Anthropology 2230F/G Lecture Notes - Frost Heaving, Permafrost, Copper Inuit

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Published on 15 Sep 2013
Sept, 12, 2013
Introduction to Arctic Archaeology Arctic Environment
-The arctic is defined in many ways such as everything north of the tree line (but this changes), north of the
permafrost line (shifts), in geopolitical terms and more so it is a construction with different interpretations
-It is seen as an extreme environment with sharp contrasts like light and dark, warm and cold
Post Glacial Landscape:
-The arctic landscape was relatively recently covered by ice (not so much in the west) and it was the last part to de-
glaciate and this results in a much smaller span of human occupation
-Humans and animals alike use the landscape to their benefit by finding high ground and easier travel on eskers
which are marts of moraines of ridged dirt
-There is huge diversity in the landscape with mountains, lowland like the Mackenzie Delta, cliffs and glacier marks,
water, etc
-Beach ridges raised from glaciers pushing the land down and when the glaciers were done the sea level rose but
the land now not under pressure rebounded countering the flooding that should have occurred with higher water
-This is called isostatic rebound and the relative sea level appeared to go down over time and we can use beach
ridges to show where the shore was on the landscape long ago
-Top ridges represent the oldest potential places for sites and as you move down you move forward in time
-Frost heave is freeze-thaw activity that moves soil on a smaller scale and it results in lumps in the soil from
underground water freezing and expanding
-Frost boils are larger representations of this and shifting soil means that artifacts are also shifted
-Frost polygons form in low wet areas when cracks fill with water and when it expands it separates the ground
-Sea ice is very important in the arctic and it recedes with the seasons to expose land but the people travel on both
and landfast ice during the winter joins with the land and freezes solid (good for travel in the past and present)
-Drift (also known as flow and pack ice) is free moving on the water and is thus less stable and the formations
change a lot so it can join with landfast ice but where landfast ice is sometimes currents prevent freezing
-When this happens polynyas are formed usually in the same spot yearly and they are good for water animals and
there are lots of sites located near them and it can shift to flow ice further out in the water
Animal Life and Food Sources:
-Animals are key to our understanding and we need to know their behaviour to understand humans and their
actions and there is low species diversity as you go north but you see large populations of animals
-Animals can be abundant but widely dispersed with marked seasonal congregations like the reindeer migration
-Musk oxen (like small arctic bison) move in herds but don’t have seasonal migrations and they just generally graze
around and their main defence mechanism is surrounding their young in a circle facing out and this is effective
against predators like wolves but not on armed humans who can pick them off easier when they are clustered
-Caribou are hunted during their migration in the fall especially when their pelts are in good shape and thickening
for winter and people often intercept them where they cross bodies of water where they are more vulnerable
-Arc tic foxes became important trade items but they were also eaten more commonly in earlier times when
caribou were scarce when populations cycled and the smaller species follow the same trend (opposite times)
-Hares were also good for food and clothing and seals and other marine mammals were important because their
population cycles were not so extreme
-Ring seals are the smallest but they were advantageous to hunt because they use and maintain breathing holes
-Bearded seals are the largest and they have more meat and smaller populations and they are solitary so they are
never found in migrating groups while Harp seals migrate south to breed on pack ice in more eastern areas
-Larger marine mammals are harder to hunt and this had a great impact on societies because it forced they to
cooperate when hunting and to develop technology
-Walruses are harder to hunt because they would fight back but it could be worth it for the huge amount of meat
and beluga whales migrate in large pods so they were seasonally available
-Bow head whales were heavily hunted by Europeans and the Thule used their bones commonly in architecture
-Polar bears are at the top of the marine food chain and they hunt ring seals almost exclusively and their bones
have been found in food middens to the surprise of researchers because they would have been dangerous to hunt
-They also used migratory birds are food sources as they wintered in their areas
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