Once upon a time in the Arctic: an analysis of Late Dorset metal exchange and interaction in the Eastern Arctic (AD 500-1300)

Jolicoeur, Patrick Charles (2019) Once upon a time in the Arctic: an analysis of Late Dorset metal exchange and interaction in the Eastern Arctic (AD 500-1300). PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3346188


Around AD 500 Palaeo-Inuit groups, known archaeologically as the Late Dorset, resettled parts of the Canadian Arctic and Greenland their ancestors had left uninhabited for nearly five hundred years. At this time, they started to use and exchange metal that derived from two native sources on opposite ends of the Eastern Arctic and potentially through exchange with the Greenlandic Norse. Despite metal being found in generally low quantities, the presence of it alone in many Late Dorset sites across the Arctic, some nearly one thousand kilometres away from potential sources, has led some researchers to suggest it is under-represented in current collections. This drastically hinders any attempt at understanding how much metal was being used, where it was being used, and why it was being used. Moreover, given its known wide distribution and constrained source regions, metal is a potentially important, measurable, and, arguably, unique indicator of the maximum extent of Late Dorset interaction networks. Fortunately, most Arctic sites have good organic preservation leaving the Late Dorset archaeological record rich in ivory, bone, and wood objects, such as harpoon heads and knife handles, that may have held metal blades. This thesis quantitatively and qualitatively assesses two key potential proxy indicators of metal use that has in the past been used successfully in Inuit contexts in order to better understand the extent, intensity, and nature of Late Dorset metal use and exchange. First, the analysis demonstrates that the thickness of blade slots of harpoon heads, side-, and end-hafted handles can be a reliable indicator for the raw material of the blade it once held. Once compared with lithic and metal blades to provide a baseline, the data show that blade slot sizes, particularly in the case of harpoon heads, become thinner during the Late Dorset period. In the case of one Late Dorset harpoon head type, metal was used more frequently than stone. Second, deposits left behind on those organic objects through contact with metal endblades were identified with a microscope. Despite the identification of these metal deposits being impacted by the object’s conservation and taphonomic history, no similar deposits were identified on any of the pre-Late Dorset material. This means that metal was being consistently and intensively exchanged over thousands of kilometers of Arctic landscape for a nearly eight-hundred-year period starting around AD 500. With these data in mind, the nature of this metal exchange can be examined with specific regards to the materiality of Late Dorset metal and the individual object itineraries that are created through the exchange process. The significance of metal within these continuous long-distance interaction networks enchained Dorset social relations through both time and space at a scale never before seen in the Eastern Arctic. It is along these same vectors of exchange that flowed the knowledge and ideas of what it meant to be Dorset.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Also supported by the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.
Keywords: Tuniit, Dorset, Late Dorset, Inuit, material culture, material analysis, metric analysis, microscopy, enchainment, object itinerary, materiality, metal use, organic technology, exchange, interaction, Arctic, Canada, Greenland, archaeology, archaeological theory.
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Funder's Name: Wenner-Gren Foundation (WENNERGR)
Supervisor's Name: Batey, Dr. Colleen and Finlay, Dr. Nyree
Date of Award: 2019
Depositing User: Dr. Patrick Charles Jolicoeur
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-41207
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2019 13:56
Last Modified: 11 Aug 2022 13:34
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.41207
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/41207

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