M.A. Theses: Christyann M. Darwent, 1995

Late Dorset Faunal Remains from the Tasiarulik Site, Little Cornwallis Island, Central High Arctic, Canada

The purpose of this thesis is to examine the faunal remains from the Late Dorset (1000-1500 B.P.) site of Tasiarulik (QjJx-10), on Little Cornwallis Island, in the Canadian Central High Arctic. Archaeological investigation of this site involved two seasons of field work (1992 and 1993). A strictly surface examination of the faunal remains, with identification and analysis complete in the field, was employed the first season. The following summer, we returned to Tasiarulik to excavate and collect a sample of three major feature types: house depressions, tent ring formations, and middens. This has allowed for the comparison of two different data collection techniques.

The focus of subsistence at this Late Dorset site was marine mammals, specifically, ringed and harp seal, bearded seal, and walrus. Seasonal exploitation of migratory birds (summer) and Arctic fox (likely for winter pelts) also occurred. One of the most significant differences between the surface and the excavated assemblage is the relative increase in the representation of small terrestrial mammal, bird and fish in the subsurface remains. This seems to indicate that the smaller bones tend to be obscured by a thin vegetative cover, and are more subject to destructive processes. Surface fauna appears to have been exposed to much more severe weathering and has been more heavily modified by carnivore (Arctic fox) gnawing than buried bone. The presence of cut marks on the bones is quite rare and reflects both the degree of preservation of the outer bone table, and skilled butchering. Filleting marks were most common. An examination of pinniped skeletal element representation indicates that the spongier, less dense vertebral elements are not as well represented on the surface, with the relative frequency of other elements remaining generally the same between the two assemblages. Body part frequencies suggest that seals were transported to the site as whole carcasses and processed. The spatial density of bone appears to be highly varied on the surface which is generally correlated with the amount of vegetative cover. These two methods of faunal analysis appear to complement each other as a means of accessing different types of information about the taphonomic and cultural processes which have created this multi-component site.