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Thule tradition

The Thule tradition (which lasted from about A.D. 1 to A.D. 1600) includes the Old Bering Sea, Okvik, Punuk, Birnirk, and Thule cultures. It seems to have developed out of the Norton tradition. It represented a new kind of adaptation to the Arctic environment, based on the hunting of large sea mammals in open water through the use of drag floats attached to the harpoon line. Large skin boats and the use of dogs to pull large sleds were other Thule innovations. Winters were spent in sometimes large communities of semisubterranean houses, subsisting on a stored surplus obtained most typically by hunting bowhead whales. The earliest sites are on islands in Bering Strait and exhibit an almost complete reliance on maritime resources, but later sites demonstrate reliance on both maritime and terrestrial resources. This kind of adaptation developed around Bering Strait but it spread, primarily though migration, to encompass practically the entire Arctic region by A.D. 1000. In the Canadian Arctic the Thule people replaced the Dorset culture in a poorly understood fashion. Climatic deterioration following the thirteenth century is widely credited with causing the Thule people to modify their way of life into the way of life of the various Historic Inuit groups.

Click here to see pictures illustrating some characteristic Thule culture artifacts and features. Under the Archaeological Site Descriptions menu you can also see more photographs of two Thule sites from southern Baffin Island: Davidson Point and Tungatsivvik. And to read a detailed description of the excavation and analysis of a Thule site from Devon Island, go to the QkHn-12 menu.