Understanding the Material: Comparing the Ways Tuniit Used Metal (AD 500-1300) - Patrick C. Jolicoeur
9:30 AM, Saturday 5 Oct 2019 (30 minutes)
Sherbrooke Pavilion (SH) - SH-3120
Around AD 500 Tuniit, known as the Late Dorset by some archaeologists, first began to use and exchange metal. This represents the earliest wide-spread evidence of metal use in the Eastern Arctic. Despite metal being found at many Tuniit sites, it is generally recovered in low quantities. This represents only a small fraction of what was used in the past. This paper will expand on both the extent and intensity of known Tuniit metal use by assessing the potential proxy indicators of metal use left behind on bone, ivory, and wood tools. This evidence contrasts with the earliest known examples of Arctic metal use found in Alaska as well as the sparse examples of metal use by earlier Tuniit groups in terms of both how it was used and the way it was exchanged. This talk will debate the different ways Tuniit used metal and even how the type of metal, be it iron or copper, may have been important. In particular, there are differences in the amount of metal that can be detected on harpoon heads and knife handles which may indicate that metal was being preferentially used for some activities and not for others. Moreover, there are stark differences in the quantities of copper versus iron that can be detected on these same tools. These results have important implications for how different Tuniit groups interacted with each other in the past, how they moved across their landscape, and how these people engaged with their material world.