Long Pond Dorset

The Dorset Palaeoeskimo were an Arctic adapted people who were first recognized archaeologically by anthropologist Diamond Jenness in the early 1920s at Cape Dorset, Hudson Bay.  Jenness realized that the artifacts of the ‘Cape Dorset’ were unrelated to and earlier than the Thule/Inuit.  Within the next 20 years Dorset sites were recognized in other places in the Arctic, Greenland and in Newfoundland and Labrador by both Jenness and W.J. Wintemberg.

The Dorset are part of a larger cultural group known as the Arctic Small Tool Tradition.  In Newfoundland and Labrador the Dorset are subdivided into Early, Middle and Late phases and are archaeologically visible from ~2500 years ago to ~ 600 years ago.  Currently on the Island of Newfoundland the are 255 known Dorset Palaeoeskimo sites and 362 in Labrador.

The yellow dots are the known Dorset Palaeoeskimo sites in Newfoundland and Labrador

A typical Dorset Palaeoeskimo tool kit would include flaked triangular end blades with concave bifacially thinned bases, various other types of bifaces, triangular endscrapers, burin-like tools with small side notches, microblades and soapstone bowls and lamps.  They are often tip fluted meaning a single flake is removed from each side of the tip of the triangular blade.  On occasion organic Dorset Palaeoeskimo artifacts have been preserved; this is a rarity for Newfoundland and Labrador because of our generally acidic soils.  Some of the found organic artifacts include closed socketed harpoon heads, foreshafts,  barbed harpoons, sled runner fragments, needles, and amulets.

Dorset Palaeoeskimo artifacts from Phillip's Garden, Port au Choix. a. endblade slotted into harpoon head; b-c. endblades; d-e. scrapers; f-g. nephrite burin-like tools; h. bone point; i-k. microblades; l. biface; m. awl; n. sledrunner segment http://www.therooms.ca/museum/mnotes5.asp
Dorset end blades - the one on the left has been tip fluted elfshotgallery.blogspot.com
Typical Dorset Palaeoeskimo hunting harpoon elfshotgallery.blogspot.com/2009/11/what-are-parts-of-toggling-harpoon.html

The Dorset were expert seal hunters.  Even on the Island of Newfoundland, most Dorset Palaeoeskimo site locations show their reliance on seals and an Arctic adaptation.  For example, the two largest breeding grounds for harp seal are found along the west coast and off the northeast coast in the areas of White Bay and Notre Dame Bay. Dorset sites in these areas were often at wind swept, outer coastal locations on exposed points of land to gain access to these migrating seal herds.  Harp seals will spend weeks just off the coast from Port au Choix in the late winter/early spring of the year.  Not by coincidence, the largest Dorset Palaeoeskimo site in the province is located at Phillip’s Garden, Port au Choix.

By contrast, these cultural characteristics of an Arctic adaptation and a focus on seal hunting make the Long Pond Dorset Palaeoeskimo site all the more peculiar.  There are 10 known Dorset Palaeoeskimo sites on the Island that are what archaeologists would term ‘Interior’ sites.  This means they are kilometres from the exposed coast line and the seals that are typical of Dorset sites.  These interior sites are located on major waterways such as the Gander River, Exploits River or one of their tributaries.  The Long Pond site is located on Flat Bay Brook.  Essentially all are within quick travel distance of the coast, but they are still located in very odd areas for people who were primarily Arctic adapted seal hunters.

Location of the Long Pond Dorset Palaeoeskimo site

The Long Pond site was found by a local hunting/fishing guide in 1978 on a pond that had been flooded by Newfoundland Light and Power in the 1950s.  Unfortunately the flooding resulted in the site being destroyed.  The pond itself is just over 30 km (or 19 miles) inland.

Long Pond Dorset Palaeoeskimo artifacts, bottom microblade fragments, middle 2 end blades and a scraper, top 3 bifaces (Penney 1980)
Eroded location of the Long Pond Dorset Palaeoeskimo site

Erwin, John 2001 A Prehistoric Soapstone Quarry in Fleur de Lys , Newfoundland. Ph.D, University of Calgary.

Penney, Gerald  1980  A Report on an Archaeological Survey of Bay D’Espoir.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s