Nadlok and the Origin of the Copper Inuit

Climate, Dating, and Seasonality

Nadlok's carbon-dated floors and levels show a 1450-1750 A.D. occupation in the Little Ice Age, a time of deteriorating climate when ocean temperature fell 1-3 deg. C and the Arctic summer front retreated 4-5 deg. of latitude. Sea ice stayed all year in sheltered Bathurst Inlet and east Coronation Gulf, inevitably disrupting sea-mammals and their hunters, but with little effect on caribou.

A one-metre deep bone level extending under the lake dates to about the time of Columbus beneath one hut and at the east end of the island. It represents Nadlok's first occupation as a seasonal tent camp. The first hut was built about fifty years later (hut 2 floor 3). Floor 2 was occupied about 1560 A.D. and floor 1 about twenty years later. Hut 3 may have been built somewhat later than hut 2, as its floor 3 dates even later, but dating errors do not exclude simulatneous occupancy. Upper floors 2 and 1 date about 1625-1800 A.D., with final occupation shortly after. An ulu handle with a stain suggesting an iron blade is the only evidence of Eurasian trade goods.


Time limits prevented the excavation of even one stone winter house, but at least one floor was exposed, along with faunal and cultural material.

House and hut architecture and thin-sectioned caribou teeth from several floors show Nadlok was occupied from summer through winter. Winter use is very significant since historic Copper Inuit wintered exclusively on the sea ice and never in the interior, while even Thule culture winter houses are known only from coastal or near-coastal locations.

Nadlok was abandoned at the beginning of a mild warming trend after 1750 A.D. when turf grew over the fallen hut walls. Later, it was sporadically visited in the 1930s by Bathurst Inlet Kingaunmiut who used it for trapping arctic fox. The trail over the patio of the hut 3 had fox traps, matches and a Winchester 38-55 carbine and cartridges, while wooden box slats were on a lookout east of Nadlok.

Previous Page: Introduction  |  Table of Contents  |  Glossary  |  Next Page: Artifacts