Landscape of Culture

Agvituk Archaeology Project

Research Team

Laura Kelvin
Maria Lear
Lisa Rankin



The Inuit Community Government of Hopedale, Nunatsiavut, initiated the Avertok Archaeology Project to generate tourism activity and support local interest in the history of Hopedale. The project aims to explore the history of Hopedale through the application of community knowledge to an examination of the Avertok archaeological site (GiCb-01) and a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey of the Moravian Cemetery in Hopedale.

Avertok is a large Inuit whaling site that was an important part of the Inuit-European coastal trade network during the 16th to 18th centuries. The site is located within the current boundaries of the Hamlet of Hopedale and remains culturally important to the people of the community. However, modern homes, road construction, and water and sewer work have all impacted Avertok and much of the site has unfortunately been destroyed. The Hopedale community requested the project conduct an archaeological survey of areas identified by the community that possibly contain intact deposits from the site in order to study and protect them.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, Avertok has been subject to many archaeological investigations, and artifacts from the site are now housed in museums in Canada, the United States, and Europe. The Avertok Archaeology Digital Archive will house images and 3D models of these artifacts, alongside community knowledge of them and the Avertok site. This will provide community members with a forum to access the excavated materials and bring all of the artifacts excavated from Avertok together so they can be viewed and studied as one collection.

The community also requested a non-invasive study of the Moravian cemetery in Hopedale because locations of all of the individual burials associated with the cemetery are no longer known. Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) is a non-destructive geophysical technique that uses radar to identity differences (or contrasts) in the subsoil. These contrasts can be then analyzed to make interpretations regarding the composition of the subsurface both in terms of natural variations and the archaeological potential. During the 2017 field season, Maria Lear conducted a partial GPR survey of the Moravian cemetery where no headstones were present to locate some of the burials so they can be protected, marked and fenced. Preliminary analysis of this survey is promising and further survey is being planned for the future.

The Avertok Archaeology Project is community driven and strives to actively engage the Hopedale community. In 2017 we hired three local students, Ida Semigak, John Piercy, and Rosie Edmunds with funding provided by Inuit Pathways. The students learned archaeological lab protocols and excavation techniques. They also created a series of videos pertaining to archaeology and Inuit heritage that can be found on the Avertok Archaeology Project YouTube page. For these videos the students developed research questions and interviewed Hopedale community members and archaeologists. We also disseminate our research through social media. Check out our Facebook page and Instagram and Twitter accounts for regular updates!