Economic Change in the Palaeoeskimo Prehistory ofthe Foxe Basin, N. W. T.

Maribeth S. Murray


This thesis is a study of economic change in the Palaeoeskimo period (3200 B. P. to 1000 B. P.) at Igloolik Island, in the Foxe Basin, eastern Canadian Arctic. Evidence derived from the analysis of settlement, zooarchaeological and artefactual data was used to infer changes in settlement, subsistence and social organization between early PreDorset (3200 B. P.) and Late Dorset (1000 B. P.). The primary economic unit during early PreDorset was probably the nuclear family and at Igloolik the major subsistence activity was ringed seal hunting. PreDorset settlement was short-term and groups appear to have been highly mobile, moving away from Igloolik to exploit other resources on a seasonal basis. In contrast Dorset groups were less mobile, spending a greater proportion of the year at Igloolik and exploiting a wider range of resources. The Early Dorset period was characterized by the development of new technology, communal walrus hunting, storage practices and the appearance of larger economic and social units. In Late Dorset, this basic pattern remained the same, although subsistence strategies continued to broaden.

The development of communal walrus hunting, storage and the widening of the subsistence base combined to produce relative subsistence security in Dorset as compared to PreDorset. This relative security seems to have been expressed in the elaboration of material culture, particularly walrus hunting harpoon heads, and it may have resulted some socio-economic differentiation between Dorset groups in the Foxe Basin region and those in the central and high Arctic.