Exploring Human-Canid Interactions among the Dorset Using Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Analysis

Author(s): Alison Harris; Vaughan Grimes

Year: 2015


The scarcity of clearly identifiable dog bones and artifacts associated with dogsled traction has led many archaeologists to posit that the Dorset did not keep domestic dogs. While this statement has implications for the ability of the Dorset to cope with the variability of the arctic environment, it may also be an oversimplification of the problem. Canid remains do occur on Dorset sites, albeit in low numbers, but they are not identifiable to species based on skeletal morphology alone due to the similar size of large domestic canids and wolves. We apply stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis to the remains of large canids recovered from Groswater and Middle Dorset sites in Newfoundland, Canada, in order to determine the major sources of protein consumed by the canids. The stable isotope data indicate that, like the Dorset humans, the Dorset canids consumed a significant amount of marine-derived protein. The results are also consistent with stable isotope data from other domestic canids kept by archaeological, marine-adapted populations. This suggests the occasional, idiosyncratic possession of domestic canids by the Dorset in Newfoundland.

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Exploring Human-Canid Interactions among the Dorset Using Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Analysis. Alison Harris, Vaughan Grimes. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397602)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -178.41; min lat: 62.104 ; max long: 178.77; max lat: 83.52 ;