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Artefacts recovered at ancient Thule site in Nunavut

Whale and seal bones, a possible arrowhead and a blue seed bead, used as jewellery, were among some of the artefacts recovered from an ancient Thule site in August in one of Canada's most northern national parks.

Artefacts recovered at ancient Thule site in Nunavut
Parks Canada staff spent two weeks in August recovering artefacts from a sod house at a site in Sirmilik National Park 
before it erodes into the ocean [Credit: David Rodger/Parks Canada]
In August, Parks Canada staff spent two weeks excavating a sod house in Sirmilik National Park before it erodes into the Arctic Ocean.

The site has been used over the centuries by ancestors of Inuit and more recently — a couple hundred years ago — by whalers.

"It's one of the things that makes this site so interesting is that overlap between the more distant past and the more recent past," said Andrew Maher, the resource conservation manager for Parks Canada's Nunavut field unit.

An elder and youth from Pond Inlet joined archaeologists with Parks Canada to help interpret the site and the artefacts recovered, including iron nails likely from the whaling period.

Artefacts recovered at ancient Thule site in Nunavut
Saw marks are visible on this whale bone recovered from a sod house in Sirmilik National Park in Nunavut 
[Credit: Donalee Deck/Parks Canada]
The sod house is one of a handful at the site, known as Qaiqsut, located on Bylot Island just off the northern tip of Baffin Island.

"At that site we have Thule winter houses but we also have those sod houses and newer sod houses that were used in much more recent history, in the last few hundred years," Maher said.

"So it's really hard to nail down for this specific site when the sod houses were used."

Parks Canada has been monitoring Qaiqsut for a number of years and recognised one of the sod houses was at risk of eroding away.

Artefacts recovered at ancient Thule site in Nunavut
Aerial shot of the excavation work by Parks Canada. The sod house is at risk of eroding into the water 
[Credit: David Rodger/Parks Canada]
Archaeologists spent two weeks at a house which sits at the edge of  a rocky, cobbled area already eroded away after years of tidal action.

"As a coastal site it is an area that would be subject to erosion from the ocean and we want to make sure that we're able to act to preserve the artefacts at that site before anything erodes," Maher said.

There are plans to display the artefacts in Pond Inlet where Maher hopes Parks Canada will have some help from locals to interpret them before they're sent south for preservation.

Author: John Van Dusen | Source: CBC News [September 11, 2016]

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