Northern Archaeology

Friday, May 4, 2018 - 1:30pm to 4:10pm
Ambassador D
01:30 PM: High and Dry on Ontario’s Tundra: Marine Wreckage along the Ontario Shores of the Hudson Bay Lowlands
  • Jean-Luc Pilon - Canadian Museum of History
In the summer of 2017, I was brought to view 6 distinct marine-related sites on the shores of Hudson Bay between the community of Fort Severn, Ontario and the Manitoba border. One is likely the partial remains of a dock facility of some kind. Two others consist of wooden winches but beyond some relationship with the ocean, their ultimate identification remains a mystery. The last three appear to be the remains of late XIXth century wooden sailing ships. Further research on the wooden ship hulls suggests they were parts of a single ship, tentatively identified as the Hudson’s Bay Company ship Cam Owen, built in 1883 in Prince Edward Island, sold to the HBC in 1884, run aground 1886 in northern Manitoba and eventually ending its travels grounding again and breaking up near the mouth of the Niskibi River east of the Manitoba border.
01:50 PM: Salvaging on the Coast of Erebus Bay: An Analysis of Inuit Interaction with Material from the Franklin Expedition
  • Dana Thacher
Over the course of the 19th century, many European explorers sailed in search of a Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic. These journeys brought them into territory occupied by Inuit, who both traded with the explorers for various goods and interacted with the material that they left behind. The Inuit then sometimes altered these goods to suit their own needs and the alterations had the potential of ascribing new meaning to the material that was different from what the European manufacturers intended. In this research, I will examine the remains of two ship’s boats from three sites on King William Island (NgLj-2, NgLj-3, and NgLj-8) that were abandoned by members of the Franklin expedition and subsequently found and altered by an Inuit sub-group called the Netsilik to reveal the motivational factors behind their actions. By combining the conceptual frameworks of entanglement and salvage, it appears that Inuit utilized these boats in a manner that reflects (1) their environment, (2) what the material afforded, (3) their past experiences with Europeans and European material, and (4) their intended uses of the material.
02:10 PM: Human and Ecological Responses (or not) to the Northern White River Ash Eruption
  • Holly A Smith - University of Alaska Fairbanks
The White River Ash northern lobe (WRN) volcanic eruption deposited a blanket of tephra along the Yukon - Alaska border ~1600-1900 cal BP. Investigations into the effects that the WRN eruption had on the environment and indigenous populations to date have been limited. Fine grain pollen analysis of a lake core from 6-Mile Lake (Eagle, AK) was conducted above and below the tephra to provide data in order to analyze flora responses. In addition to this ecological context, a collaborative excavation was completed in 2017 at the Forty Mile Territorial Historic Site (LcVn-2), with the Yukon Government and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation. Artifacts and fauna from the excavation, along with previous surveys, are analyzed to explore the cultural response to this eruptive event. Preliminary results of this thesis project will be presented.
02:30 PM: Questioning Archaeological Conclusions: A Reassessment of Junius Bird's 1934 Labrador Excavations at Avertok and Karmakulluk
  • Jacinda Sinclair - Memorial University
Junius Bird's 1934 Hopedale Area Survey saw excavations conducted at Avertok and four other sites in Labrador's Hopedale region. The project, and its focus on Inuit sod-houses, became a foundation to much of the archaeology that followed in Labrador. However, today there are questions regarding how 1930s ideas may have led to poor methodological choices, such as the intentional discard of European-derived artifacts, and thus ultimately inaccurate conclusions. Beyond their place in the history of archaeology, these sites remain culturally important to local Inuit populations because of their roles in the region's 17th and 18th century whaling, trade, and early Moravian presence. As part of the Tradition & Transition Research Partnership (T&T) between Memorial Univeristy (MUN) and the Nunatsiavut Government (NG), MUN's Archaeology Department began the Avertok Archaeology Project (AAP), fulfilling local requests to preform achaeological reassessments at two of Bird's five sites in the summer of 2017. This presenation intends to (1) discuss Bird's original conclusions and the means by which he reached them and (2) to evaluate which of these conclusions are now understood to be inaccurate and in what ways. Along with this, the multiple streams of data used including those specifically designed to assess Bird's methodologies and achieve this re-evaluation will be discussed.
02:50 PM: Thule Copper Toolkits: Diversity in Cost and Innovation
  • Matthew Pike - Purdue University
Definitions of Thule culture typically include an abundance of metal use, technological specialization, highly efficient travel technologies, and interconnected social and trade networks that spanned the North American Arctic.  Native copper has been recovered from archaeological sites from Northern Alaska to Northern Greenland, but is concentrated most heavily near geologic sources in the Central Arctic.  Extensive trade networks and efficient travel facilitated the dispersal of copper throughout the arctic, but also likely accumulated costs (and increased values) as raw copper or produced objects were moved further from sources.  This analysis addresses the influence of these costs on decision-making surrounding copper technology.  A comparison of diversity in Thule copper assemblages and modelled travel times from geologic sources to archaeological sites provides a glimpse into the patterning of copper tool distributions across the north.
03:10 PM: Thule Iron Use: New Thoughts on Old Questions
  • Paddy Eileen Colligan - The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY
The Neoeskimo Thule, or the Thule Inuit, occupying the North American Arctic from Alaska to Greenland approximately 1000 AD to 1400  - 1500 AD, are ancestors of today’s Iñupiat, Inuit and Kalaallit/Greenlanders. They hunted marine mammals, caribou, and birds, at times using weapons tipped with iron from Greenland’s Cape York meteorite or with smelted iron from sources outside North America circulated via their extensive trade networks. Evidence from the last thirty years has challenged the chronology of the Thule Migration from Alaska to Greenland and earlier understanding about iron that was available to the Thule. The reassessment has benefitted from recent excavations; longterm, interdisciplinary projects; new technologies; cut mark analysis; and spatial analysis enabled by GIS-based data from government-maintained archaeological databases.
03:50 PM: Materiality and Meaning on the Polar Hem: An Analysis of Late Dorset Metal Exchange
  • Patrick Jolicoeur - University of Glasgow
The Late Dorset (ca. AD 500-1300) are thought to be one of the first groups living in the Eastern Arctic to widely exchange metal. However, there is little surviving physical evidence to assess the nature and extent of this early metal trade. This paper will present newly collected data on existing non-metal Late Dorset collections from across the Eastern Arctic to more fully assess the value of using potential proxy indicators of metal use. By comparing harpoon head and knife handle blade slot sizes between Late Dorset and earlier assemblages, this paper will demonstrate that Late Dorset metal use is much more intensive and extensive than what the existing distribution of metal objects reflects. This more detailed picture of Late Dorset metal exchange is important not only for understanding how Eastern Arctic groups used and valued metal for its physical properties but also how the materiality of the metal objects may have been used as a medium to connect seemingly disparate groups through time and space. While the distribution of Late Dorset art and architecture has been used to demonstrate the interconnectedness of Late Dorset, the presented data offer a new opportunity to debate Human-Thing interaction and its role in creating and maintaining social relations at a time when other groups, such as the Inuit and Norse, were beginning to enter the Eastern Arctic and the Late Dorset themselves began to disappear.