Dorset Palaeoeskimo Skin Processing at Phillip's Garden, Port au Choix, Northwestern Newfoundland
Keywords: Newfoundland, Dorset Palaeoeskimo, Phillip’s Garden, sealskin processing, tabular slate tools, palaeo-limnology, cultural landscape
AbstractThis paper examines artifactual and palaeo-limnological evidence of sealskin processing associated with Phillip’s Garden, a Dorset Palaeoeskimo site at Port au Choix in northwestern Newfoundland. We propose that harp seals were hunted from Phillip’s Garden as much for skins as for meat and fat, and that processing sealskins was the first step in the important activity of making clothes, boots, and other items. We outline the steps and tools involved in sealskin processing throughout the northern circumpolar world, and we identify specialized skin-processing tools in the Phillip’s Garden tool assemblage. Sealskin processing is also inferred from pollen and chironomid data from Bass Pond, adjacent to Phillip’s Garden. Disturbance across pollen taxa is evident at 2200– 1400 cal BP, and anomalous salinity values are evident at 2000–1400 cal BP. We argue that these are connected to Palaeoeskimo activities at the pond, in particular Dorset sealskin soaking and tanning. This study shifts our perception of Dorset activities at Phillip’s Garden away from a narrow focus on seal hunting and the site itself and broadens our view to include more of the multiplicity of day-to-day human activities that took place within a larger cultural landscape that included Phillip’s Garden and Bass Pond.