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.
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.