The Tuniit/Dorset Culture is referred to as the culture of the Paleo-Eskimo. They lasted from 500 BC (where they are listed on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History) to 1500 BC. The culture got its name from Cape Dorset, which was located in Nunavut, Canada. It was in this place where there was initial evidence of the culture’s existence and origin. According to historians, there were four phases in this culture and the different stages were due to the variations in the technologies introduced by the people. There were also artifacts discovered to prove the existence of the Dorset culture such as soapstone lamps, burns, and triangular end-blades.
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Details about the Culture
Studies made in 1925 established the fact that the Dorset were noted as an independent culture. Based on archeological research, the Dorset were extinct by the year 1500 BC because they were unable to adapt well to the Medieval Warm Period. The Dorset were displaced by the Thule, who were originally from Alaska. In Inuit legends, the Tuniit were driven away from their homes. They were believed to be very tall and strong individuals, yet they were beaten away easily.
The four periods in the Dorset culture include the Early, Middle, Late and the Terminal. During the time that the Thule reached the Canadian Arctic, the terminal phase of the culture already began. The Thule once lived in Alaska and headed towards the east to Canada. The Terminal phase is also believed to be linked to the start of the Medieval Warm Period in 800 AD as the Arctic soon became warmer. Due to the harsh change in climate, the sea ice separated from the High Arctic.
Life of the Dorset
The Dorset lived in a bitterly cold environment, and they hunted sea mammals for food. With the decline of sea-ice during the Medieval Warm Period, the Dorset’s way of life rapidly changed. They could not cope with the changes and decided to live in the High Arctic instead. They adapted to their new environment and developed tools that helped them get by with their daily routines and activities.
An impressive fact about the Dorset was their immense understanding of the environment. Since they were not like the Thule Inuit, who obtained their food through whaling. The Dorset only hunted sea mammals from holes formed through the ice. They also did not use sophisticated bow and arrow, and this prevented them from hunting larger animals that lived on land. They only used harpoons that allowed them to hunt for seals. However, there were instances when they killed narwhals and walrus for food.
To keep themselves warm, they wore thick clothing. These people also made use of soapstone in making lamps that were filled with sufficient amount of seal oil to generate heat in their homes. As for engraving or carving purposes, they used burins that come with sharp edges that resembled a chisel. Their skills include creating masks and miniature carvings. They were also known for their shamanistic tradition.
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