Middle Dorset

During Middle Dorset the settlement of the High Arctic Canadian Archipelago severely diminished, and probably no humans lived permanently in the High Arctic during this period (Maxwell, 1985). Middle Dorset culture is also absent from Greenland, which appears to have been depopulated for several centuries between 1800 BP and 1300 BP when Late Dorset peoples crossed the Smith Sound and settled in northern Greenland (Appelt and Gull0v, 1999). As the High Arctic was abandoned, dense Dorset settlements appeared in more southern regions around the Foxe Basin, Hudson Strait, Labrador, and on Newfoundland. Phillip's Garden on Newfoundland is one of the largest known Dorset sites (Renouf, 1993). At least 50 house depressions can be seen along two grass-covered fossil beach ridges, but not all the houses were occupied at the same time. Phillip's Garden is the result of recurring occupation between 2100 BP and 1200 BP. The houses were substantial structures measuring up to 7 m by 9 m and slightly excavated into the limestone shingle beach. In the rear and sometimes also along the sidewalls, platforms were built, and a cooking area appeared along the central axis. The middens in front of the dwellings, and sometimes the house interiors were since filled with bones, debris from tool manufacture, and discarded artifacts. Harp seal was the main game species for the people at Phillip's Garden, where it is a particularly accessible resource during late winter and spring when they whelp on the pack ice just off the shore. Characteristic Middle Dorset artifacts include closed socket harpoon heads. Among the lithic artifacts, bifacially chipped and often tip-fluted triangular endblades with straight or concave bases help to separate Middle Dorset inventories from earlier ones. Paleo-Eskimo peoples abandoned insular Newfoundland by the end of Middle Dorset, when the Dorset population appears to have abandoned the southernmost regions only to reoccupy the high Arctic Archipelago in the following centuries.

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