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The Artifacts

The artifact catalogue from the 1986 excavations at QkHn-12 contains 228 entries, 227 coming from the excavation of House 1. Of these 228 artifacts a total of 56 are flaked stone, including a stemmed end-blade, six burins, three burin spalls, one microblade fragment, and two biface fragments. Because the Thule made extremely limited use of flaked stone, all are presumed to derive from the extensive Pre-Dorset component at this site (Bertulli and Strahlendorf 1984). In constructing their semi-subterranean house the Thule undoubtedly dug into Pre-Dorset deposits so most or all of these lithic artifacts were probably accidental incorporations in the roof sod or wall fill.

All but two of the remaining 172 artifacts are thought to derive directly from the Thule occupation of the house. One artifact, an ivory human figurine, is very obviously a product of the Dorset culture—stylistically it is totally unlike Thule human figurines. One other artifact from the house may be Dorset: a barbed projectile made of ivory, perhaps a dart head. It is broken at both ends but at its base there remains part of an offset carved line hole. Therefore, a Dorset component might also exist at this location, into which the Thule had dug while constructing the house. However, based on the absence of other recognizably Dorset artifacts and given the widespread Thule practice of "salvaging" artifacts from Dorset sites (Park 1993), it seems most probable that the Thule inhabitants of the house got the doll and the dart head somewhere else and brought them with them to QkHn-12.

Turning to the "definitely Thule" artifacts found in House 1, a fairly representative sample was recovered:

Hunting implements

As might be expected, the largest single functional category of artifacts derives from various types of hunting. Harpoon gear relating to the hunting of sea mammals includes a Thule type 2 harpoon head with a triangular line-hole, cut lashing slots, and a sharp base/spur margin. Other harpoon gear includes an unfinished (?) moveable foreshaft, two fragments of a tubular harpoon socket piece, and a small harpoon ice pick. The hunting of basking seals, or seals in leads in the ice, is attested to by a wooden seal scratcher. Finally, the broken distal end of a wooden lance was found, which had a knobbed tang to which some sort of end-blade would have been attached.

The hunting of other types of game is represented by an antler arrowhead surmounted by a tang very similar to that of the wooden lance. Also included in this category are two gull hook shanks and a fragment of a wooden sling handle. Numerous strands of baleen tied into various sorts of knots and nooses may have been parts of snares.

One other artifact which may have been part of some sort of hunting implement is a fragment of a small antler socket piece, broken basally at the level of a line-hole. It is distinctive in having the socket carved so as to receive a threaded screw-type base of something. A groove around the outer surface of the piece near its distal end suggests that it was composite (i.e., two halves lashed together). What type of implement this was part of is not known, but arrowheads (?) with screw-type tangs are known from Comer's Midden (Holtved 1944: Plate 11.30).


No artifacts were found which could be definitely associated with means of transportation but a couple of fragmentary strips of baleen with paired holes drilled through them may have been used as sled shoes, and two broken pieces of wood were very tentatively identified as paddle blade fragments.

Manufacturing, etc.

Included in this category is a bone man's knife with a side-blade slot at its distal end and a proximal suspension hole, and an antler ulu or scraper handle with a deep lens-shaped blade slot in its broad distal end. One of the more interesting finds of the excavation was a small antler engraving tool having a copper bit. The bit, square in cross-section, came free during excavation but fit into an open socket in the tip of the handle where it would have been secured by a lashing.

Other finds which might fit into this category include a mattock blade, something identified as a pick blade, and two antler wedges. One of these is distinctive in being covered with incised grooves parallel to its long axis, some of which have been broken up by hatch marks. This is almost certainly decoration and not due to the piece's function. A small whalebone bowl may have been a cup-shaped scraper although it shows no sign of having been used as such; otherwise its function is unknown. Finally, there was also a whetstone and a skin thimble.

Household implements

Cooking and heating are represented by fragments of a soapstone vessel, the wooden bottom of a baleen or bent-wood bowl, and by a wooden lamp. This is a roughly-shaped piece of wood that has been hollowed out to form a basin-like depression on one side. Its use as a lamp is attested to by a blackened area near one edge where the wick would have been.

Ornaments etc.

Included in this class are a fox canine tooth with a hole drilled through its root for use (probably) as a pendant, and two small ivory carvings. One of these may have been for use as a pendant although it has no suspension hole. The other is very tentatively identified as a gaming piece.

Faunal Analysis >>