Return to Menu
A History of the Native People of Canada
Volume I (10,000 to 1,000 B.C.)

Prologue to Period III (4,000 to 1,000 B.C.)

By 4,000 B.C. climatic and environmental conditions across most of Canada were similar to the present time. Sea levels approached their current positions and remnants of the glaciers were limited to the High Arctic and alpine settings. Forests west of Hudson Bay extended further north but cooler and wetter climate after 2,000 B.C. forced the tree line as much as 300 km south of its present location. Geographical stability favoured the survival of increasing numbers of archaeological sites.

Map III - Cultural Distributions
Map III - Cultural Distributions, 4,000 to 1,000 B.C.
A Middle Maritime | B Middle Great Lakes-St. Lawrence | C Middle Shield | D Middle Plains | E Middle Plateau | F Early West Coast | G Middle Northwest Interior | H Early Palaeo-Eskimo

The map is intended to act as a simplified, geographical guide to the distribution of Period III cultures.

(Adapted, but with considerable modifications, from Plate 7 of the Historical Atlas of Canada, Volume I, From the Beginning to 1800. R. Cole Harris, editor, and Geoffrey J. Matthews, cartographer/designer. University of Toronto Press, 1987. Drawing by Mr. David W. Laverie.)

In most areas the process of cultural regionalization continued apace. The most dramatic single human accomplishment of the period was the colonization of the High Arctic and Greenland by Early Palaeo-Eskimo culture beginning around 2,500 B.C. This migration constituted the last human occupation of a major geographical region in the world exclusive of the settling of Oceania. Elements of Early Palaeo-Eskimo culture would eventually reach northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Québec, the Labrador coast and the northshore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence as well as the Island of Newfoundland. In these more southerly regions culture contacts would have been made with a number of different Indian cultures. Less dramatic population movements were represented by the Middle Maritime culture expansion to the north coast of Labrador and onto the Island of Newfoundland and the Middle Shield culture occupation of the increasingly habitable regions of the Canadian Shield, penetrating to the Labrador coast and the northshore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence by 2,000 B.C.

There was an increase in the communal hunting of bison and the production of pemmican on the Plains while in the Southern Plateau by 2,500 B.C. semi-subterranean pit house villages were being established at favourable salmon fishing locales. Early Northwest Coast culture settlements became increasingly sedentary with villages being characterized by large shell middens. Towards the close of Period III along the west coast the first indications of the development of socially ranked societies can be detected. Elaboration of mortuary ritualism is apparent across the entire country. Shortly before the close of Period III the bow and arrow technology appears for the first time. This technology was apparently introduced from Asia by Early Palaeo-Eskimo culture and diffused, via the High Arctic, down the Labrador coast to the St. Lawrence River and into the eastern Canadian Shield and, thence, westward.

Volume IVolume II

Back Menu - A History of the Native People of Canada Continue