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Dorset-Norse Interactions in the Canadian Eastern Arctic – Page 5

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Late Dorset in the Eastern High Arctic

What is the probability that more extensive contact occurred between Norse and Dorset peoples than has been indicated by the evidence currently available? If one accepts the argument proposed by Park (1993) regarding the disappearance of Dorset occupation by the tenth century A.D., no opportunity for contact between the Dorset and the Greenlandic Norse would have been possible. However, a growing number of radiocarbon dates associated with Late Dorset components in the High Arctic (Figure 7 a) suggests the continuance of Dorset occupation into the mediaeval period. If only one of these dates is accepted as being correct, it provides evidence of a significant temporal opportunity for contact with the Greenlandic Norse. It is also interesting to compare this range of dates with those from Thule culture in the same area (Figure 7 b). These distributions show essentially the same overlapping range of dates, and suggest that both populations had roughly the same degree of opportunity for meetings with early European occupants of Greenland.

Source: Patricia Sutherland
Figure 7a: Radiocarbon dates on High Arctic Late Dorset components: 1 sd ranges of calibrated dates.
Source: Patricia Sutherland, Canadian Museum of Civilization

Source: Patricia Sutherland

Figure 7b: Radiocarbon dates on High Arctic Thule and Late Dorset components: 1 sd ranges of calibrated dates.

Source: Patricia Sutherland, Canadian Museum of Civilization

In order to provide a general estimate of the extent of our knowledge of Late Dorset culture in the High Arctic, the results of a 800 km survey undertaken several years ago along the southern coast of Devon Island have been examined (Sutherland 1991). On the basis of extrapolation from the number of sites and features discovered during this survey, we can estimate that there may be on the order of 2000 Late Dorset occupation features in High Arctic Canada. Less than 20 of these features have currently been excavated, so that our excavated sample is most likely smaller than 1% of the total number of features occupied during the centuries when the Dorset and Norse people may have been in contact. On the basis of a sample of this size, the fact that we have recovered Norse material from three structures in the High Arctic suggests that contact may have occurred more frequently than we have previously suspected.


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