Boyd's Cove Beothuk National Historic Site of Canada

Boyd's Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador
View of the HSMBC plaque at the Interpretation Centre (© Parks Canada / Parcs Canada, 2006 (Marianne Stopp))
HSMBC plaque
(© Parks Canada / Parcs Canada, 2006 (Marianne Stopp))
Address : Boyd's Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1995-07-06
  • 1981 to 1981 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Beothuk  (Organization)
Other Name(s):
  • Boyd's Cove Beothuk  (Designation Name)
  • Boyd’s Cove Beothuk Interpretation Centre  (Other Name)
  • Boyd's Cove  (Other Name)
Research Report Number: 1982-SUB, 2006 SDC-012


Existing plaque:  Boyd's Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador

From archaeological research we know that precontact ancestors of the Beothuk lived at Boyd's Cove, which became the site of a Beothuk village in the 17th and early 18th centuries. A hunting and fishing people, the Beothuk inhabited Newfoundland at the time of European arrival. Avoiding trade with Europeans, they nevertheless acquired metal objects from seasonally abandoned fishing premises and skilfully reworked them for their own use. Conflict with the newcomers over access to marine resources led to their dislocation and ultimate extinction in the 1820s.

Description of Historic Place

The site is positioned on a glacial moraine seven metres above sea level along the shore of Boyd’s Cove, Notre Dame Bay. It is spread throughout a forest clearing. An archaeological study of the site identified two areas of interest, called Area A and Area B. Area A, the northern sector of the site, is roughly 1 250 square meters and contains evidence of “Recent Indian” occupation and an earlier Palaeoeskimo presence. It has yielded artefacts that predate the Beothuk occupation and attests to continuous occupation of this site from approximately 3000 B.P. Area B, the south part of the site, is roughly 1 760 square metres and contains eleven Beothuk house pit features that are visible as low earthen rings surrounding shallow depressions. Other cultural features include middens, hearths, post moulds, and possible sleeping areas. Artefacts predating the Beothuk from lower levels in Area B, and matching “Recent Indian” material found in Area A and elsewhere in Newfoundland, provided long sought after evidence of an ancestral link between Beothuk and “Recent Indian” peoples.

Heritage Value

Boyd’s Cove Beothuk Site was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1995 because: it has substantially increased our knowledge of the Beothuks in the early historic period; it makes a major contribution to the revision of our understanding of their demise.

Beothuk were the first North American Aboriginal people to encounter the Europeans, but they ceased to exist as a distinct people in the early 19th century. At the time of European contact, the Beothuk occupied at least the south and northeast coasts of Newfoundland. The Boyd’s Cove site was first located in 1981 by Dr. Ralph Pastore. His excavations there have contributed significantly to issues that were somewhat understood from ethnohistoric sources but had little basis in archaeological data, including: Beothuk dwelling design and seasonal variance of dwellings; diet; the integration of early European items into Beothuk culture; Beothuk-European relations; Beothuk symbolism, and subsistence procurement patterns. One of the significant outcomes of the research was the identification of an archaeological component that convincingly demonstrated the suspected ancestral link between earlier “Recent Indian” groups and the Beothuk. Not only has the site contributed to our understanding of the early historic period and to the demise of the Beothuk, but it has also established the ancestry of these people and affirmed the pre-contact cultural sequence in Newfoundland.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Submission Report; Minutes, April 2006.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include: the current site and setting of Boyd’s Cove Beothuk site in a cleared forested area in proximity to the sea; surface evidence of archaeological material, in the form of depressions, middens, mounds, and any other archaeological material; subsurface archaeological resources related to Aboriginal occupation of this site; views across the clearing and towards the sea.