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The Sequence of Cultures in the Arctic

During the last glaciation the westernmost part of this region formed the uplands of Beringia, the first part of the Americas occupied by humans. However, the earliest widely accepted sites, found in Alaska, are somewhat later and are assigned to the Paleo-arctic tradition. This is succeeded by the Arctic Small Tool tradition (ASTt) whose bearers also became the first people to occupy the Canadian Arctic and Greenland, migrating into those regions from Alaska. The resulting widespread ASTt population developed differently in Alaska and in Arctic Canada/Greenland. In Alaska the Arctic Small Tool tradition developed into the Norton tradition while in the Eastern Arctic it eventually becomes the Dorset culture. The cultures of the Thule tradition developed from the Norton tradition in the area around Bering Strait and subsequently spread, in part through an extraordinary migration of people, throughout the entire Arctic region except the Aleutian Islands. The widespread present day Inuit and Eskimo peoples are the direct cultural and biological descendants of the Thule.

For more detailed descriptions of these cultural segments click on the names in the following diagram or click here to start with the earliest culture.

Culture history diagram