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The Red Paint People

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  • The Red Paint People

    The use of red ochre by prehistoric People extends back in time at least 75,000 years in the Old World. It has always fascinated me that red ochre usage began so long ago, and that it was used by so many cultures.

    Here in North America, it is most famously associated with the Middle-Late Archaic adoptation known as the Maritime Archaic, and present from Maritime Canada, to Maine, and to some extent further south. Specifically, the use of red ochre is closely associated with the so-called Moorehead Phase of the Maritime Archaic, and the culture has become known as the Red Paint People, as a result. These people were adopted to deep sea fishing, as evidenced by the presence of swordfish remains at Red Paint sites, a fish found in deep sea environments. They must have been highly skilled mariners, and all those gouges the state of Maine is known for, is a reflection of the building of deep sea vessels.

    I have a few artifacts associated with the Red Paint People of Maine. These were part of a collection acquired prior to 1963 by old time collector George Barton of Ma., a collection which he described in the article "Unique Artifacts from Maine" at the link:

    https://vc.bridgew.edu/cgi/viewconte...0&context=bmas

    This thin slate, red ochre stained, celt is pictured in figure 7 at the above link:

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  • #2
    Another heavily ochre stained celt from the same Maine collection:

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    • #3
      Charlie, that is very cool! Imagine the quests they must’ve gone on to be deep sea fisherman... I also imagine some perilous fishing trips for some. The maritime archaic phase really interests me.

      The gouges and wood working tools that come out of Maine suggest it was very important to their lifestyles.
      Can’t find em sitting on the couch; unless it’s in a field

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      • CMD
        CMD commented
        Editing a comment
        You bet, Ben. I recommend the video below, if you have not already seen it. It compares these deep sea peoples to those on the Northwest coast during the historic era.

      • CMD
        CMD commented
        Editing a comment
        Yeah, ya know, like our various New England fishing fleets today, there must have been instances when the seas grew rough, and crews never returned home. It's always been a dangerous way to make a living.....

    • #4
      Yes !!! We find it out here too. Mostly red but some yellows. They used it a lot ! I pick pieces of it up when I see them. I have no idea where they got it, or how far they had to go to get it !

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      • CMD
        CMD commented
        Editing a comment
        Yeah, it's worldwide use is fascinating. It was so important, and apparently so symbolic, to so many humans, including Neanderthals....

      • Lindenmeier-Man
        Lindenmeier-Man commented
        Editing a comment
        Very interesting read. I had no idea that they cremated their deceased . I hate the part of the massacre , shooting them in the river while they tried to escape. This is another example of why we must preserve what we can of the NA people. It seems that cruelty in early history knew no bounds. I once read a article long ago about how the NA people sued the government over the territory of New York. The NA people won that decision in the Supreme Court . Might double check me on that...

      • CMD
        CMD commented
        Editing a comment
        Yeah, the history you're reflecting on dates to the historic era, long after the Red Paint People, and to the time when that area of Maine was ministered to by the Jesuit order from New France. Some of the artifacts from Barton's collection must clearly date from the 17th-18th centuries....

    • #5
      Finally, here is an ochre stained gouge. All three artifacts shown here were found in the Kennebeck River drainage of Maine. According to info in Bruce Bourque's The Swordfish Hunters, this gouge would date to the late period of the Moorehead Phase:

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      ​​​​Excellent Nova episode, "Secrets of the Lost Red Paint People":



      Last edited by CMD; 03-10-2019, 12:07 PM.

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      • Lindenmeier-Man
        Lindenmeier-Man commented
        Editing a comment
        Very fascinating video ! I started watching and did now realize a hour had past...

    • #6
      Ya know, the ochre may be the reason that the settlers called the NA people Red skins. NA people from my observations are not really that red. Prehaps I am way off on my thinking..

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      • CMD
        CMD commented
        Editing a comment
        From one source: "But where did the word "redskin" come from? Many dictionaries and history books say the term came about in reference to the Beothuk tribe of what is now Newfoundland, Canada. The Beothuk were said to paint their bodies with red ochre, leading white settlers to refer to them as "red men."

        According to Smithsonian historian Ives Goddard, early historical records indicate that "Redskin" was used as a self-identifier by Native Americans to differentiate between the two races. Goddard found that the first use of the word "redskin" came in 1769, in negotiations between the Piankashaws and Col. John Wilkins. Throughout the 1800s, the word was frequently used by Native Americans as they negotiated with the French and later the Americans. The phrase gained widespread usage among whites when James Fenimore Cooper used it in his 1823 novel The Pioneers. In the book, Cooper has a dying Indian character lament, "There will soon be no red-skin in the country."

      • CMD
        CMD commented
        Editing a comment
        And from a second source: "1769: The first unchallenged use of the word “redskin” occurs when a British lieutenant colonel translates a letter from an Indian chief promising safe passage if the officer visited his tribe in the Upper Mississippi Valley.

        “I shall be pleased to have you come to speak to me yourself if you pity our women and our children; and, if any redskins do you harm, I shall be able to look out for you even at the peril of my life,” Chief Mosquito said in his letter, according to a 2005 study by Ives Goddard, the Smithsonian Institution’s senior linguist emeritus."

    • #7
      That chisel is one of the most unique I have seen in all my years of following artifacts. Nice piece _ Bill

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      • #8
        Good post Charlie. We could use a 'sticky' on the Red Paint People's unique tools in the info. center (hint hint..)
        https://forums.arrowheads.com/forum/...-nj-de-md-gc63

        Pretty cool to have artifacts drawn, and published!
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        If the women don\'t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.

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        • #9
          Originally posted by Olden View Post
          Good post Charlie. We could use a 'sticky' on the Red Paint People's unique tools in the info. center (hint hint..)
          https://forums.arrowheads.com/forum/...-nj-de-md-gc63

          Pretty cool to have artifacts drawn, and published!
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          I'll give your idea some thought, Don. And yes, it is cool to own pictured artifacts. I also purchased a shell pendant and conch shell beads from the same collection, as well as a slate pendant. These would not have been part of the Red Paint material, but instead might have been associated with the 17th century village known as Norridgewock, as described in the article. The shell pendant and beads were also pictured, and the beads are pictured in the MAS artifact guide, as well as several other books. Being in the MAS guidebook is especially cool, as they serve as the examples for southern New England in general. I have held the corn stalk pendant seen in the illustration. It is one of the most famous pendants from our region.

          And a shoutout to the late illustrator and avocational archaeologist William Fowler, founding member of both the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, and the late, great Narragansett Archaeological Society. He was simply one of the best artifact illustrators who ever lived. Both sides of slate pendant seen below....

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          • #10
            Good stuff Charlie, thank you and agree with Olden.
            Searching the fields of Northwest Indiana and Southwestern Michigan

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            • #11
              That was a very interesting program Charlie. Thanks for sharing.
              My name is Gary. I live in NE South Dakota

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