What To Do about Avayalik Island 1: A Remote Central Place in the Paleoeskimo World

Author(s): Susan Kaplan

Year: 2017


In 1978 archaeologists partially excavated a frozen Middle Dorset Paleoeskimo midden on Avayalik Island, a far outer island at the tip of Labrador, Canada’s uninhabited northern coast. They recovered hundreds of organic artifacts unlike any found in Labrador’s other Middle Dorset sites, which contain only lithic tools. Faunal remains suggested a North Atlantic quite different from that of the present day.

In 2016 Kaplan returned to Avayalik and documented the ongoing destruction of the site. Frozen deposits are thawing, compromising organics remains and destabilizing the terrace on which the site is located. Additional structures were identified, some slumping down the terrace’s eroding faces. The 2016 visit also revealed that this remote place was a vibrant central place in the Dorset world.

How should we respond to the deterioration of a site whose significance is not yet understood, given the major logistical and financial challenges of accessing the island and given that archaeometric techniques now are available to analyze it in ways not possible in 1978? How should northern archaeologists, funding agencies, and permitting bodies respond to site endangerment that stands to compromise our ability to ever understand the cultural and environmental history of the region?

Cite this Record

What To Do about Avayalik Island 1: A Remote Central Place in the Paleoeskimo World. Susan Kaplan. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431031)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14978