Debert Palaeo-Indian Site National Historic Site of Canada
Debert, Nova Scotia
(© Parks Canada Agency / Agence parcs Canada.)
Debert, Nova Scotia
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1963 to 1964
Event, Person, Organization:
Debert Palaeo-Indian Site
Belmont Palaeo-Indian Sites
Belmont I and 2
Research Report Number:
1968-028, 1992-OB-06 Jun, 2002-SDC/CDE-006, 2002-OB-05
Description of Historic Place
Debert Palaeo-Indian Site National Historic Site of Canada is comprised of five archaeological sites situated in similar topographic and ecological niches. They are located along the top of glacial ridges between small stream valleys, which run from the Cobequid Plain up into the Cobequid Highlands in Colchester County, Nova Scotia. The sites were used by Palaeo-Indian hunters from 8500 BCE to 9000 BCE as seasonal camps where they monitored the movement of caribou herds and manufactured tools. Official recognition refers to the boundaries of the provincially designated Special Place, encompassing the five archaeological sites and its three associated collections, comprising more than 4500 objects.
Debert Palaeo-Indian Site was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1972 because: it is an excellent example of a Palaeo-Indian habitation site; it has had a profound impact on understanding Palaeo-Indian cultures in eastern North America.
The heritage value of Debert Palaeo-Indian Site lies in the similar geographic location of its archaeological sites, the nature of the artifacts they contain, and the knowledge they contribute to understanding North American Palaeo-Indian cultures. Palaeo-Indian sites are found throughout North America. The Palaeo-Indians of Debert, distant ancestors of later Mi’kmaw and other Aboriginal populations in eastern Canada, were the descendants of the Aboriginal peoples who possibly crossed the Bering Strait during and after the Wisconsinian Glacial Stage, and settled in the southern region of North America. From this central area, they eventually spread east and north into the Maritimes. The archaeological sites at Debert, which were used as seasonal camps for nomadic big game hunters, represent the initial human settlement of Atlantic Canada, from around 8500 to 9000 BCE. The relatively intensive occupation and indication of varied activities makes the Debert Site unusual.
The site was the subject of extensive excavations during the 1960s, and was expanded following the discovery of two new Paleo-Indian habitation sites. Since then, two further sites have been located making a total of five known Paleo-Indian archaeological sites on these properties. Some of these sites have been considerably disturbed by 20th-century construction. A remarkable collection in term of size and diversity, the artifacts from Debert have come to define the eastern expression of Palaeo-Indian culture in northeastern North America. The archaeological sites at Debert also exhibit the earliest known Paleo-Indian occupation and the most well recorded Paleo-Indian sites in Atlantic Canada.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 2002; Commemorative Integrity Statement, March 2003.
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include: its location overlooking the Chiganois River Valley; its siting in similar topographic and ecological niches along the top of a glacial ridge between small stream valleys; the evidence of strategic site selection and hunting strategies of Paleo-Indian peoples; the material integrity of the five archeological sites and their surviving or as yet unidentified remains, which may be found within the site in their original placement and extent, including the nature, size, diversity, context and location of those artifacts / artifact fragments (above and below ground); the retention of the knowledge associated with all Paleo-Indian period artefacts associated with the site; the presence of similar unidentified (possibly undisturbed) sites in forested areas of the broad glacial terrace surrounding the area where Paleo-Indian sites have been identified; the unexcavated areas containing tangible remains of the earliest known human occupation in Atlantic Canada, including living areas and artifacts in context; viewscapes from each of the five identified sites overlooking a localized drainage system and the Chiganois River Valley as well as the viewscapes between and among the individual identified sites.