Friday, August 30, 2013

Why Antique Dorset Palaeoeskimo Reproductions?

Dorset (L) and Thule (R)
harpoon head reproductions
Most of the Dorset Palaeoeskimo and Thule-Inuit reproductions for the Clyde River order are made now.  I just need to do some assembly on the composite arrows and harpoons and wait for various glues, rawhide and sinew bindings to dry.  The only major pieces that I haven't started on are a few microblades and a core.  I'm leaving them until last because they always take me a bit of time and luck and that will give me extra drying time on the other pieces.  Throughout the assembly stage, I've been antiquing the Dorset Palaeoeskimo antler and whalebone reproductions.  I'm doing this to create a visual contrast between the two sets and also to illustrate one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in the Canadian Arctic.

Antiqued Dorset Palaeoeskimo harpoon head reproduction
in antler
The Inuit have always said that there were other people living in the Eastern Arctic before they arrived.  They called them the Tunit (Tunnit, Tuniit, etc).  In 1925, an archaeologist named Diamond Jenness identified the Cape Dorset culture based on a set of artifacts from Cape Dorset, Baffin Island.  He recognized that these artifacts were not quite like the tools made by the Inuit and their ancestors and he suggested that the Cape Dorset culture pre-dated the Inuit.  One of the clues that helped Jenness identify the age of the culture was the dark colour of the artifacts.  The more recent Inuit artifacts that Jenness was familiar with were relatively light coloured, while these artifacts from Cape Dorset were made in a peculiar style and were a darker brown.  Today we recognize that the people that the Inuit called the Tunit and the people who left behind the artifacts that Jenness' called the Cape Dorset culture were most likely one and the same.

Diamond Jenness photo and brief bio from a display on his work at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. (click to enlarge)

Some of the first dark stained artifacts from Cape Dorset that helped Jenness define the Cape Dorset culture in 1925.  CMC display.  (Click to Enlarge)

Inuit artifacts collected during the 1913-1918 Canadian Arctic Expedition and studied by Jenness.  He correctly surmised that the dark artifacts from Cape Dorset must have been significantly older.

I want to represent Jenness' discovery in
the colour contrast of the dark coloured
Palaeoeskimo reproductions and the light
coloured Thule/Inuit reproductions in this set.
Since the artifact reproductions in this set represent both early Inuit and Dorset Palaeoeskimo cultures and they are going to be used in a teaching collection on Baffin Island, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect the same colour contrast in the bone, antler and ivory tools that Jenness first noticed in the collection that he studied from Cape Dorset.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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