. In recent years, increasing scientific attention has been paid to sea mammals as biological indicators of Arctic environmental change. The usefulness of animals such as ringed seal (Phoca hispida), harp seal (Phoca groenlandica), bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus), and harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) as indicator species is due to the close relationship of their range, reproductive cycles, and life histories to sea ice. The behaviour and distribution of these species correlate with ice conditions in the areas where the animals are encountered. The proportions of seal species represented in archaeological deposits may therefore reflect, at least in part, environmental conditions characterizing past seascapes. This paper examines zooarchaeological data from several Thule and historic Inuit archaeological sites in Baffin Island and Labrador, sites occupied during the last 700 years, to determine whether regional relationships can be demonstrated between subsistence economies, seal populations, and sea ice conditions. Ratios of ringed seal, harbour seal, bearded seal, and walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) bone frequencies from several archaeological sites are analyzed and discussed in light of new highresolution proxy sea ice and regional palaeoenvironmental data. This exploratory study suggests that characteristics in seal species composition reflected in these assemblages can, in some circumstances, be correlated with recent sea ice reconstructions. However, a regional comparison of a larger number of more precisely dated archaeological sites is required for a full examination of these relationships.


Earth Sciences, Earth Systems Research Center

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Arctic Institute of North America

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