Bone Weathering in a Periglacial Environment: The Tayara Site (KbFk-7), Qikirtaq Island, Nunavik (Canada)
Keywords: bone weathering, taphonomy, large mammals, periglacial environment, spatial analysis, Palaeoeskimo
AbstractBone weathering analysis of the Palaeoeskimo Tayara site (Qikirtaq Island, Nunavik, Canada) documents site taphonomy in the Arctic periglacial environment. Like a majority of sites in the eastern Canadian Arctic, Tayara has a faunal assemblage dominated by marine mammals (seal, walrus, and beluga whale) and some terrestrial mammals (caribou, fox, and bear). Statistical and spatial analyses of five weathering stages reveal that large mammal bone preservation is generally good and does not seem to be influenced by taxonomic and skeletal differences. The good preservation of the faunal assemblage seems to have been favored by the burial of bones and their incorporation into the active layer, which suggests only limited mechanical deterioration (i.e., freeze-thaw or wet-dry cycles, or both) before or at the time of burial. Burial depth partly explains the degree of bone weathering. Indeed, the well-preserved bones are found mainly where burial is associated with thicker overlying sediments. This implies rapid bone burial with a low degree of exposure to temperature changes and atmospheric processes. However, analysis also shows the presence of highly weathered bones where burial is associated with thicker overlying sediments. Consequently, differential bone depth probably does not explain all bone-weathering variability within the site. These results show the importance of examining bone weathering before any archaeozoological and paleoethnographic interpretations.