Karen Ryan

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Peter Ramsden




By the end of the 1960s research in the Eastern North American Arctic had defined a single widespread Early Palaeoeskimo culture, dubbed Pre-Dorset since it preceded Late Palaeoeskimo Dorset culture. Subsequent investigations in Greenland resulted in the recognition of two other occupations, Independence I and Saqqaq, that, while different, were considered part of the Pre-Dorset manifestation. However, in the mid-1970s it was proposed that Independence I and Pre-Dorset should be considered culturally and temporally distinct. This classification system clearly divided the period and did not allow for interactions between the groups. While this proposal was initially questioned, it has come to dominate interpretation of the Early Palaeoeskimo period. At the same time as this framework was being promoted, a small number of Early Pre-Dorset sites were excavated in Labrador. Classified as Pre-Dorset, these sites nonetheless exhibited Independence I and Saqqaq influences. The reasons for this could not be fully explained, though a relationship between Labrador and the High Arctic was proposed. This thesis reevaluates the place of Labrador Early Pre-Dorset within the sphere of the Eastern Arctic following upon almost thirty years of archaeological work, both in Labrador and elsewhere in the Eastern Arctic. Recent evidence suggests that researchers must rethink their view of the Early Palaeoeskimo period and the vision of Independence I and Saqqaq relations. Only by viewing Independence I and early Saqqaq as part of the same cultural unit can the cultural sequence be reconciled with the archaeological data.

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