Camping at the Caribou Crossing: Relating Palaeo-Eskimo Lithic Technological Change and Human Mobility Patterns in Southeastern Victoria Island, Nunavut

Andrew Thomas Ray Riddle
Anthropology, University of Toronto
December, 2010
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This dissertation explores the inter-relatedness of lithic technology and human mobility in the ancient central North American Arctic. Palaeo-Eskimo populations inhabited southeastern Victoria Island, Nunavut, discontinuously for over three thousand years. During this time, Palaeo-Eskimo lifeways are believed to have changed significantly in regards to subsistence economy, settlement patterns, interaction patterns, and mobility. One of the most significant changes is a marked decrease in the scale and frequency of human mobility and an increase in the re-occupation of seasonal camps. Palaeo-Eskimo material culture is observed to undergo important changes at the same time; consequently, one wonders what influence(s) mobility may have effected on the form and nature of Palaeo-Eskimo material culture. This work examines the potential influence of human mobility on lithic technology in the Pre-Dorset, Early Dorset, and Middle Dorset periods as evidenced by lithic assemblages from nine archaeological sites and site components in the Iqaluktuuq (Ekalluk River) region of Victoria Island. Over 800 formal tools and 30000 pieces of debitage were examined and analyzed according to two interpretive frameworks: one technological and the other mobility-related. The technological analyses demonstrate that significant changes took place in lithic production and maintenance processes during the Palaeo-Eskimo period. The mobility-related analyses demonstrate that, while many of the changes to lithic technological organization are consistent with expected trends resulting from a decrease in human mobility, not all aspects of Palaeo-Eskimo lithic tool production, maintenance and use appear to have been similarly influenced by this change in mobility.