North

Artifacts recovered at ancient Thule site in Nunavut

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

Parks Canada plans to showcase them in Pond Inlet before sending south for preservation

Parks Canada staff spent two weeks in August recovering artifacts from a sod house at a site in Sirmilik National Park before it erodes into the ocean. (David Rodger/Parks Canada)

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

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 artifacts recovered, including iron nails likely from the whaling period.

Saw marks are visible on this whale bone recovered from a sod house in Sirmilik National Park in Nunavut. (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.

An aerial shot of the excavation work by Parks Canada. The sod house is at risk of eroding into the water. (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 artifacts at that site before anything erodes," Maher said.

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

now