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Nisbet Harbour
The Hoffnungsthal mission station after excavation, facing northeast. The hearth is clearly visible in the centre and the stone steps and ramp can be seen in the foreground. The remains of the floor joists have been outlined with white string. (Photo by H. Cary) (larger version)
Site is of the first Moravian mission house in Labrador and "the archaeological findings from Hoffnungsthal have granted an unparalleled picture of the material culture and building styles selected by the Moravians for their missionary expeditions in the mid-eighteenth century." (Henry Cary)

The foundation was made using large slabs of local stone measuring upwards of 60 cm by 40 cm, with smaller rocks used to fill gaps in the masonry. The foundation stones on the interior were left rough cut, but the exterior side had a square, neat face.

Entrance into the house was through a set of stairs on the west front of the foundations. Four steps of large stone slabs were supported on one side by sand fill, and on the other by a ramp formed of irregular-shaped stone. This ramp may have been used to roll heavy supply barrels up to the doorway.
Plan of the Hoffnungsthal mission remains. (Plan by H. Cary and J. McKay). (larger version)
Most of the house interior was obscured by large stones and bricks, but after these were removed a number of well-preserved features appeared. Most impressive was an open, "C" shaped hearth made from rough local stones, some measuring up to 40 cm in length. Even after being subject to a black powder explosion followed by two hundred fifty years of neglect, the hearth still stood over 50 cm high. Although most of the hearth was made of stone, the top chimney section had been constructed of brick, as numerous partial and complete bricks were found in the collapse debris. On either side of the central hearth were two stone footings that essentially divided the house in half and supported interior partitions and doorways. To the north and south and parallel with the footings were five wood stains running east/west across the house interior. These were the remains of joists used to support wooden floorboards.
A near complete clay tobacco pipe unearthed in the northeast corner of the house. Hundreds of pipe fragments were recovered during excavations, suggesting that at least some were destined to be trade items for the Inuit (Photo by G. Price). (larger version)
The thousands of artifacts unearthed at Hoffnungsthal provided a good idea of what the missionaries thought necessary for their first year in Labrador. Wrought iron nails, lead shot, window glass, wine bottle fragments, and a wood-handled fork were just some of the items they thought they would need. The most common finds were tobacco pipe bowls and stem fragments. Only two showed any sign of use, and the sheer numbers suggest that at least some of the pipes were to serve as trade goods.

The archaeological excavations provide a clearer picture of what the mission house looked like. The floor plan matched a typical off-central chimney design known by the German name of Flurkuchenhaus or hall-kitchen house, common throughout Europe and the United States. Although we can only speculate that the house was built in squared log, the archaeological evidence gives a good indication of where the windows on the main floor, and possibly on the roof, had been placed.

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