Late Dorset Longhouses : a Look Inside
Publication Type:Conference Paper
A distinctive feature of the Late Dorset period is the use of large dwelling structures , up to 45 m in length and elongate in form, which have come to be known as longhouses. Often located in ecological oases, these sites conjure an image of many families living communally, enjoying the bounty of the land, partaking in ceremonies and rituals led by a shaman. This view is based primarily on the grand size of the structures, the presence of rows of aligned hearths, and the rich environments in which they tend to be located - in other words, the big picture. Less attention has been paid to the smaller details- artifacts, manufacturing debris, faunal remains, spatial distributions. Do these sources of data support the big picture? For what activities is there direct evidence? What can we infer about economic strategies and seasonality? How do these sites compare with other Late Dorset occupations? In this paper, I examine a variety of data sources in an attempt to fill in the big picture a little and identify gaps in our understanding. I will rely primarily on three longhouse sites from Creswell Bay, Somerset Island, but will also draw on other published data.