When did contact between the Dorset and these early Europeans
The type of material found on
Dorset sites suggests that the European contact relates
primarily to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries A.D.,
during the closing phases of the Norse colonies in Greenland.
However, this evidence is at odds with many of the radiocarbon
dates from these sites, which are significantly earlier and most
frequently fall in the eighth or ninth centuries A.D.
Who were these early Europeans?
It seems likely that the
Europeans represented by these finds were Norse from the
Greenland colonies. Helluland may have been an important source
of walrus ivory, which was one of the Greenlanders' most
valuable exports to Europe.
The much older radiocarbon dates associated with the Helluland
sites which have produced European material, however, raise the
possibility of an earlier European presence in Arctic Canada,
pre-dating Eirik the Red's discovery of Greenland, and hinting
at an entirely new picture of early European movement across the
What was the nature of the contact?
The pieces of cordage and broken
wooden artifacts found at Helluland Dorset sites are not the
kind of material that we would expect to have reached the area
through aboriginal trade from a distant source of European
contact. Instead, they resemble the everyday objects and refuse
which may have been left at shore camps located in the vicinity
of Dorset settlements. This type of material suggests a more
extensive association between early Europeans and the people of
Baffin Island and adjacent regions than had been previously
Were Europeans living near or among the Dorset people of
Helluland? Research which is planned as part of the Helluland
Archaeology Project may soon answer this question.