Dorset Culture

Dorset culture, 500 BC-1500 CE, is known archaeologically from most coastal regions of arctic Canada. The Dorset people were descended from Palaeoeskimos of the Pre-Dorset Culture.

Dorset Culture Tools
Dorset culture tools found at Port au Choix, Newfoundland and Labrador (courtesy Parks Canada).
Dorset Mask
This life-sized wooden mask, painted with red ochre, was found on Bylot Island. It was probably used in shamanistic rites (courtesy CMC).
Dorset Carving
Soapstone polar bear found on Shuldham Island, Saglek Bay (courtesy Newfoundland Museum).

Dorset culture, 500 BC-1500 CE, is known archaeologically from most coastal regions of arctic Canada. The Dorset people were descended from Palaeoeskimos of the Pre-Dorset Culture. Compared to their ancestors, the Dorset people had a more successful economy and lived in more permanent houses built of snow and turf and heated with soapstone oil lamps. They may also have used dogsleds and kayaks. They lived primarily by hunting sea mammals and were capable of taking animals as large as walrus and narwhal. About 500 BCE they moved down the Labrador coast and occupied the island of Newfoundland for about 1000 years. About 1000 CE, they were displaced from most arctic regions by an invasion of Thule Inuit from Alaska, but they continued to live in northern Québec and Labrador until approximately 1500 CE.

See also Prehistory.


Indigenous Perspectives Education Guide

Further Reading

  • Robert McGhee, Canadian Arctic Prehistory (1978).

External Links