlike their Maritime Archaic predecessors, but apparently of a greater stature than most New World peoples.

[…] samples of Naskapi, Micmac and other Beothuk skeletons are far too small to admit any comparisons.

Source: James A. Tuck, "Beothuk Indians (?-A.D. 1829)" in Newfoundland and Labrador Prehistory, (Ottawa: National Museum of Man, 1976), 62-64.

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