Marshall, Ingeborg (1983) Beothuk bark canoes : an analysis and comparative study. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
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The aim of this thesis was to investigate and test hypotheses concerning the design and construction of Beothuk birch bark canoes and their relationship to craft of other North American native groups. The study was based on data from artifacts in various museum collections and from documents. New materials resulting from a systematic archival search were used to supplement known sources. -- Examination of the data showed that the Beothuk made at least two different bark canoe designs. The more versatile of the two had a straight keel-line, no rocker, and the beam placed abaft midlength; it combined attributes useful for travel on inland waters with those that were advantageous for open water navigation. The second canoe form was a strongly rockered deep draft type especially adapted for travel conditions on the ocean. Both designs shared a V-shaped hull form as well as stylistic attributes which differentiated them from bark canoes of other groups. This interpretation removes an area of difficulty experienced by others who tried to distill one design out of apparently conflicting data. -- Beothuk canoes were also compared with sixty-two other native North American craft which revealed that Beothuk bark canoe construction conformed with the traditional methods used by other groups. Although Beothuk canoes have been described as unique, most of their attributes were found on other North American canoes or kayaks. The uniqueness derived from specific combinations of attributes and from the development of some of them to an unusual degree. -- Analysis of canoes outside of Newfoundland demonstrated that several attributes were predominantly found in the North American north west including Alaska, the Yukon and the District of MacKensie but were absent or rare on the eastern seaboard and vice versa. A comparison of Beothuk canoe characteristics with those identified as preferred in north western or eastern regions showed a close association between the straight keel-line canoe and north western Athabascan canoes; the curved bottom form clearly incorporated functional attributes of eastern canoes and both designs had attributes in common with skin kayaks. -- The evidence favours the suggestion that a prototype canoe close to the designs of Athabascan bark canoes diffused prehistorically to the Newfoundland Indians and that major elements of the ancient design persisted in both regions. The V-shaped hull form was a modification that evolved in Newfoundland, possibly in emulation of Eskimo Kayak features, and the strongly rockered design, which developed at a later stage represents an influence of eastern Indian canoe forms. -- The investigation suggests that the two Beothuk canoe designs reflect periods of contact with and absorption of ideas from different native groups, ingenuity at developing canoe forms that met local requirements and were unique among North American bark canoes, and persistence with ancient design features as well as stylistic elements.
|Item Type:||Thesis (Masters)|
|Additional Information:||Bibliography: leaves 205-213.|
|Department(s):||Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Anthropology|
|Geographic Location:||Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador;|
|Library of Congress Subject Heading:||Indians of North America--Newfoundland and Labrador--Boats; Beothuk Indians;|
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