Identification of a Pre-Contact Polar Bear Victim at Native Point, Southampton Island, Nunavut, Using 3D Technology and a Virtual Zooarchaeology Collection


  • Karen Ryan
  • Matthew W. Betts
  • Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd
  • Nicholas Clement
  • Robert Schlader
  • Janet Young
  • Megan Gardiner



Sadlermiut, skeletal trauma, polar bear (Ursus maritimus), Virtual Zooarchaeology of the Arctic Project (VZAP), digital technology, virtual technology


The skeletal remains of an adult Sadlermiut woman with obvious trauma to her cranial and post-cranial skeleton were excavated from Native Point (KkHh-1), Southampton Island, Nunavut, in 1954. In order to determine the possible cause of this damage, we first documented the skeletal injuries using traditional bioarchaeological techniques. We then created a three-dimensional model of the cranium and mandible to permit better visualization and analysis of the cranial lesions, some of which were obscured by post-depositional weathering. This model was imported into a virtual environment in order to compare the lesions with the craniodental structure of four Arctic carnivore species available as digital models through the Virtual Zooarchaeology of the Arctic Project (VZAP), an online comparative faunal collection. We eliminated all but the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) using this process, which suggested that an individual of this species was responsible for the skeletal trauma. We further identified a minimum number of “bites” on the cranium, some with overlapping lesions, which suggested a possible attack sequence. Use of a virtual environment and an online comparative collection were critical to this process and represent a new technique for evaluating past skeletal trauma and its causes.