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Environmental Change and Terrestrial Resource Use by the Thule and Inuit of Labrador, Canada

Authors

  • Natasha Roy,

    1. Centre d’études nordiques and Department of Geography, Pavillon Abitibi-Price, 2405 rue de la terrasse, Université Laval, Québec, Canada
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  • Najat Bhiry,

    Corresponding author
    • Centre d’études nordiques and Department of Geography, Pavillon Abitibi-Price, 2405 rue de la terrasse, Université Laval, Québec, Canada
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  • James Woollett

    1. Centre d’études Nordiques and Department of History, Pavillon Charles-De Koninck, 1030 avenue des Sciences-Humaines, Université Laval, Québec, Canada
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  • Scientific Editing: Gary Huckleberry and Art Bettis

Corresponding

Corresponding author; E-mail: najat.bhiry@ulaval.ca

Abstract

The object of this study is to document how the Inuit on the northern coast of Labrador, Canada used terrestrial resources such as peat and wood during the Little Ice Age (LIA; A.D. 1500–1870). Paleoecological investigations consisting of pollen and macrofossil analyses were undertaken in conjunction with archaeological excavations at the Inuit winter settlement sites of Oakes Bay 1, located in the Nain region of north-central Labrador. Our data indicate that the major changes in terrestrial ecosystems of this coastal region were triggered by climate change. From ca. 5700 to 3000 cal. yr B.P., climatic conditions were relatively warm and moist. At ca. 3000 cal. yr B.P. conditions became significantly drier and colder, which corresponds to broader climatic trends during the Neoglacial period. At ca. 1000 cal. yr B.P., the reappearance of hygrophilic species and the establishment of Larix laricina provide evidence of a return to more humid conditions that in turn triggered the onset of the paludification of sandy terraces in the Dog Island region. Peat accumulation persisted after ca. 580 cal. yr B.P. likely due to the elevation of the frost table during the LIA. Elevated frost tables contributed to water saturation of the surface during the spring, creating conditions that were conducive to the preservation of organic material. Natural resources such as trees and peat were therefore readily available and more abundant during the LIA and extensively used by the Inuit for house construction and heating in the Dog Island region.

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