Friday, September 3, 2010

A Newfoundland Shark Tooth Effigy?

North Cove Biface
This post is a follow-up to Monday's look at whale effigies from Newfoundland archaeological contexts.  Remember the odd triangular biface from North Cove?  The one that looks like a killer whale or perhaps a whale tail?  Matt Betts (whose name you'll recall from Wednesday's VZAP post) sent this intriguing suggestion:

"I had a thought about that worked stone artifact from North Cove you posted recently. I believe it could potentially be a shark tooth effigy. I’ve been working on a paper about shark teeth in burial contexts with colleagues at UNB, and we’ve discovered that they are much more common in the Atlantic Provinces than previously understood. Great white and mako shark teeth have been recovered from the Maritime Archaic burials at Cow Point in New Brunswick, and there are even shark teeth (salmon shark) in the assemblage from Port aux Choix. Later, extant and fossil shark teeth occur in burials throughout the northeast. They are most common in the Early and Middle Woodland periods, ca. 3000-1500 BP, though we have just recently found evidence of them being used as pendants as late as 1000 BP. Some of the fossil shark teeth are sometimes modified by chipping around their exterior.

Mako Shark Tooth
Here’s a picture of a very large extant mako shark tooth. The shape (and colour) is very similar to the artifact you describe. 
I’m not really married to the concept of it being a shark effigy, but it’s a possibility. Either way, shark or whale, it doesn’t real matter. Both are apex marine predators, and they probably would have played similar roles in local ideational systems."

Non-Archaeological Recent Indian Shark Effigy
Sharks are at least as common in Newfoundland's waters as Killer Whales.  In fact, just last week, a mako shark made the news here in the Province, when someone hacked it up and butchered it near the shore.

I forwarded Matt's information on to Steve Hull (who found the North Cove artifact) and he is intrigued by the resemblance as well.  It looks like there are at least 3 equally plausible competing theories for the artifact that all fit the data and are consistent with the cultures in the region; 
  1. Killer whale effigy
  2. Whale tail emblem
  3. Shark tooth effigy
Do you have a fourth theory?

Photo Credits:
1: Steve Hull
3: Tim Rast
4: Composite by Tim Rast 

1 comment:

  1. i live in maine and found some things very similar to the stuff from port au choix i have a whale effigy on arrowheads .com


Related Posts with Thumbnails