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Hunting Technologies and Archaeofaunas: Societal Differences Between Hunter-Gatherers of the Eastern Arctic

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  • Inuit Heritage Trust
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Hunting Technologies and Archaeofaunas: Societal Differences Between Hunter-Gatherers of the Eastern Arctic

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This paper investigates human-animal interaction in two very different hunter-gatherer societies, Late Dorset and Thule Inuit, who once occupied the eastern Arctic (Canadian Arctic and Greenland). I focus on their disparate hunting technologies in order to achieve a nuanced understanding of how cultural factors influenced this relationship and to ultimately better understand why Late Dorset disappeared from the archaeological record. I assess how hunting technologies impacted each society's archaeofaunas and describe what appear to be culturally distinct trends in the faunal remains. In light of these findings, differences between Late Dorset and Thule Inuit hunting strategies, and other societal aspects including labour organization, hierarchy, and food provisioning is considered. This research discusses how generalized versus specialized hunting technologies impacted the social trajectory of each society, and methodologically, it provides a case study for how the use of specialized technologies can be viewed in the archaeological record. http://rdcu.be/GPDU
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Hunting Technologies and Archaeofaunas: Societal
Differences Between Hunter-Gatherers of the Eastern
Arctic
Howse, Lesley.
Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory; New York Vol. 26, Iss. 1, (Mar 2019): 88-111.
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... Walrus remains have been identified from every Late Dorset site in the High Arctic except one in Hall Land (Darwent, 2001), northern Greenland (it should be noted that this site is well north of the range of modern walruses). Faunal remains have been recovered from Late Dorset features at Cape Grinnell (Darwent and Foin, 2010), Iita (Darwent et al., 2019;Ebel, 2019), Qeqertaaraq (Appelt and Gulløv, 1999;Bendix, 2000) and Southwest Point (Howse, 2019) in northwestern Greenland. One previously-unpublished dataset that we include here is a Late Dorset semi-subterranean house structure found under a Thule structure in Glacier Bay, Inglefield Land; four walrus bones were identified from an assemblage of 1844 mammal remains (0.2%). ...
... In the Canadian High Arctic, 15 Late Dorset faunal assemblages have been identified from the following sites: QiLf-25, QjLd-17 and QjLd-25 in the Crozier Strait region (Helmer, 1981); Arvik (QjJx-1), Tasiarulik (QjJx-10) and Qila-3 on eastern Little Cornwallis Island (Darwent, 2001); Snowdrift (RaJu-1) and Hornby Head (RbJq-1) on Devon Island's Grinnell Peninsula (Howse, 2019;McGhee, 1981); Lea Point (RcHh-1) near Grise Fjord on southern Ellesmere Island (Darwent, 2001); and Oldsquaw (SfFk-18), Narrows (SgFm-12), Shelter (SgFm-17), Cove (SgFm-5), Franklin Pierce (SiFi-4) and Longhouse (SjFm-3) in Ellesmere Island's Bache Peninsula region (Schledermann, 1990). A total of 638 walrus bones were identified out of 25,656 mammal bones (2.5%) recovered from across all 15 of the above-mentioned sites. ...
... Similarly, occupants of QiLa-3 on Little Cornwallis Island focused on foxes. A decline in the relative frequency of walruses during the Late Dorset period may relate to an overall broadening of the diet and reduced focus on any one particular resource (Darwent and Foin, 2010;Howse, 2019). This strategy included the capture and storage of large quantities of small-prey species such as foxes, Arctic hares (Lepus arcticus) and birds (Darwent, 2004;Ebel, 2019). ...
Chapter
Indigenous Pre-Inuit populations (from Pre-Dorset to Dorset) moved into the unoccupied Eastern Arctic of Canada and Greenland about 4500 years ago. Walrus use in the Pre-Dorset period (c.25001100 BCE) was almost exclusively associated with carcass scavenging of ivory for tool production. The homogenous nature of primary dentine means that it can be flaked similar to stone, but it can also be grooved, carved, whittled and abraded in a manner more akin to ground-stone methods. Small-scale hunting began to emerge in areas with higher densities of walrus in the Late Pre-Dorset period (c.1900–1100 BCE), such as the Igloolik area in Nunavut, and Nipisat, near Sisimiut, Greenland. Technological innovation in the form of a thicker, more robust and often highly decorated harpoon head type known as the Dorset Parallel is accompanied by a shift to cooperative walrus hunting, intensive carcass processing and caching of meat and raw material in the Dorset period (c.900 BCE1250 CE).
... Part of the problem is that zooarchaeological aggregates often have complex taphonomic histories and are the sum results of many different hunting activities where the use of different capture technologies may be muted in the archaeological record (Lyman 2003b). Although the use of different hunting methods can be difficult to identify in some contexts, it is possible in others (Howse 2019;Jones 2006) and represents a crucial element in calculating reliable prey return rates in zooarchaeological analyses (Grayson & Cannon 1999). ...
Article
Hares (Lepus spp) have been common residents of Great Basin valley bottoms and piedmonts throughout the late Pleistocene and Holocene. Although their skeletal remains often dominate regional zooarchaeological collections and ethnographic records across the American West detail the importance of Lepus to native peoples, many studies of human subsistence productivity consider these mammals to be a low-ranked resource. We critique some methodological constructs and interpretations of the prey choice model and compare the abundances of hares and artiodactyls in regional archaeological sites to maintain that hares represented a multidimensional resource that often comprised the core of the diet. Beyond nutritional returns, they provided people with hunting implements and life-saving warmth, and cooperative drives helped establish familial and sociopolitical bonds. Ethnographic documentation and the abundance of hare remains in regional sites indicate they were likely always an integral part of lifeways rather than an inefficient resource targeted only when purportedly high-ranked prey resources were unavailable.
... In the North American Arctic, dogs do not appear to have been present in large numbers until around 1000 BP [12]. The ancestors of Yup'ik, Inuit and other Indigenous Arctic groups relied on advanced transportation technology including dog traction [13] and appear to have been the first to introduce specialized sled dogs to North America [14]. Arctic dogs rely exclusively on humans for food during the long winters, but may have been fed differently or less frequently in summer, or let loose to fend for themselves [15,16]. ...
Article
The domestic dog has inhabited the anthropogenic niche for at least 15 000 years, but despite their impact on human strategies, the lives of dogs and their interactions with humans have only recently become a subject of interest to archaeologists. In the Arctic, dogs rely exclusively on humans for food during the winter, and while stable isotope analyses have revealed dietary similarities at some sites, deciphering the details of provisioning strategies have been challenging. In this study, we apply zooarchaeology by mass spectrometry (ZooMS) and liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry to dog palaeofaeces to investigate protein preservation in this highly degradable material and obtain information about the diet of domestic dogs at the Nunalleq site, Alaska. We identify a suite of digestive and metabolic proteins from the host species, demonstrating the utility of this material as a novel and viable substrate for the recovery of gastrointestinal proteomes. The recovered proteins revealed that the Nunalleq dogs consumed a range of Pacific salmon species (coho, chum, chinook and sockeye) and that the consumed tissues derived from muscle and bone tissues as well as roe and guts. Overall, the study demonstrated the viability of permafrost-preserved palaeofaeces as a unique source of host and dietary proteomes.
... In the 20 th century, bird hunting was a summer activity performed on St. Lawrence Island (Jolles, 2002), and it is quite likely that it occurred during the pre-European contact period as well. The bones of geese occur in mortuary contexts at the Old Bering Sea sites of Ekven (Arutiunov & Sergeev, 1975) and Kaniskak (Gusev et al., 1999), and the bones of other seabirds are found in Inuit and Yup'ik assemblages across the Arctic (Elliott, 2017;Gotfredsen, 1997Gotfredsen, , 2010Howse, 2019;Swinarton, 2008). Shellfish were also collected in some regions. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
This dissertation investigates the day-to-day activities that sustained human societies in the arctic and subarctic environments of North America and Siberia over the past 1500 years. Maintenance activities, such as food preparation, childcare, and the care of domestic animals, are commonly inflected by social identity and can provide insight into the experience of gender among archaeological and historical populations. This PhD combined stable isotope analysis of bulk bone collagen and single amino acids, with ethnographic research and ancient DNA analysis to answer a number of research questions, such as, how can the effects of destructive biomolecular sampling protocols be minimized?; how were sled dogs provisioned across the Arctic?; how can palaeodietary research inform our understanding of social relationships between humans and dogs?; how long were human infants breastfed among Bering Sea hunter-gatherers? The dissertation is comprised of five studies: a review of stable isotope studies of late Holocene Arctic populations; a methodological paper presenting a best practice for the pre-treatment of humic-contaminated bone samples, and three bioarchaeological applications that variously employ stable isotope analysis of bulk bone collagen, DNA analysis of dog furs, and isotopic analysis of amino acids. The isotopic evidence for dog diets largely corresponds to zooarchaeological and ethnographic evidence for local subsistence practices. Dog bones dating to between the 15th and 19th centuries, from coastal Labrador, Canada, carried a strong marine isotope signature as did dog furs collected during the early 20th century in Greenland, coastal Labrador, and Alaska. Dogs living among reindeer herders in early 20th century Siberia consumed terrestrial protein sources, while those on the Kamchatka Peninsula consumed terrestrial protein supplemented by limited quantities of salmon. Dog provisioning required considerable human labour and was an important structuring component of daily life in the Arctic. The final study presents the first analysis of infant feeding practices among prehistoric hunter-gatherers of the Bering Sea coast. This study uses stable isotope analysis of bulk collagen from dentine increments to show that breastfeeding and weaning practices varied considerably across the sampled group. The novel isotopic analysis of amino acids from dentine suggests those amino acids, such as lysine, that are routed directly from diet to collagen, show promise for distinguishing between the dual influences of diet and systemic stress on the nitrogen isotope values of human proteins. In the thesis summary, I also include a discussion of the ethics of bioarchaeological practice. Indigenous Arctic cultures are frequently the focus of archaeological study in Canada, Scandinavia, the United States, and Russia, but among these regions, the legislation designed to protect Indigenous cultural heritage differs dramatically. In light of the increasing number of bioarchaeological studies conducted in Siberia, I review regional differences in the codes of bioarchaeological practice and, drawing on bioarchaeological research in other international contexts, suggest some possible solutions for future work.
... Archaeological evidence suggests that dogs were relatively rare in the North American Arctic prior to the Inuit period [12,13]. The Inuit emergence in Alaska beginning approximately 2000 BP brought large-scale changes in lifeways, subsistence practices and material culture to the North American Arctic. ...
Article
Full-text available
Domestic dogs have been central to life in the North American Arctic for millennia. The ancestors of the Inuit were the first to introduce the widespread usage of dog sledge transportation technology to the Americas, but whether the Inuit adopted local Palaeo-Inuit dogs or introduced a new dog population to the region remains unknown. To test these hypotheses, we generated mitochondrial DNA and geometric morphometric data of skull and dental elements from a total of 922 North American Arctic dogs and wolves spanning over 4500 years. Our analyses revealed that dogs from Inuit sites dating from 2000 BP possess morphological and genetic sig- natures that distinguish them from earlier Palaeo-Inuit dogs, and identified a novel mitochondrial clade in eastern Siberia and Alaska. The genetic legacy of these Inuit dogs survives today in modern Arctic sledge dogs despite pheno- typic differences between archaeological and modern Arctic dogs. Together, our data reveal that Inuit dogs derive from a secondary pre-contact migration of dogs distinct from Palaeo-Inuit dogs, and probably aided the Inuit expansion across the North American Arctic beginning around 1000 BP.
... Archaeological evidence suggests that dogs were relatively rare in the North American Arctic prior to the Inuit period [12,13]. The Inuit emergence in Alaska beginning approximately 2000 BP brought large-scale changes in lifeways, subsistence practices and material culture to the North American Arctic. ...
Article
Full-text available
Domestic dogs have been central to life in the North American Arctic for millennia. The ancestors of the Inuit were the first to introduce the widespread usage of dog sledge transportation technology to the Americas, but whether the Inuit adopted local Palaeo-Inuit dogs or introduced a new dog population to the region remains unknown. To test these hypotheses, we generated mitochondrial DNA and geometric morphometric data of skull and dental elements from a total of 922 North American Arctic dogs and wolves spanning over 4500 years. Our analyses revealed that dogs from Inuit sites dating from 2000 BP possess morphological and genetic signatures that distinguish them from earlier Palaeo-Inuit dogs, and identified a novel mitochondrial clade in eastern Siberia and Alaska. The genetic legacy of these Inuit dogs survives today in modern Arctic sledge dogs despite phenotypic differences between archaeological and modern Arctic dogs. Together, our data reveal that Inuit dogs derive from a secondary pre-contact migration of dogs distinct from Palaeo-Inuit dogs, and probably aided the Inuit expansion across the North American Arctic beginning around 1000 BP.
... Archaeological evidence suggests that dogs were relatively rare in the North American Arctic prior to the Inuit period [12,13]. The Inuit emergence in Alaska beginning approximately 2000 BP brought large-scale changes in lifeways, subsistence practices and material culture to the North American Arctic. ...
Article
Full-text available
Domestic dogs have been central to life in the North American Arctic for millennia. The ancestors of the Inuit were the first to introduce the widespread usage of dog sledge transportation technology to the Americas, but whether the Inuit adopted local Palaeo-Inuit dogs or introduced a new dog population to the region remains unknown. To test these hypotheses, we generated mitochondrial DNA and geometric morphometric data of skull and dental elements from a total of 922 North American Arctic dogs and wolves spanning over 4500 years. Our analyses revealed that dogs from Inuit sites dating from2000 BP possess morphological and genetic signatures that distinguish them from earlier Palaeo-Inuit dogs, and identified a novel mitochondrial clade in eastern Siberia and Alaska. The genetic legacy of these Inuit dogs survives today in modern Arctic sledge dogs despite phenotypic differences between archaeological and modern Arctic dogs. Together, our data reveal that Inuit dogs derive from a secondary pre-contact migration of dogs distinct from Palaeo-Inuit dogs, and probably aided the Inuit expansion across the North American Arctic beginning around 1000 BP.
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Most hunter-gatherer lifeways revolve around periodic large gatherings – aggregations – that serve as social, ritual, and economic anchors for their annual cycles. However, in archaeological contexts they are often difficult to recognize. This paper describes and interprets a particularly large and well-preserved example of a warm season aggregation site dating to the Late Dorset period in the eastern North American Arctic. This site extends for over 750 m along coastal beach ridges and contains four boulder-outlined “longhouses” of up to 38 m in length as well as hundreds of other features used for storage, cooking, and ritual activities. In addition to interpreting the range of activities occurring on the site, this paper discusses the clear evidence for change over time in the ways its inhabitants interacted with the built environment, and with each other. Because these changes took place mainly during the 13th century CE, they likely represent a reaction to the arrival in this region of ancestral Inuit, who migrated from Alaska during this period and ultimately replaced Dorset populations.
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Hunter-gatherers are the quintessential anthropological topic. They constitute the subject matter that, in the last instance, separates anthropology from its sister social science disciplines: psychology, sociology, economics, and political science. In that central position, hunter-gatherers are the acid test to which any reasonably comprehensive anthropological theory must be applied. Several such theories-some narrow, some broad-are examined in light of the hunter­ gatherer case in this book. My purpose, then, is that of a review of ideas rather than of a literature. I do not-probably could not-survey all that has been written about hunter-gatherers: Many more works are ignored than considered. That is not because the ones ignored are uninteresting, but because it is my broader purpose to concentrate on certain theoretical contributions to anthro­ pology in which hunter-gatherers figure most prominently. The book begins with two chapters that deal with the history of anthro­ pological research and theory in relation to hunter-gatherers. The point is not to present a comprehensive or even-handed accounting of developments. Rather, I sketch a history of selected ideas that have determined the manner in which social scientists have viewed, and thus studied, hunter-gatherers. This lays the groundwork for subjects subsequently addressed and establishes two funda­ mental points. First, the social sciences have always portrayed hunter-gatherers in ways that serve their theories; in short, hunter-gatherer research has always been a theoretical enterprise. Second, these theoretical treatments have gener­ ally been either evolutionary or materialist-or both-in perspective.
Thesis
This dissertation explores human-animal relationships within two very different societies, Late Dorset (500 CE to 1300 CE) and Thule Inuit (1200 CE to 1500 CE), who occupied common geographical areas throughout the eastern Arctic. While scholars interested in the behaviour of Northern hunter-gatherers have tended to focus on the primacy of environmental factors and changing environments, this dissertation aims to achieve a more nuanced understanding of the role of cultural factors in shaping human-animal interaction. I pursue this goal by focusing on distinct Late Dorset and Thule Inuit hunting technologies and practices, using zooarchaeological analyses to directly examine their impacts on subsistence strategies, including encounter rates, labour strategies, resource scheduling, and diet breadth. To address marked variability in resource availability between different areas in the eastern Arctic and allow for a cross-Arctic comparison, I consider three separate regions where Late Dorset and Thule Inuit occupied either the same site or sites that are located in close proximity. Although hunting strategies in each region were greatly influenced by regionally-specific environments, I argue that this research shows they are also culturally distinct. Results suggest that differences in Late Dorset and Thule Inuit hunting technologies impacted their archaeofaunas in various ways, they directly influenced each groups hunting strategies, and ultimately, helped shape the human-animal relationship in each society. In comparison to Thule Inuit, Late Dorset were constrained by their hunting technologies, having to rely more heavily upon specific types of terrain features and seasonal changes in the environment. Thule Inuit hunting technologies, by contrast, allowed for larger harvests of key resources, providing better provisioning and perhaps an increase in food security. These results serve to highlight the role of culture in prehistoric lifeways, even in ‘marginal’ environments.