Paleoeskimo Dogs of the Eastern Arctic
Keywords:Thule, Dorset, Inuit, zooarchaeology, dog, sled, transportation, economics, Greenland, eastern Arctic
Sled or pack dogs have been perceived as an integral part of traditional life in the Eastern Arctic. This perception stems from our knowledge of the lifeway of recent Thule and modern Inuit peoples, among whom dog sledding has often been an important means of transportation. In contrast, the archaeological record of preceding Paleoeskimo peoples indicates that dogs were sparse at most, and probably locally absent for substantial periods. This pattern is real, not an artifact of taphonomic biases or difficulties in distinguishing dog from wolf remains. Analysis of securely documented dog remains from Paleoeskimo sites in Greenland and Canada underscores the sporadic presence of only small numbers of dogs, at least some of which were eaten. This pattern should be expected. Dogs did not, and could not, assume a conspicuous role in North American Arctic human ecology outside the context of several key features of technology and subsistence production associated with Thule peoples.