Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

Northern Vignettes

Arctic Harpoons
Beechey Island
Crystal II
Deline/Fort Franklin
Fort Hope
Fox Moth
Kellet's Storehouse
Old Fort Providence
Old Fort Reliance
Stone Church
Thule Village
Fort Journal

Crystal II

Inuit of the Dorset Culture (800 BC - AD 1000) and Thule (pronounced Too-lee) Culture (AD 1000 - 1700) lived at the Crystal II archaeological site. The Dorset people left only forgotten or discarded tools as evidence of their presence, but the Thule Inuit built large winter houses using stones, sod, and the bones of the large whales they hunted.

Thule House The site was named Crystal II by the archaeologist, Henry B. Collins, after the nearby Baffin Island Air Base. He and an assistant spent the summer of 1948 excavating the site, with the backing of the National Museum of Canada and the Smithsonian Institution. About a kilometre above the mouth of the Sylvia Grinnell River outside Iqaluit, the archaeologists relocated the remains of the three semi- subterranean houses which had first been reported by an American explorer, Charles Francis Hall, in 1865. Later, they discovered another house ruin a short distance downstream. Over 600 artifacts were discovered including harpoon heads and ivory combs.

This site is important to our present understanding of Arctic prehistory. It was here that archaeologists first observed the clear separation of Dorset and Thule remains in the ground. The prehistoric site had been settled at different times by the two distinct groups. After the first occupation by the Dorset people, the site was abandoned for a while and vegetation grew over it. When the Thule Inuit later camped on the same spot, a layer of black soil containing refuse accumulated from their daily activities. The Thule then abandoned the site and it was again covered with vegetation, the present surface layer. Thus, a clear separation of the two occupations is visible.

As part of our national heritage, all archaeological sites are protected from any disturbance by the Northwest Territories Archaeological Sites Regulations.

Removing artifacts from a site or altering a structure destroys valuable and unique information from the past.