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Alaska Beat

Canadian archeologist looks for Viking presence in Arctic

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published November 7, 2012

Canadian archaeologist Pat Sutherland has spent the last 13 years studying artifacts found on Canada's mainland and Baffin Island. Sutherland is searching for evidence that might prove a link between Viking travelers and the Dorset people, a culture that inhabited parts of Canada 2,000 years before Alaska's Inuit moved in.

According to the BBC, Sutherland has uncovered Norse artifacts akin to ones made in Greenland and other European Viking sites. She told the BBC, "There are three groups of artifacts found over a 1,500 km of coastline form north Baffin to northern Labrador from sites that were occupied by the Dorset people that suggest a Norse presence." Among the three groups were a cord made of animal hair, similar to ones found in Greenland; notched sticks thought to be used in trading or as calendars by Vikings; and objects called whetestones, used for tool sharpening.

The Dorset people were hunters who mysteriously disappeared form Canada in the 14th century. Sutherland describes them as rather cut off from the outside world. She told the BBC, "The view of the Dorset culture had been that they were a very isolated people with very little contact with anyone. (But) when the project began a new picture emerged of the Dorset culture." Sutherland believes the artifacts suggest there may have been interaction between the Dorset and the Vikings.

Sutherland expects her research, which included field work and analysis, to continue for another five years.

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