A Large-Scale Systematic Study of Palaeoeskimo Soapstone Vessel Fragments from Newfoundland and Labrador


  • John C. Erwin




soapstone, Palaeoeskimo, Dorset, Groswater, regional variation


The examination of Palaeoeskimo soapstone vessel fragments from the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador provides a better understanding of the use and significance of this technology. While researchers have tacitly accepted the function of soapstone vessels and their use by these populations on the basis of ethnographic analogy, no large-scale systematic study of these vessels has ever been produced to test these assumptions in this region. Results of this study, which are based upon the measurement of more than 3600 soapstone vessel fragments, demonstrate ways in which vessel function may be determined from both morphological characteristics and carbonization patterns. It is also concluded that there are recognizable stylistic differences between vessels used in Labrador and those used on the Island of Newfoundland. The methods employed in this study may be useful in the examination of similar vessels elsewhere in the Arctic.