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The Augustine Mound: Ancestral Ties in New Brunswick

In 1972, two-term Chief, Joseph Augustine of the Metepenagiag (Red Bank) Mi'kmaq Nation took radical measures to halt the destruction of an ancient mound in Northumberland by a gravel operation. As a young boy, Joseph frequently visited the mound with his father, who told him stories of ancient ancestors dancing near the structure while the two shared tea.

The Augustine Mound during excavations.

The Augustine Mound during excavations. (Parks Canada)

Unlike the corporate destroyers, Joseph understood that tradition, rather than hurried surveys, was the best guide to the ancient past, and in order to preserve history, he decided to obtain evidence of the site’s archaeological significance himself.

Digging into the tumulus, Joseph retrieved stone and copper artifacts, as well as samples of textiles. These materials were presented to the Department of Anthropology of Saint Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and Dr. Chris Turnbull, the Provincial Archaeologist of New Brunswick. Thanks to Joseph Augustine’s efforts, a unique collaboration began in 1975, when people of the Mi'kmaq Nation worked alongside New Brunswick University students and archaeologists to excavate the mound. Among the team was Mr. Augustine and two of his children, Howard and Madeline.

Mi’kmaq Elder Joseph M. Augustine excavating at the site in 1975.

Mi’kmaq Elder Joseph M. Augustine excavating at the site in 1975. (Archaeological Services)

Excavations revealed that the mound contained primary and secondary burials of at least 13 individuals, including partly articulated and cremated remains. The 11 ft. (3.35 m.) in diameter tumulus was found to contain between 9 and 11 burial pits. Artifacts retrieved include: blocked-end tubular pipes, shell beads, shell pendants, stone gorgets, and thousands of rolled copper beads and other copper objects, as well as red ochre. Moreover, copper artifacts in the mound preserved portions of baskets, matting, and fabrics.

Copper adornment strips crimped onto organic material.

Copper adornment strips crimped onto organic material. (Tricia L. Jarratt)

The copper assemblage from the tumulus includes a projectile point 95.12 mm (3.74 inches) in length featuring bladed edges, a straight stem, and a flat base. The point was found still attached to a portion of the haft. The team also found a 1mm (0.04 inch) thick copper crescent. Twenty of the copper beads were cone shaped. A 50.4 mm (1.98 inch) long copper “rod” or awl (possibly a pin for a garment) was found in the primary tomb as well.

Radiocarbon dating placed the Augustine Mound to between 2950 +/- 75 BP and 2330 +/- 110 BP. Remarkably, the mound has been attributed to the Adena Culture, usually associated with the Ohio Valley and typically identified by the same diagnostic artifacts found at the Augustine site. The dating for the mound places it early in the conventional Adena timeline. In 1988, Chief Joseph Augustine was given the Provincial Minister’s Award for Heritage for his efforts to preserve ancient history, which also included the discovery of the Oxbow site near the Augustine Mound. He left the realm of mortals to join the great ancestors on January 14th, 1995.[1][2][3][4][5]

The basic sequence of projectile points found at the Oxbow site, New Brunswick.

The basic sequence of projectile points found at the Oxbow site, New Brunswick. (Patricia M. Allen)

[1] "Metepenagiag Mi'kmaq Nation - Wikipedia." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metepenagiag_Mi'kmaq_Nation. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.

[2] "New Brunswick's Oxbow Site and Augustine Mound (Designated ...." http://www.gnb.ca/0007/heritage/oxbow/archaeology2.html. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.

[3] "Augustine Mound | Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing - eBooks | Read ...." http://self.gutenberg.org/articles/eng/Augustine_Mound. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.

[4] "Thoughts About the Augustine Mound at Metepenagiag Mi'kmaq ...." 30 Jul. 2014, https://johnwood1946.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/thoughts-about-the-augustine-mound-at-metepenagiag-mikmaq-nation/. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.

[5] "Augustine Mound National Historic Site of Canada - HistoricPlaces.ca ...." http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=3998. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.