Canadian archaeologist William Taylor collected the bone harpoon heads shown here during his fieldwork on the Ungava Peninsula of Labrador, Canada. The National Museum of Canada donated the harpoon heads to U-M in 1957. They date to the Dorset period, an archaeological tradition of the eastern Canadian Arctic and Greenland that spans from c. 600 BC to AD 1300. Typically found near the coast, Dorset communities relied heavily on marine species, including seals and walruses. Dorset toolmakers were skilled artisans who produced a wide diversity of stone and bone tools, as well as elegant bone, ivory, and soapstone carvings. Taylor attempted to distinguish chronological sub-periods within the Dorset sequence based on changing styles of harpoons, but his conclusions have been recently questioned. Some harpoon forms were quite long-lived. Also, it appears that the size and shape of the weapons varied with the type of intended prey.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.