Team excavates sod house near Iqaluit, with descendants of the house's residents standing by

As members of a family whose ancestors once lived in sod huts looked on, archeologists excavated one of the sod houses in Qaummaarviit Territorial Park, near Iqaluit, unearthing spears, harpoons and arrowheads.

Adamie Naulaq Inookie is the fourth generation to live near Qaummaarviit Territorial Park

Adamie Naulaq Inookie and his father Inookie Adamie at the Qaummaarviit excavation site of a sod house that belonged to their ancestors. (Meeka Mike/Inuit Heritage Trust)

Adamie Naulaq Inookie watched as archeologists excavated one of the sod houses in Qaummaarviit Territorial Park, near Iqaluit, unearthing spears, harpoons and arrowheads.

Generations ago, those artifacts belonged to his ancestors.  

The park has 11 sod houses, one of which belonged to Naulaq Inookie's ancestors. People first settled at Qaummaarviit as early as 1200 AD and were still there until the 1800s, according to Nunavut Parks.

Naulaq Inookie is the fourth generation of his family to live in the area. Both he and his father, Inookie Adamie, visited the site in the summer during the dig.

"I never knew that it was my ancestors' house there," Naulaq Inookie said. "It was the first time these archeologist people were excavating a [sod] house with a family member in the site."

As the park's traditional steward, Naulaq Inookie gave the team from the Inuit Heritage Trust permission to excavate.

Excavation started in late July and wrapped up in October. The first team of four people spent three weeks in July and early August on site, while the second team of eight, spent a week in September and early October.

Inookie Naulaq examines a spearhead found during this summer's excavations. (Meeka Mike/Inuit Heritage Trust )

Design dictates excavation plan

The houses are half underground with deep entrances that trap the warm air within the house, according to the Nunavut government.

Torsten Diesel, the project's manager with Inuit Heritage Trust, said the structure dictated how the excavation was carried out.

He said there were concerns about how the site would survive spring melt, if water pooled in the doorway, which is lower down the hill than the rest of the house.
Torsten Diesel, with Inuit Heritage Trust, is managing the excavation project. (David Gunn/CBC)

As a result, all excavation was completed in that area first and a run-off trench was dug to prevent flooding.

In the entranceway, the teams found an intact harpoon, spear, arrow heads, and a sled runner.

"The overall number of artifacts that we found reaches up into the thousands," he said. "But most of that is just little debris of bone or rock that were produced while Inuit back in the day made their real stone tools."

Tourist recreation

The artifacts are now in laboratories in southern Canada for conservation and analysis.

When the conservation work is completed, they will be displayed at the Museums of History and Nature in Ottawa.

The eventual goal, Diesel says, is that when Nunavut gets its own heritage centre, equipped to properly preserve the artifacts, they will return to the territory.

The project's main goal is a full reconstruction of the sod house for tourists.

They'll be able to explore the skin roofs supported by whale jawbones and ribs and see how snow insulated the homes.