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Hunter-Gatherer Aggregations Writ Large: Understanding Late Dorset Longhouse Sites in the Eastern Arctic by Dr. Max Friesen

Thursday, March 29, 2012
12:00 AM
Ruthven Museums Building Room 2009

Despite the fact that annual cycles of aggregation and dispersal are widespread among recent hunter-gatherers, the recognition and interpretation of aggregation sites in the archaeological record is difficult. The prehistory of the Eastern Arctic contains a rare exception to this rule, in the form of Late Dorset "longhouses", which are boulder-outlined features up to 45 meters in length, reasonably interpreted as communal structures used by aggregated regional groups. In this paper, Dr Friesenwill present new data from the Cadfael site in the central Canadian Arctic. This is the largest and most complex longhouse site yet recorded, with four longhouses and hundreds of other features constructed and used over a period of several centuries. Two field seasons of mapping and excavation at Cadfael allow new insights into how Late Dorset families, who lived in smaller groups during much of the year, organized themselves into a highly structured if brief community during summer aggregations. Most remarkably, ongoing research indicates that this aggregation was not a static entity; rather, it saw continuous change in the ways people interacted with social, ritual, and economic space.