Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Pagan Point is located at the eastern end of the town of St. Andrews on the shore of Passamaquoddy Bay covering about one acre. It consists of a layer of shell, bone and other refuse more than a metre deep in some places. This deposit accumulated over the past two millennia as the aboriginal people who lived here discarded material to create this shell midden, the largest in the province.
Pagan Point is designated a Provincial Historic Site for its archeological findings which include a layer of shell, bone and other refuse more than a metre deep in some places. It retraces the life of ancient hunter-gatherer-fisher people of Passamaquoddy Bay.
Sea-level rise has eroded many of the once numerous shell midden sites along the shores of Passamaquoddy Bay and southward along the Maine coast. Discovered in 1961 by an archaeologist with the National Museum of Man, the vast shell midden at Pagan Point is still untouched owing to its orientation to the shore and setting on elevated ground. Test excavations in 1975 uncovered many artifacts as well as discarded shells and animal bones. Part of a winter dwelling was also found but reburied for future study.
The soft-shelled clam shells that dominate the midden neutralize acid in the soil, allowing for the preservation of bone and teeth that would otherwise be chemically eroded away after a few hundred years. Pendants made by drilling holes in wolf and bear canines, the cup from a cup-and-pin game made by drilling a hole in a moose hoof bone, and many beaver teeth were found. The beaver teeth were split, polished and set into bone or antler handles to make one-handed draw knives for shaping wood.
Excavations at this and similar sites in the region show that they were occupied year-round. Winter dwellings were made by hollowing out a shallow basin in the earth, about three metres in diameter, lining it with clean pea-gravel, then erecting a pole structure and covering it with birch bark and possibly hide. These semi-subterranean house pits are usually inshore from the coast, with the vast shell midden between them and the beach. They hold a wealth of information about life for these ancient hunter-gatherer-fisher people of Passamaquoddy Bay.
Source: Department of Wellness, Culture and Sport - Heritage Branch, Site File: Vol. IV-12765-1/41
The character-defining elements of Pagan Point relating to location and context of the site include:
- largest shell midden in the province;
- undisturbed site by erosion and looting.
The character-defining elements of Pagan Point relating to its richness and cultural implications include:
- excellent preservation of bone and plant remains awaiting future research into aboriginal cultural ecology;
- rare house-pits providing opportunity for intimate examination of aboriginal social life at this central location in the Passamaquoddy Bay area.
Province of New Brunswick
Historic Sites Protection Act, s. 2(1)
Historic Sites Protection Act – Historic
1961/01/01 to 1961/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
- Canada's Earliest Inhabitants
Function - Category and Type
- Nature Element
- Undetermined (archaeological site)
- Buried Site
- Food Supply
- Hunting or Resource Harvesting Site
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Department of Wellness, Culture and Sport - Heritage Branch, Site File: Vol. IV-12765-1/41
Cross-Reference to Collection