Ceramic Period Adaptations in the Gulf of Maine: Maritime, Terrestrial, and Horticultural Inputs Faunal Analysis of an Armouchiquois Indian Village

Robert J. Lore

As of 2002, Degree of Master of Science (MS) Quaternary and Climate Studies published under the auspices of the Climate Change Institute.


The UNE site is a Ceramic Period shell midden located on the Saco River in Biddeford, Maine. Recent archaeological and historical investigations suggest it is the locale reported by Samuel De Champlain during his explorations of the Maine coast in 1605. Champlain attests to encountering a large settlement where horticulture was an active component of subsistence, and reports that the inhabitants were culturally more similar to populations to the south, than to the hunting and gathering populations to the north and east. The site falls near the northern boundary of where sustainable horticultural production was feasible, although the boundary of this mode of subsistence is not firmly established, nor is its effects on traditional subsistence strategies. The focus of this research is to demonstrate if the presence of horticultural production caused a deviation from the traditional hunting and gathering pattern. Analysis of faunal specimens collected during the 1999 field school by the Abbe Museum indicates the inhabitants had a strong marine component in their diet. Allometric scaling and seasonal data from cod otoliths points to the procurement of large individuals during the fall and early winter. These data suggest that the inhabitants acquired fish near the intertidal zone using weirs, nets, or hook and line fishing. In addition, the inhabitants procured a variety of terrestrial and avian resources as well. To test the importance of marine based subsistence, I compare the results of the UNE analysis to a site in the north where there is no evidence for horticultural production or access to cultigens. In addition, these results are compared to a site located to the south and outside of the Gulf of Maine where the inhabitants had access to horticulture and cultigens. The results of these analyses suggest that the presence of horticulture did not cause a significant change in subsistence strategies. The UNE site represents a small sample of sites from the Gulf of Maine where the inhabitants practiced horticulture. The natural boundary of this site, historical documentation of its locale, and well-preserved faunal remains make it well suited to study the adaptations of coastal populations. These results serve as a framework to generate new hypotheses about coastal subsistence in the Gulf of Maine. I use the data from this analysis to address three research questions: 1) Were the inhabitants of the UNE site adapted to marine based subsistence? 2) Does the presence of horticultural based subsistence cause a drop in the marine focus? 3) Does the presence of sites in the littoral indicate a maritime or littoral edge adaptation?