One of the cultures discussed during anthropology course is the Dorset culture. Since your instructor would want you to read more about it, you may be tasked with an essay on it. In order to make yours stand out from the rest of the class and ensure that you get a good grade as a result, use the following facts to support your essay.
- The timeline of the Dorset Culture is divided into four periods:
- The Early (beginning around 500 BCE)
- Late (beginning around CE 800)
- Terminal (between CE 1000 to 1500)
It is evident from various digging sites of the Dorset that the Thule migrated from east of Alaska during the Terminal period.
- The expression “Cape Dorset Culture” was coined by Diamond Jenness in 1925. While studying the mixed collections that came from the Hudson Strait Area and Cape Dorset on Baffin Island, Jenness deduced that the culture existed before the Thule.
- Dorset and later the Thule people were the civilization which the Norse encountered when they visited the area. Calling them skræling, which means ‘primitive people’, the Norse noted that they were strong and gigantic in structure, but easily scared.
- The Dorset Culture existed in Foxe Basin, which is a shallow oceanic basin north of Hudson Bay. They primarily resided in the areas of Nunavik, Labrador, Newfoundland and Low Arctic of Nunavut.
- Common objects found at Dorset sites include snow knives. This indicates that this civilization had knowledge and experience in making snow houses, which are now known as Igloos.
- Dorset people had great interest in carved objects, especially bears, fish and birds carved from bone, wood, ivory. They are considered the pioneers in carving artwork as none of the artefacts dating before their arrival were carved with such finesse.
- The Newfoundland Museum houses a substantial collection dug from Dorset sites. The collection includes Polar Bears, Human Figures, Birds, Human Skull and many other artifacts. Most of these represent the Dorset’s beliefs, especially with regards to the supernatural.
- Nature aside, various archaeologists assume that the Dorset people’s artwork was mainly inspired from their spiritual beliefs. Although the Dorset people did trade with the Thule, they did not favor the idea of mingling with them and chose to remain isolated. Anthropologists assume that their art is what they used to differentiate themselves from the Thule.
- The Dorset Civilization descended from Paleo-Eskimos of the Pre-Dorset Culture in 2000-500 BCE. By comparison, the Dorset people had a more prosperous economy and lived in permanent snow and turf-made houses.
- The earlier Dorset people did not hunt land animals such as caribou or polar bear because they did not have proper hunting tools like the arrow and bow. They survived by hunting sea mammals like the seal, which they hunted by cutting holes in the ice. In the Nunavik region, the late Dorset populations mainly hunted all mammals except the large whales or fed on migratory birds. They were fond of collecting various species of plants as well.
- There is no genetic connection between the Dorset and the Thule people. This shows that intermarriage between the two cultures did not happen. However, there was trade of knowledge between them as the Thule engaged in seal-hole hunting after migrating. Seal-hole hunting was not part of the Thule’s tradition, which could mean that the Dorset people must have taught them this skill.
- According to some scholars, Sadlermiut were the last remnants of the Dorset culture, as their culture and dialect differed from the mainland Inuit. This theory came to light during a mitochondrial DNA research in 2002. Another similar research in 2012 showed no link between the Sadlermiut and the Dorset.
- The hunting technology of the Dorset Culture included small triangular end-blades which they hefted onto harpoon heads. The harpoons were then used to hunt seals as well as larger sea mammals such as the walrus and narwhals.
- The Dorset people used soapstones to make lamps and relied on seal oil to fuel them. They used these lamps for heating and illuminating their homes during long, cold and dark winter months.
- The Dorset people had ice-creepers which resemble the modern Alaskan ice-creeper. However, the Dorset Ice-creeper may have been inspired by a similar object before it was replaced altogether in that region.
- Traditionally settling on coasts, the Dorset civilization lived in small tent rings that often included axial features. Their houses were generally subterranean, and their tents were skin-covered in summer time. This shows that they were more inclined towards the sea than their descendants, the Palaeo-Eskimo, as most of their houses were exposed to headlands and outer islands. They also had structures that resemble long houses, which they used in periods of extreme winter. During this time, Dorset families gathered and lived under a single roof.
- Dorset people used to live in small, close-knit communities. Each village consisted of no more than 20 to 30 people.
- The Late Dorset flintknappers were capable of producing a wide number of lithic materials such as slate, basalt, agate, quartzite and soapstone. These were then used for making a variety of weapons and knife blades.
- The Dorset people often used driftwood for construction. It was rarely used, though, because it was not being brought in continuously due to long distances.
- It is believed that the Dorset people had transportation means to travel through sea as well as on land. There is evidence suggesting that they made sleds, which were either pulled by hand or animals. Some archaeologists also believe that the Dorset built Kayak-like Boats.
- A large number of bones found at Dorset sites were of various bird species. They were presumably captured by nets or on open water when they could not fly during molting season.
- The Dorset culture started to disappear from the Labrador around 1500 years ago. They disappeared entirely from Greenland and the Canadian arctic. Their initial displacement from outside of the island of Newfoundland may have been due to the Thule.
- Why did the Dorset People disappear is still under-debate. Thule people had a strong history of warfare and had better hunting weapons then them, which is probably why conflicts between the two civilizations may have eliminated the former. However, the Medieval Warm Period may have threatened the existence of the Dorset population beforehand.
These should give sufficient insights for you to write an anthropology essay on Dorset culture. Additionally you may check our 20 topics and 1 sample essay on Dorset culture as well a complete guide to write an essay paper in anthropology.
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Michael Fortescue, Steven Jacobson & Lawrence Kaplan (1994): Comparative Eskimo Dictionary; with Aleut Cognates (Alaska Native Language Center Research Paper 9)
Robert McGhee (2005): The Last Imaginary Place: A Human History of the Arctic World
Robert McGhee (2001): Ancient People of the Arctic
Plummet Patrick, Lebel Serge (1997). “Dorset Tip Fluting: A Second ‘American’ Invention”. Arctic Anthropology 34 (2): 132–162.
Renouf M.A.P. (1999). “Prehistory of Newfoundland Hunter-Gatherers: Extinctions or Adaptations?”. World Archaeology 30 (3): 403–420
Bonvillain, Nancy. The Inuit. Chelsea House Publishers, 1995