Biogeographical Archaeology in the Eastern North American Arctic

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  • Human Ecology, Vol. 25, No. 3, 1997

    Biogeographical Archaeology in the EasternNorth American ArcticWilliam W. Fitzhugh1

    Environmental conditions of the Eastern North American Arctic make thisregion suitable for biogeographical approaches to culture. Although composedof a vast assemblage of large and small islands, the Eastern Arctic differs fromother "oceanic" environments where modern biogeographical work has beenpioneered. This paper outlines conditions which make the Eastern Arcticsuitable for biogeographical study and considers the nature of "islands" asanalytical constructs rather than as discrete entities. Biogeographical conceptsare considered in relation to the "core-periphery model" that has been theorganizing principle for interpreting patterns of Eastern Arctic culture history.Abstractions, aspects, and conclusions reached from these studies outline someof the opportunities available for application of more directed anthropologicalbiogeographical work in the future.KEY WORDS: arctic; biogeography; culture; ecology.

    INTRODUCTION

    This paper outlines the relevance of human biogeographic approachesin the study of peoples and cultures of the Eastern North American Arctic.Although not used under this exact terminology, arctic anthropology actu-ally has a long history of biogeographic thought, and for much of this cen-tury has been concerned with theories involving colonization and extinction,population distribution, climatic models, resource fluctuation, and ecologi-cal structure (Steensby, 1917; Larsen and Meldgaard, 1958; Knuth, 1967;Vibe, 1967; McGhee, 1969/70, 1996; Fitzhugh, 1972; Laughlin, 1975; Max-well, 1985; Meldgaard, 1977; Schledermann, 1990). The same environ-1National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Artie Studies Center,Department of Anthropology, Washington, D.C. 20560.

    3850300-7839/97/0900-0385$12.50/0 1997 Plenum Publishing Corporation

  • mental conditions that fostered advances in biogeography and cultural stud-ies in the Pacificislands, distance, isolation, low population density, andheterogeneous resource distributionalso characterize North Americanarctic regions from the Mackenzie River east to Greenland and Labrador.Because of vast distances, patchy distribution of habitable locales, relativeisolation from external contacts, and limited survival strategies, the EasternArctic can be seen in effect as a vast "sea" with widely dispersed "islands"of humanity whose persistence has been influenced by a variety of factorsincluding population size, degree of isolation, resource diversity, ecosystemstability, and others.

    This paper explores the relevance of human biogeographic studies ina region where environmental conditions have placed strong constraints onhuman survival and have limited the potential for development in hunting,fishing, and foraging societies. This said, I would note that despite harshconditions, Eastern Arctic peoples and cultures not only survived, but inmany cases flourished for 4000 years in one of the world's least hospitablehabitats. Far from being crushed by adversity, its peoples created highlydistinctive regional cultures. Populations grew, new sources of energy wereharnessed, and sophisticated technology and arts developed. Today Inuitcontrol their own destiny through semi-autonomous government structures,like Home Rule in Greenland and Nunavut in Canada, that have strongcommitment to Inuit culture, values, and ideals. As a consequence EasternArctic peoples face a relatively bright future.

    Many of the same biogeographic processes that operated in the pastcontinue today as communities are created, flourish, and decline in re-sponse to environmental, social, and economic factors. Even increasing in-tegration with the larger industrial society has not changed the fundamentalstructure of the arctic ecosystem revealed in prehistoric times.

    Rather than presenting a detailed case study of human biogeographyin a specific region, which would require more documentation than is pos-sible here, I will outline general features of the approach as it can applyto the Eastern Arctic in general. Within the region, data that could supportvarious human biogeographical case studies exist for many subregions, in-cluding Newfoundland (Harp, 1976; Tuck and Pastore, 1985), Labrador(Fitzhugh, 1972, 1977, 1980, 1987; McGhee and Tuck, 1975; Tuck, 1975;Cox 1977; Kaplan, 1983; Nagle, 1984; Loring, 1992), Ungava (Taylor, 1968;Plumet and Gangloff, 1987; Plumet, 1994), Hudson Bay (Fitzhugh, 1976;Harp, 1976), Igloolik (Meldgaard, 1960, 1962), Baffin Island (Maxwell,1985; Odess, 1996), Port Refuge (McGhee, 1976), Devon Island (Helmer,1991), Bache Peninsula (McCullough, 1989; Schledermann, 1990, 1996),and Greenland (Knuth, 1967; Meldgaard, 1977). To date, however, no studyof Eastern Arctic prehistory has been conducted specifically from a bio-

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  • geographic perspective; nor has any synthesis been attempted from this per-spective. With biogeographic theory now outlined at least in basic formand with models available from a number of regions, its application couldprovide exciting results for arctic prehistory and comparison of the Arcticwith other regions, such as greater Oceania and the sub-Antarctic, andwould advance cultural theory in general.

    THE ISLAND BIOGEOGRAPHIC MODEL

    Two decades ago the theoretical foundations for island biogeographywere laid down by observational and theoretical ecologists and biologistsRobert MacArthur and Edward O. Wilson (MacArthur and Wilson, 1963,1967; MacArthur, 1972), Jared Diamond (1977), G. Evelyn Hutchinson(1978), and others. Building on principles of evolutionary biology, they cre-ated an island abstraction described as having a relatively isolated andbounded ecosystem, limited external contacts, low species diversity, low ge-netic diversity within species, high frequency of individuals/species ratios,diminished interspecies competition, reproduction rates based on "r" ratherthan "k" selection, simple food webs, high extinction rates (due to the ran-dom effects on small populations), rapid adaptive radiation, and heightenedexploratory and migratory behavior. The operative word, to be understoodin each condition is "relative"relative to some equally abstracted "main-land."

    Biogeographic models based on these criteria have been applied withvarying degrees of success to birds, insects, plants, and their fossil relativesin Oceania, Melanesia, and larger Pacific islands like New Zealand, theChatham Islands, and the Galapagos (Fosberg, 1963). In the 1970s and1980s these models began to be used for studying the history of humanpopulations in the Pacific region (e.g., Kaplan, 1976; Terrell, 1977a,b, 1986;Kirch, 1980, 1986; Irwin, 1992; Steadman, 1995) and in the Caribbean(Keegan, 1995). Colonization, isolation, adaptation, and extinction modelshave also been used in studies of southern islands and continents in thePacific from the perspectives of convergent biological and cultural evolution(e.g., McCartney, 1975; Yesner, 1980; Sutton, 1982); in the Eastern Arctic(McGhee, 1976; Maxwell, 1976); in Greenland (Meldgaard, 1977; McGov-ern, 1981, 1990; McGovern et al., 1988; Buckland et al., 1996); and in sub-Arctic and Arctic Labrador (Fitzhugh, 1972,1974). In most of these studies,adaptation and evolutionary or developmental issues play an important roletogether with biogeographical features such as distribution and ecosystemstructure, and mechanisms of maintenance, dispersal, and extinction.

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  • The foundations for a human biogeographic approach in arctic studieshave been prepared by a long history of scholarly attention to biologicaland cultural responses to climatic and environmental change. Some of theearliest biogeographic models were developed by Danish ethnologists, ar-chaeologists, and physical anthropologists to explain culture change andregional distributions along the margins of the Greenland coast (Steensby,1917; Larsen, 1934; Mathiassen, 1935; Larsen and Meldgaard, 1958; Laugh-lin and Jorgenson, 1956; Meldgaard, 1977; M. Meldgaard, 1983). Supportedby extensive ethnographic data, native oral history, and historical literaturedocumenting climatic and environmental fluctuation and cultural responsesincluding starvation, migration and extinction, arctic anthropologists, ar-chaeologists, and geographers have seen the cultural history of the Northin biogeographic terms even though, after Steensby's pioneering work, theydid not use this terminology. Much of this early work was couched in cul-tural extinction and migration theory (McGhee, 1969/70, 1972; Dekin, 1978;Jordan, 1979; Fitzhugh, 1984, p. 528). Although not explicitly following bio-geographical models and too reliant on migration theory for interpretingculture change (Taylor 1968, p. 7; Schindler, 1985; Anthony, 1990), Danishwork on linkages between climate and culture, mechanisms of colonizationand extinction, and environmental reconstruction had lasting impact on re-search throughout the Eastern Arctic. In the 1970s, these views emergedwith new vitality expressed in terms of the "core area" hypothesis stimu-lated by a School of American Research seminar in 1974 (Maxwell, 1976).Concurrently, the 1974 Smithsonian Conference on Human Biogeographyorganized by the author with John Terrell, who edited some of these papersfor World Archaeology (Vol. 9, 1977), brought attention to biogeographytheory and its relevance to prehistory.

    ISLANDS AND "ISLAND-LIKE": QUERIES ON METHOD

    The "island" theme may be a simple concept for a physical geographer,but what it means to an archaeologist or an evolutionary biologist is notso clear (e.g., MacArthur and Wilson, 1967; Terrell, 1986, pp. 122-144). Ifisolation is the essential "island" condition, then portions of the Arctic andsub-Arctic, and other environments, like desert oases, mountain refugia,and perhaps even tropical forest enclaves that are geographically or bio-logically isolated, may also be understood as "islands."

    There is also the question of "island" relevance to comparative theory.Do islands really create a special set of conditions for biological commu-nities that are absent in "non-island" settings? Geographical ecologists andevolutionary biologists believe they do for most creatures. But perhaps the

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  • outcome of specific cases may have less to do with islands per se than withisland "contexts," such as where they are and whether they are dry or wet,hot or cold, high or low, isolated or connected. If we study similar typesand contexts, for instance, trying to compare the cultures and histories ofcold, wet northern or southern coasts, or archipelagos (McCartney, 1975;Yesner, 1980; Nash, 1983); Arctic and sub-Antarctic deserts like NorthGreenland, Patagonia, and Tasmania; sub-Antarctic islands and mainlands(Sutton, 1982), or others, do we find similar or different histories and proc-esses prevailing, with predictable outcomes?

    What happens when we compare the past 10,000 years of human his-tory in Japan and in the Queen Charlotte Islands, both being island com-plexes in productive cold ocean environments that became isolated fromtheir parent continents by Holocene sea level rise? Are there notable simi-larities of cultural history or cultural, biological, or linguistic processes be-tween Formosa and Madagascar, or between the Aleutian and Kuril chains,each set having similar ecological conditions? Can we usefully compare pat-terns in the prehistory of Greenland and Australia and learn anything in-terestingeven with their different time scales? Such studies have neverbeen attempted, but pose intriguing targets for an anthropological bio-geography.

    These issues and related methodological problems have plagued com-parative studies since their inception. Questions of convergence, homology,comparability of units, developmental stage, and historical and environ-mental context have been difficult to resolve (Fitzhugh, 1975, p. 340). Simi-lar definitional problems have restricted the spread of humanbiogeographical approaches beyond the islands of the Pacific where culture,language, and human biology are being teased into increasingly unified hu-man biogeographic perspectives (Terrell, 1986).

    Scale has been another problem. Heretofore, most attention has beengiven to islands and island clustersthe smallest, most isolated geographicunits. To date, one of the least-studied questions in human biogeographylies at the largest units of the geographic scale. We need more bio-geographic study of questions like the Norse expansion across the NorthAtlantic, including Iceland and Greenland, stimulated by emerging Euro-pean market economies and intercultural contacts (McGovern, 1981;McGovern et al., 1988; Keller, 1991), and its different histories and out-comes in different settings in the Faroes, Iceland, and Greenland. I believewe idealize human biogeography by limiting application predominantly tothe Pacific islands or island chains like the Aleutians and Caribbean islands.What patterns emerge when we look at larger domains like the entire NewWorld through an anthropological biogeographic lens? What patterns dowe see here over a 15,000-year span that may be usefully compared to ones

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  • in Australia or New Guinea? Can we undertake such studies without un-derstanding all the parameters of idealized island settings in Oceania? Arebiogeographic and evolutionary processes cumulative with increasing geo-graphic scale; or are they transformative under these conditions, introduc-ing complexities that obscure cause and effect, making the utility of the"island" model moot at best?

    This paper describes some of the ecological and geographical condi-tions that underlie biogeographical approaches in the Eastern Arctic andtheir impact on historical patterns of culture. Here we have both islandsand "island-like" behavior, and strong environmental constraints. The re-gion is relatively well understood in terms of geography, climate, and hu-man history. Not only do Arctic cultures offer a test case for humanadaptation in remote Arctic conditions; they also provide data to modelcultural development and distributions in other settings, such as deserts,mountainous regions, or islanded oceans.

    GENERAL CONDITIONS

    To be undertaken, human biogeographic approaches require the ful-fillment of certain data conditions. Human populations need to be relativelyisolated, either by spatial or social barriers, or by some combination of thetwo; hence, distance, and ecological and social barriers (Wobst, 1977) havebeen important factors influencing the history of Arctic populations(Loring, 1988). Environmental data need to be available to understandstructure, diversity, and historical patterns of the ecosystem, including ef-fects of climate change on animal and human populations. Finally, a de-tailed knowledge of regional history is needed so that the origins, history,and relationships of regional groups can be known in time and space. Thelonger the time frame the more interesting the possibilities are for deter-mining distinctive cultural patterns and features for analysis. Taking theserequirements into account, the Eastern Arctic emerges as more suited tohuman biogeographic study than other Arctic regions like the Western Arc-tic or Siberia. The cultural history of Siberia is still very poorly known, andits peoples and cultures historically have been closely associated with largercontinental population masses, so it is difficult to define distinctive featuresand boundaries needed for biogeographic approaches to Siberian prehis-tory. In Alaska, there are other types of problems. Although its culturalhistory is better known, its widely diverse ecologies and resource systemsand its "crossroads" status between Asia and North America have producedcomplexities that make biogeographical study difficult here also. Only inthe Aleutian Islands, due to their isolation and geography, have bio-

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  • geographical approaches been applied (Laughlin, 1975; Laughlin andAigner, 1975; McCartney, 1975; Corbett et al., 1997).

    On the other hand, the Eastern Arctic is an ideal biogeographical tar-get. Its 4000 year history is known in considerable detail (Bandi, 1969; Du-mond, 1977; McGhee, 1978, 1984, 1985; Maxwell, 1986). The region isgeographically vast, stretching ca. 2500 km from the Mackenzie River toNortheastern Greenland and a similar distance from northern Ellesmereto central Labrador and Hudson Bay. Within this area animal resourceshave marked seasonal, annual, and regional variations which are stronglyinfluenced by seasonal factors (Stirling and Cleator, 1981; Freeman, 1984;Stager and McSkimming, 1984). Its human history has been and continuesto be heavily influenced by climatic change that controls the distributionof animals and strongly affects human predators. The impact of climate onenvironment and resources is everywhere apparent in the Arctic system(Stefansson, 1913; Banfield, 1961, 1974; Bird, 1967; Remmert, 1980; Har-ington, 1981; Dunbar, 1985; Kingsley et al., 1985; Bradley and Jones, 1992;Riewe, 1992; Sergeant, 1991). At times, the High Arctic has been aban-doned by humans as a result of harsh climatic regimes that kept ice leadsand polynias frozen throughout the year and restricted presence of seamammals. At other times, less bountiful regions may have been abandonedbecause their animal populations could not sustain human harvest levels.Consequently, while some resource-rich regions in northern Hudson Bay,Foxe Basin, Labrador, and northwest Greenland have sustained humanpopulations on a continual basis, others were occupied only under idealclimatic regimes or were used on a periodic basis (Harp, 1958; Dekin, 1972;Fitzhugh, 1976; McGhee, 1976; Schledermann, 1980; Andrews et al., 1980;Maxwell, 1985). These dynamic conditions set the stage for the climati-cally-tuned environmental models that form the basis for modern interpre-tations.

    Differences between the marine and terrestrial ecosystems have a pro-found effect on human adaptations in this area (Fitzhugh, 1972; Freeman,1984; Sabo, 1991). It is not coincidental that North American Arctic pre-history shows a shift from terrestrial adaptations to marine adaptationsthrough time. In the Eastern Arctic, this trend is dramatically shown overa 3000 year period as its cultures progress from a largely terrestrial-basedPre-Dorset adaptation to the fully maritime Thule culture (Taylor, 1966;McGhee, 1978; Maxwell, 1985). The shift to marine resources representsa move to secure a more stable resource base and greater residential sta-bility than can be found in the terrestrial system alone. Adaptation to theinterior tundra requires caribou and seasonal fishing, without which humansurvival here is impossible (Burch, 1972; Fitzhugh, 1972, pp. 178-187; Tuckand Pastore, 1985; Hall, 1989). In contrast to the simpler, less diverse, and

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  • more unstable ecology of the Arctic interior, Arctic coastal adaptations aresupported by wider food webs with greater species and ecosystem stability,and greater concentration of resources in places where humans can settlepermanently to harvest them. These different interior and maritime eco-logical structures have produced greater complexity and sedentarism amongcoastal peoples than interior peoples, and has led to different subsistencestrategies and different demographic and ideological belief systems. In theEastern Arctic there is a sound ecological basis and long-term archaeologi-cal evidence for boundaries between Indian and Eskimo peoples (Fitzhugh,1987).

    Other factors that facilitate human biogeographical study in the Arcticresult from excellent preservation of sites and archaeological remains. In-formation on artifact typology, dating, and cultural relationships is avail-able; excellent field survey coverage provides data on cultural distributions;and paleoclimatic and environmental records have been constructed formany regions. An extensive ethnographic and historical literature and alegacy of international scholarship provide a wider context for this work.Perhaps most important, the Eastern Arctic seems to have been a cul-de-sac for long periods of its prehistory. Contacts to the south had little directimpact due to the isolating nature of Eskimo-Indian rivalries and the physi-cal/ecological barrier of the boreal/tundra boundary. Contacts to the east(northwestern Europe) were nil until Viking times. And Alaska, which wasimportant as the source of episodic influence (Pre-Dorset and Thule mi-grations, and Dorset contacts), remained outside the sphere of Eastern Arc-tic interactions for long periods during the past 4000 years. For much ofits history, the Eastern Arctic has followed its own trajectory.

    BIOGEOGRAPHIC FEATURES OF THE EASTERN ARCTIC

    In addition to the adaptations noted above for isolated island com-munities (exploratory behavior, migratory patterns, accommodation to bio-logical and physical stress, rapid reproduction rates, reduced competition,and others), human communities in the Eastern Arctic have been influ-enced by other general biogeographic variables:

    (1) Isolation: As discussed above, the geography of the Eastern Arctichas resulted in its being relatively isolated from adjacent regions of NorthAmerica. Bounded by oceans on two sides and by a forest-tundra ecotoneof low productivity to the south, isolation may have contributed to the re-gion's persistent cultural stability and identity. Only three channels for ex-ternal communication seem to have been instrumental in transmitting ideas,people, and materials: the Labrador coast, Keewatin, and the North Alaska

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  • coastal and Yukon River corridor. Of these, only the North Alaska corridorappears to have been significant as a source of major influence in the his-tory of Arctic cultures (McGhee, 1978; Dumond, 1977; Maxwell, 1985;Fitzhugh, 1987). Within the Eastern Arctic, its many regional communitiesthemselves are relatively isolated from each other, some more than others,especially Greenland and Newfoundland. At certain times, distinctive re-gional cultures developed (e.g., Middle Dorset), while at other times, mi-grations (Pre-Dorset, Thule) and the presence of widespread stylistichorizons (Groswater/Transitional) suggest that population movements, cul-ture change, and communication could be very rapid.

    (2) Land and sea: Although there is a sharp distinction between thetwo dominant ecosystems in the Arcticthe terrestrial tundra and Arcticmarine zoneboth are crucial components in human adaptations, and fewcultural patterns existed here that did not utilize both. Of these, coastalmaritime adaptations have been by far the most stable and successful (Dun-bar, 1968, 1970), while interior ecology (Elton, 1942) and caribou huntingspecializations, both in the tundra and boreal forest region, have beenprone to population collapse, abandonment, and local extinction (Fitzhugh,1972, pp. 87-91, 1977).

    (3) Resource fluctuations: Unlike the Pacific, where resource fluctua-tions appear to be a less powerful force affecting human survival becauseof the diversity of species and broader food webs, especially where agri-culture subsidized wild products, Eastern Arctic hunters and foragers hadto contend with resource failure as an ever-present threat. Only in a fewhighly productive ecological "core areas" is resource availability relativelysecure and predictable. Other areas may have sufficient resources duringfavorable climatic cycles, but these resources may be too few to survivepersistent human predation, and they may crash or depart under adverseclimatic conditions. Interior ecology is always more fragile and unpre-dictable because caribou populations are subject to strong population cyclesand their migrations can be unpredictable (Banfield and Tener, 1958;Pruitt, 1960; Scotter, 1964; Kelsall, 1968). Human populations relying onfringe area resources or specializing in terrestrial game are always vulner-able. To this may be added a general condition of Arctic ecology with re-spect to temperate zones: low species diversity and high populations ofindividual animals. Thus local populations may perish, but regional popu-lations survive. Animals and people must be prepared to move or starve.This is particularly true for terrestrial adaptations, and less so for coastalzones, where the combination of terrestrial and marine resources providethe insurance of multiple resources for human survival.

    (4) Core and fringe dichotomy: Despite a relatively homogeneous en-vironment, the Eastern Arctic has significant regional variability in biologi-

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  • cal productivity. Extremely important in understanding biogeographic pat-terning in the Eastern Arctic is the existence of a core area of relativelyhigher diversity, productivity, and predictability (the Central Arctic-HudsonStrait region) surrounded by relatively less productive or more unstableperipheral regions in the Western Canadian Arctic, the Central Barrens,interior Labrador-Quebec, and the High Arctic. This condition exemplifiesa classic ecological "basin of attraction" (Sanders, 1969).

    (5) Environmental change and climate models: Given the unstable na-ture of many Arctic communities and populations, especially those in mar-ginal regions such as the High Arctic, environmental change can haveseverely disrupting effects on community stability. Examples from the pre-historic record (McGhee, 1969/70; Dekin, 1972; Fitzhugh, 1972; Fredskild,1972; Schledermann, 1976; McGovern, 1980, 1981; McGovern et al., 1988;Buckland et al., 1996) show the dynamic linkage between culture and en-vironmental change. During periods of climate amelioration, milder wintersand reduction of sea ice cover permit faunal communities to expand northinto marginal fringe areas, and biological production overall increases. Dur-ing cooling periods, decreased vegetative growth reduces terrestrial carryingcapacity for caribou and musk ox, and closing of leads and polynias forcemarine mammals to retreat from northern fringe habitats into core regionsof the Central Arctic where tides and currents maintain open water, andwhere land and fish resources are more abundant and predictable. In ad-dition to changes in temperature, shifts in storminess, moisture patterns,and sea currents have major effects human and animal populations in thenorth. Although having a huge impact on human survival, these conditions,which are so evident in historical literature (e.g., Ogilvie, 1991) are usuallyinvisible in the archaeological record. For this reason, temperature recordsconstitute a basic necessity for research (Fredskild, 1967, 1969; Dansgaardet al., 1969; Jordan, 1975; Meese et al., 1994; Mayewski et al., 1994;Mayewski and Bender, 1995). In Greenland, the interaction of climate, en-vironment, animal prey, and culture is especially complex due to interac-tions of sea currents, pack ice, and meteorological conditions (Vibe, 1967,1970). Vibe is the only northern specialist to have undertaken exhaustivestudies of this important subject. New work being done under the auspicesof the Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 (GISP2), the North Atlantic Biocul-tural Organization (NABO), and the PalaeoArctic Lakes and EstuariesProgram (PALE) coordinated by Paul Mayewski, Thomas McGovern, andJohn Andrews, respectively, and other National Science Foundation pro-grams is producing higher resolution studies of human- environmental in-teractions.

    (6) Population distribution geometry: The geometry of resource andhuman population distributions can be a significant factor in local and re-

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  • gional survival opportunities (Fig. 1). Demographic and cultural continuitycan be expected to be greater in the center of a population's distribution,where higher population levels and matrix-type geometry provide more net-work nodes and greater information and genetic exchange, enhancing fit-ness and survival. Such advantages are not found in populations restrictedto linear or peninsular distributions which have fewer nodal neighbors, asalong the coastal environments of Greenland, East Baffin, or Labrador,where genetic or cultural exchange, distribution of material goods and food,etc. is limited mainly to lateral "down-the-line" neighbors. Linear popula-tions are therefore subject to segmentation, rupture, and genetic isolation,adding substantially to the threat of extinction that is always faced by smallisolated populations through random processes (e.g., MacArthur, 1972;Fitzhugh, 1974; Wobst, 1976; Yesner, 1981; Terrell, 1986, p. 130). Giventhese factors, repopulation of fringe areas is more likely to occur from apopulation core than from fringe areas with lower population levels, al-though lateral fringe population shifts may provide alternate strategies forrepopulating abandoned fringe areas. In the Pacific similar concepts havebeen expressed in the form of "nodal links" and "stepping-stone islands"(Kaplan, 1976, p. 37).

    This seems to have been precisely the result of occupation of geo-graphically marginal and ecologically unstable areas of the Eastern Arctic,notably, the High Arctic, East and West Greenland, southern Hudson Bay,and to a lesser extent Labrador, and Newfoundland. Similar patterns havegiven rise to Meldgaard's (1977) "mouse-trap" model of culture history inGreenland. In numerous areas, isolated fringe populations periodically be-came extinct, as predicted by biogeographic theory, due to unpredictableresource collapse, disease, or random events. In Labrador, long-distanceexchange of lithic material is one type of social mechanism that was usedto overcome the isolating and destabilizing effects of linear population dis-tribution (Nagle, 1984, 1985, 1986; Loring and Cox, 1986, p. 78; Loring, inpress). Similar conclusions have been reached in Dorset studies in southeastBaffin Island (Odess, 1996).

    (7) Resilience: Arctic populations are notorious for their ability toadapt rapidly to changing environmental and social conditions. This is truenot only among animals (Dunbar, 1960; Holling, 1973) but for humanpopulations as well (Loring, 1988, 1992). Because Arctic systems have rela-tively few species and are therefore inherently less stable than temperatesystems, mechanisms for rapid adjustment are part of northern subsistencestrategies. For human populations this means flexible social organization,rapid mobility, maintenance of distant kin relations and trading partners,information sharing, hospitality, and other practices and institutions. In atime dimension, northern peoples and animals demonstrate ability to con-

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  • Fitzhugh

    Fig. 1. Population distribution models: (a) matrix, (b) linear.

    trol or expand population rapidly, both to control population loss underconditions of hardship and to take advantage of new opportunities. Therapidity of Paleoeskimo and Thule expansions into the Eastern Arctic, fill-ing this huge niche within 100-300 years, is a dramatic demonstration ofthis capacity.

    EASTERN ARCTIC PREHISTORY: A SUMMARY

    In part because of its ecology and its single, Western Arctic thresholdfor population influx, Eastern Arctic prehistory is, at least in broad outline,relatively easily summarized (Figs. 2 and 3). The region was first colonizedabout 4000 B.P. by Paleoeskimo peoples from Alaska, less than 1000 yearsafter the Central Canadian Arctic was freed from glacial ice and marineand terrestrial fauna were re-established (Dyke and Prest, 1987; Dyke etal., 1991). Within only a few hundred years, Pre-Dorset culture expandedfrom Alaska throughout the entire Eastern Arctic, occupying Greenland,northern Labrador, and much of Keewatin and the northern BarrenGrounds. Pre-Dorset populations emphasized interior hunting of caribouand musk-ox, and coastal seal hunting, but they did not have efficient tog-

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  • Biogeographical Archaeology in the American Arctic 397

    Fig. 2. Settlement history of the Eastern Arctic.

    gling harpoons and therefore made little use of the larger marine mammals,walrus and whales. Between 3000-2500 B.P. Pre-Dorset culture evolved

  • Fig. 3. Distribution models of Eastern Arctic cultures through time.

    gradually into Dorset culture, developing a more efficient toggling harpoonfor hunting walrus, and adopting semi-subterranean dwellings for more per-manent settlement in productive coastal locations. Caribou hunting and in-terior settlement declined in importance. Climatic deterioration may haveplayed a role in this transition, together with little-understood cultural in-fluence and minor migrations from Alaska.

    Dorset culture maintained the earlier pattern of cultural continuity,exhibiting a slow pace of culture change for almost 1500 years. Throughoutthis time tool forms, art, and housing styles progress through a sequenceof high-distinctive forms with limited regional variation, except in Green-land, which remained somewhat isolated from Canadian horizon styles. Theend of the Dorset phase (and of the Paleoeskimo tradition) was signalledby the appearance of the Neoeskimo tradition in the form of Thule culture,which spread into the central Canadian Arctic from Alaska ca. A.D. 1000.The origins of the Neoeskimo radiation, a classic niche expansion, lay insocial and technological developments in Bering Strait that facilitated com-munal hunting of large whales. Thule's eastward migration into Canadaand Greenland was probably facilitated by climatic warming that opened

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  • previously ice-blocked Canadian Arctic island channels to transmigrationof whales between Alaska and Davis Strait (McGhee, 1969/70). Aided bywhaling technology, dog traction, sinew-backed bows, a cohesive socialstructure, and other innovations, Thule culture expanded eastward rapidly,outcompeting and replacing Dorset culture throughout most of its EasternArctic range in a few hundred years and becoming the ancestral cultureof the modern Inuit (Taylor, 1963; Maxwell, 1985, p. 250; Morrison, 1989;Park, 1993; McCullough, 1989; Schledermann, 1996).

    During the Little Ice Age, Central Arctic Thule culture had to readjustto a declining resource base resulting from a reduction in whaling due toclosure of the ice leads to whale migration and possible effects of the over-hunting of large whales here and in the Bering Sea. To compensate, Thulepeople in Central Arctic regions began to specialize in sea-ice hunting, liv-ing in snowhouses and hunting seals at breathing holes in winter, whileother groups moved into the tundra and specialized in caribou and musk-oxhunting. Populations dropped and starvation episodes increased amongCentral Arctic peoples, but less so in Labrador, East Baffin, or Greenland,where the climatic effects of the Little Ice Age were less severe, and where,under open ocean conditions, whales were more abundant and whale hunt-ing continued. After 1600, Europeans began to influence local ecology andnative life in these areas in various ways, and some of these impacts mayhave reached the Central Arctic regions. Direct impacts of European whal-ing began in Baffin and northern Hudson Bay after 1850 (Ross, 1975, 1979;Barr, 1994).

    Biogeographic patterning is everywhere evident in this prehistory. In-itial colonization movements by Pre-Dorset and Thule populations fromthe Western Arctic during periods of climatic warming brought westernArctic adaptations and technology into the Eastern Arctic. First settling insmall enclaves, these populations rapidly expanded into new regions, andthrough time had to contend with climatic deterioration that forced themto develop locally diverse adaptations and local versions of material culturefrom ancestral prototypes. During the 3000 years of Paleoeskimo occupa-tion major shifts in occupation areas occurred (Fig. 3). Once-occupied areaswere abandoned; new areas were settled; local populations increased,peaked, and fell. Overall, population density increased with increasingsedentarism and adaptation to marine resources. Thule culture followed asimilar pattern, first establishing enclaves in whale-hunting localities in themidst of Dorset territory, then gradually expanding, out-competing or pos-sibly in some cases absorbing local Dorset peoples, until the entire EasternArctic was in Thule hands by A.D. 1350. As in Paleoeskimo times, devel-opments in Greenland took a different course after initial colonization by

    Biogeographical Archaeology in the American Arctic 399

  • Thule people, under isolating conditions from Canada and influenced byNorse and later European contacts (Jordan, 1979, 1984).

    The "human biogeography" of Labrador and Newfoundland has beendescribed previously and documents the utility of this approach across aforest-tundra transition occupied by Indian and Eskimo peoples from anumber of perspectives: colonization, adaptation, extinction; culture andethnic boundary maintenance; structural ecology (terrestrial vs. marinemodels); and evolutionary processes (Harp, 1964; Fitzhugh, 1972, 1977,1980, 1987; McGhee and Tuck, 1975; Tuck, 1975; Kaplan, 1983, 1985;Fitzhugh and Lamb, 1984; Nagle 1984, 1986; Loring, 1988, 1992; Renouf,1994).

    The Core Area Model: Stability and Instability in Eastern Arctic CulturalSystems. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, recognition of patterns ofhuman occupation in the Eastern Arctic resulted in the formulation of abiogeographic model that attempted to explain the observed patterns inenvironmental and cultural data. The environmental approach to culturewas not new. Steensby (1917) proposed "anthropogeographical" models,and other scholars in the 1960s advanced understanding of human-envi-ronmental relationships in Greenland archaeology using environmental andhistorical methods (Fredskild, 1967, 1969; Vibe, 1967, 1969). Climatic andenvironmental models were also being explored in the Canadian Arctic(McGhee, 1969/70, 1972; Dekin, 1971; Fitzhugh, 1972, 1976; Jordan, 1975;Arundale and Andrews, 1980). At the same time, advances in Eastern Arc-tic archaeology reached a point where larger patterns were beginning toappear. These trends converged at a School of American Research seminarheld in 1974 (Maxwell, 1976), one of whose outcomes was the idea of a"core area" model of Eastern Arctic cultural history and ecology.

    The core area model (Fitzhugh, 1976, p. 148; Maxwell, 1976, p. 4, 1985,p. 81; McGhee, 1976, p. 35; Nash, 1976) attempted to explain regional andchronological cultural patterning in relation to geographical and ecologicalconditions. During the previous decade important differences in resourceabundance and variability had been noted between the more biologicallyproductive regions of the Central Canadian Arctic and its High Arctic andsub-Arctic margins. The central or core regions of the Eastern Arctic, es-pecially around Igloolik in northern Foxe Basin, were recognized as havinga rich and diverse fauna that provided humans with many alternative re-sources in hard times. A broad hinterland gave access to Barren Groundcaribou, musk-ox, and char, and the strong currents of Fury and HeclaStrait and Foxe Basin attracted seals, walrus, whales, seabirds, waterfowl,and fish, even in winter, due to persistent open leads and polynias.

    Compared with this relatively ecologically productive and stable corearea, High Arctic environments had fewer species and fewer animals, and

    400 Fitzhugh

  • its polynias were subject to periodic, unpredictable closure; in cold periodsthey simply ceased to exist, even in summer. In such areas, human occu-pation might be possible only in mildest of times. A similar ecological pat-tern dominated sub-Arctic regions in Labrador-Quebec and Keewatin.Here the staple terrestrial resource was caribou. Caribou populations aresubject to drastic fluctuations in response to human and animal predation,the destruction of lichen forage by forest fires, and icing of winter feedinggrounds (Banfield and Tener, 1958; Pruitt, 1960; Scotter, 1964; Kelsall,1968). Only in coastal Labrador and Newfoundland were boreal forest pri-vations moderated by a diverse and more stable suite of marine resources.Although the causes of ecological collapse in the sub-Arctic were differentand were sometimes out of phase with those of the High Arctic (warmingrather than cooling being most deleterious to caribou), the consequencescould be equally devastating for long-term human occupation (Fitzhugh,1972, pp. 180-97).

    Ethnographic and historical accounts (Elton, 1942; Vibe, 1967) docu-ment the marked predator-prey cycles and other resource fluctuations,some cyclical and others episodic, that have had a strong impact on north-ern peoples. For this reason northern adaptations include high mobility,flexible resource strategies, and sharing of food and information througha wide web of kinship ties (Loring 1988). Nevertheless, catastrophic failurefrequently caught northern groups with no alternatives. Examples of star-vation were not limited to the High Arctic; they were also noted in theBarren Grounds and northern Labrador-Ungava at times when the annualcaribou migration failed.

    By the early 1970s these variations in resource distribution and humansettlement began to be recognized in a diachronic perspective. Eigil Knuth(1967) demonstrated three successive occupation periods in Peary Land,each lasting ca. 200-400 years: Independence I (4000-3600 B.P.); Inde-pendence II (2800-2400 B.P.); and Thule (800-500 B.P.), separated by pe-riods of abandonment which he believed were caused by climatic cooling.Similar cycles of settlement and abandonment in the Port Refuge regionof Devon Island led McGhee (1976, pp. 37-39) to interpret them as wavesof colonization and extinction as people moved into a marginal High Arcticpolynia environment and depleted its animal resources. McGhee's formu-lation was the most specific. He saw waves of colonization from the corearea into High Arctic "marginal" areas; local extinction of fringe popula-tions resulting largely from game depletion and random effects, rather thanstrictly the result of climatic effects, with repopulation from the core fol-lowing resource recovery. Similar models were proposed to explain cyclicalpatterns in Newfoundland (Harp, 1976; Fitzhugh, 1980; Tuck and Pastore,1985; Tuck and Fitzhugh, 1986; Renouf, 1994), Labrador (Fitzhugh, 1972,

    Btogcographical Archaeology in the American Arctic 401

  • 1975, 1977, 1980, 1987), southern Hudson Bay (Fitzhugh, 1976), Greenland(Meldgaard, 1977; M. Meldgaard, 1983), and other regions. Periodic localextinction of regional groups was seen in contrast to apparent demographicand cultural stability in the core region of the Eastern Arctic stretchingfrom northern Baffin through Foxe Basin, northern Hudson Bay, and Hud-son Strait (Meldgaard, 1960, 1962; Maxwell, 1985, p. 81). Thus, the "core"area has come to be seen as a broad band coinciding with the most pro-ductive maritime environments in the Eastern Arctic, rather than as onesingle pulsating geographic center. Northwest Greenland, West Greenland,and Labrador may also have been core areas, and it appears that at dif-ferent times their peoples were in contact with core area populations ofthe Canadian Arctic.

    Abstracting from previous literature on this concept, we may summa-rize an idealized core-fringe population cycle as follows:

    (1) Pioneer Phase: core area population growth results in colonizationof peripheral habitats from the core area by small pioneering groups duringfavorable climatic and ecological regimes;

    (2) Horizon Phase: contact with core area is maintained following in-itial expansion as demonstrated by continued use of core area lithics andtool styles. Both core and peripheral populations expand to near "goodtimes" carrying capacity of local animal resources;

    (3) Drift Phase: peripheral groups, beginning to be stressed in theirless advantageous ecological situations, are forced to adapt to local lithicresources, develop local cultural variants develop; populations stabilize ordecline; contact with the original homeland core area is reduced;

    (4) Isolation Phase: peripheral populations lose "the resilience of size"as geographic or social distance and competition result in isolation fromcore populations; reliance on local lithic and other raw material begins;the pace of technological and typological change slows, and local styles maydevelop;

    (5) Regional Extinction Phase: peripheral groups, especially those inHigh Arctic locations, undergo local extinction due to resource failure fromover-hunting, biological cycles, or climatic deterioration. In southern re-gions social factors, particularly competition with Indians, may have beenmore significant than environmental factors in local Paleoeskimo extinc-tions in southern Hudson Bay, Newfoundland, and Labrador.

    (6) Adjustment Phase: demographic shifts occur as High Arctic popu-lations become extinct or move south or consolidate in peripheral core ar-eas; core area populations, also faced with downsizing, experiment with newadaptations; both northern and core populations expand into tundra andboreal regions farther south, seeking caribou, where they face increasedIndian resistance.

    402 Fitzhugh

  • Ironically, following the initial formulation of the core area concept,attention turned to exploring regional sequences, and until recently therewas little further refinement of the theory.

    Biogeographical approaches have also been important in recent re-search on Norse Greenland and Vinland (McGovern, 1980, 1981, 1994;McGovern et al., 1988, 1996; Bigelow, 1991; Keller, 1991; Wallace, 1991).These models relate specifically to the establishment, development, and de-cline of the Norse colonies and have been framed in explicit biogeographi-cal terms (see also Amarosi et al., 1997). This history is now known inconsiderable detail due to extensive archaeological work documenting set-tlement patterns, material culture, dating, and economics of Norse settle-ments, not only in Greenland and Vinland, but in Iceland, the Faroes, andthe Scandinavian homelands. New research by the NABO consortium andthe National Science Foundation's PALE program has added importantpaleoenvironmental dimensions and context to cultural and historical re-search, making the Norse expansion across the North Atlantic a fascinatinganthropological biogeographical research topic.

    DISCUSSION

    At the time of the SAR seminar, archaeological data from core andnorthern regions appeared to give strong support for this model, and theconcept was elaborated in the author's contribution to the SmithsonianConference on Human Biogeography, concentrating on data from New-foundland, Labrador, and Hudson Bay (Fitzhugh, 1974; Fig. 4; Table I).Cyclical patterns in regional culture histories were noted, with intervals of300-500 years, but the mechanisms of environmental controls were differ-ent and less direct than in the High Arctic. In southern regions, sea mam-mal populations were less influenced by sea ice conditions, and theavailability of caribou and other game provided a broader food base withmore alternatives. Details of these patterns have been discussed in otherpublications (Fitzhugh, 1972, 1976, 1977). In addition to environmentalcontrols, social factors are seen as having a major importance on Indian-Eskimo distributions and population dynamics in these sub-Arctic regions(Fitzhugh and Lamb, 1984; Loring 1988, 1992).

    Recent research has added a wealth of new data on prehistory of theEastern Arctic fringes and parts of the core area that greatly amplify the1973 SAR conference results (McGhee and Tuck, 1975; Tuck, 1975; Cox,1978; Schledermann, 1978, 1990; McGhee, 1979; Fitzhugh, 1980; Helmer,1991; Arnold, 1981; Maxwell, 1985; Tuck and Fitzhugh, 1986; Bielawski1988; Plumet, 1994, 1986, to cite only a few). These studies substantially

    Biogeographical Archaeology in the American Arctic 403

  • 404 Fitzhugh

    Fig. 4. Occupation history and environmental history in Greenland (Fitzhugh, 1984,Fig. 15).

    refine the core area model from its earlier single-core form to a multi-coremodel that better accommodates local cultural and environmental condi-tions. From these studies one can abstract the following observations aboutthe behavior of human populations in the Eastern Arctic:

    (1) The core area appears to have been occupied continuously for theentire 4000-year period of human occupancy of the Eastern Arctic. Withthe exception of a brief period of apparent instability about 2800 B.P., andthe rapid replacement of Dorset by Thule culture at 1200 B.P., the domi-nant feature of the northern Hudson Bay core area prehistory is continuityand gradual evolutionary development (Meldgaard, 1960, 1962; Maxwell1985). The long development of cultures in the core area strongly suggestshuman demographic continuity as a result of relative ecological stabilityand high predictability of economic resources.

  • Biogeographical Archaeology in the American Arctic 405

  • (2) Peripheral areas demonstrate greater instability, with distinct pe-riods of abandonment and resettlement observed in some areas. This isthe most striking feature of Eastern Arctic prehistory. New research sug-gests that this pattern is not evident in all High Arctic regions as originallypostulated by McGhee, but colonization cycles and/or extinctions appearto occur in various areas of Greenland, the High Arctic, Western CanadianArctic, Hudson Bay, south Baffin, and Newfoundland-Labrador. Cyclicalcolonization and abandonment are not known for Eskimo cultures of West-ern Alaska. Similar intermittent cycles have been observed for Indian popu-lations of interior Labrador, where unpredictability of caribou huntingrenders the area marginal to long-term human occupation as in the Arcticfringes (Fitzhugh, 1972; Loring, 1988, 1992, 1997).

    (3) Fringe occupations are discontinuous and are not synchronous intime of colonization and abandonment. As in the case of the previous ob-servation, occupation cycling requires further investigation, because patternshifts may be meaningful in terms of system shifts on a large scale. Themost likely cause for asynchronous cycling shift is lateral displacement offringe populations and different geographic and faunal responses to cli-matic changes in tundra, boreal, and marine ecosystems. Abandonment ofHigh Arctic regions is often followed by shifts in population centers to thesouth as, for instance, in the Middle Dorset and Late Thule periods.

    (4) The length of occupations in the fringe areas varies but is shortestin the northernmost regions. The average occupation period is 400-600years for occupations of Low Arctic or sub-Arctic environments while theaverage for the climatically harsher High Arctic is ca. 100-300 years. InPeary Land, short occupation periods are followed by longer periods ofabandonment, ca. 400-800 years. In sub-Arctic regions periods of abandon-ment are short or negligible.

    (5) Fringe settlement follows a pattern of colonization by small groupsof 30-50 individuals (5-8 families) followed by rapid population growth,and later equally rapid decline or termination. This process is best seen insettlement and demographic models presented by Harp (1976) for New-foundland and McGhee (1976) for Port Refuge. Further work is needed.Recent Paleoeskimo finds in Northeast and East Greenland provide op-portunities to test these climatic and settlement models against the pio-neering work done in Peary Land by Eigil Knuth (1967).

    (6) Peripheral occupations are stylistically similar to earlier parentcomplexes in the core area and do not appear to evolve from earlier fringearea occupations. This pattern is best illustrated by High Arctic, southernHudson Bay, Labrador, and Newfoundland data. In the latter area a dis-tinct time horizon shows the expansion of Early and Late Dorset and Thulepopulations out of the Central Arctic and Hudson Strait into Labrador ca.

    406 Fitzhugh

  • 2500-2200, 1100, and 700 B.P., respectively, and slightly later into New-foundland (Fitzhugh, 1980; Tuck and Fitzhugh, 1986; Renouf, 1994). Whenpreceded by occupation gaps, it appears that colonization of marginal areasis by immigrants from the core. However, at other times, continuity is evi-dent in Greenland and Labrador as a result of their having "subcore" statusand more stable ecological conditions.

    (7) Unique regional expressions generally are not re-introduced intothe core area from the fringes during periods of climatic cooling and popu-lation compression. Distinctive fringe complexes like Sarqaq, IndependenceI, Lagoon, Newfoundland Dorset, Barrens Pre-Dorset, etc., do not reappearlater in the core area. This implies that there is little population flow orinfluential stylistic diffusion from fringe to core, and that opportunities formost fringe populations were restricted to extinction or lateral shift. Lateralshifts appear best demonstrated for the Devon Lowlands/Bache Peninsularegion (Schledermann, 1990; Helmer, 1991, p. 316). The development ofSarqaq from Independence I/pre-Dorset may represent the result of sucha lateral shift, as may also the presence in Labrador Early pre-Dorset ofSarqaq traits not present in the Central Arctic.

    (8) Culture phases in both core and fringe areas demonstrate relativelystable settlement, stylistic, and technological patterns. This observation issupported by the consistency of tool and dwelling structure forms withinsubregions of the Eastern Arctic for the duration of culture phases, whichgenerally last 200-500 years. The culture history of this region tends to becharacterized by long periods of stability punctuated by bursts of changethat are communicated by diffusion (social and trade contacts) rapidlythroughout the region, or by migration, resulting in establishment of hori-zon styles throughout the Canadian Arctic.

    (9) While physical constraints affecting animal resources appear tocontrol colonization opportunities, and result in extinction in northernfringe areas, in southern fringe areas social factors such as culture contactand ethnic competition appear to have played more important roles in localpopulation dynamics. Social factors (Innu/Indian-Inuit; Inuit-Inuit) are be-lieved to have played a major role in forming culture areas and causingpopulation movements and culture changes in Labrador (Kaplan, 1983,1985; Fitzhugh and Lamb, 1984; Fitzhugh, 1987; Loring, 1992). Similarprocesses may have complicated life along the Mackenzie-Alaska border,where both Indian and North Alaska Eskimo contact and competition werepowerful forces, at least in the historical period. It may be found that In-dian-Eskimo rivalries were more influential than lack of animal resourcesalong the Barrow-Mackenzie Delta region in creating a barrier that haskept communication minimal between Western and Eastern Arctic peoplesfor much of the past 4000 years.

    Biogeographical Archaeology in the American Arctic 407

  • (10) While many of the patterns noted above can be related to cli-matic and environmental variables, expansion into fringe areas is an op-portunistic activity while retreat from fringe areas is a matter of survival.Although many interpretations of Eastern Arctic studies have tended to-ward over-reliance on environmental causation, internal dynamics, exter-nal contact and competition, and human-environmental interactions arenow seen as equally important factors influencing demography and cul-ture change in the Eastern Arctic. However, evidence indicates thatwarming has facilitated settlements in High Arctic regions, while coolingalmost certainly helped terminate them. The Norse expansion and declinein the western Atlantic is still thought to have been triggered by climateevents. Cooling may also shift Central Arctic populations south as seaice platforms and their associated fauna expand south, and warming mayrequire southern Eskimo groups to abandon southern regions as ice plat-forms shift north and pressure from Indian groups increases. In actuality,temperature is surely not the only or even the most important climaticfactor. Changes in storm and moisture patterns may have had a moreimmediate impact on human settlement than long-term climate trends,but these conditions are usually known only from historical records.

    (11) External stimuli. While the Eastern Arctic appears to have beena cultural isolate throughout much of its prehistory, it has been twice colo-nized forcefully by Alaskan culturesby Arctic Small Tool tradition peo-ples at ca. 4000 B.P. and by the Thule culture at A.D. 1000. In the EarlyDorset period, it probably received new stimuli from the West through theYukon-North Alaska corridor (Arnold, 1981; LeBlanc, 1994). At othertimes, its cultural development has responded primarily to self-regulatorymechanisms (Nash, 1976).

    Despite the hazards to fringe pioneers, the prehistory of the EasternArctic has been continuous for the past 4000 years, during which periodthis region has come under increasing environmental stress as a resultof gradual climatic cooling. Environmental stress always permitted onlya few adaptation variants by small hunting groups with low populationdensities. The ability of these populations to survive local extinctions andpopulation declines and to take advantage of even slightly improved con-ditions for population growth and expansion has been critical to theirsurvival.

    Technological innovation and the ability to harness new resources per-mitted a gradual increase in human population through time. Nevertheless,the prehistory of the Eastern Arctic demonstrates that its human popula-tions were tightly constrained by their physical environment and had littleroom for experimentation and maneuvering. Repeatedly, when conditionspermitted, core populations expanded into ecologically marginal zones, only

    408 Fitzhugh

  • to become extinct or be forced to abandon them later. By the beginningof the contact period, with all other options having been explored, and themost recent effort at intensificationwhalingin decline, only reindeerbreeding and European interventions seem likely to have offered EasternArctic Inuit people potential new horizons. Reindeer breeding had ad-vanced to the western shore of Bering Strait in the centuries before West-ern contact in this region and even without Western contact probably wouldhave been introduced to Alaska within a few centuries. Thereafter, its east-ward spread, possibly with Chukchi herders, into the Eastern Arctic andsub-Arctic would have been assured. On a less conjectural note, we knowhow European contact altered the course of Inuit history east of the Mack-enzie.

    CURRENT STATUS

    After 20 years, the core area model still remains relatively unexploredas an integrative concept in Eastern Arctic archaeology. To date, the modelhas been used in a largely intuitive manner, with researchers selecting as-pects that help explain particular segments of regional culture history. Noattempt has been made to develop specific regional applications with quan-tified ecological or cultural data, to explore predictions as to biogeographicfeatures, trade and exchange models, settlement patterns, or populationlevels, or to investigate patterns, trends, or features of instability or conti-nuity over the region as a whole. Nor have recent studies been directed atapplying the much more refined climatic and environmental data now avail-able to Eastern Arctic prehistory.

    The core area model has not been immune from criticism. Numerousresearchers, including many of its original proponents (e.g., Maxwell 1976,p. 4), recognized shortcomings. The concept of a single northern HudsonBay/Foxe Basin core area gave way very early (Cox, 1977, 1978, p. 112) toconsideration of multiple or subsidiary core areas in northern Baffin Bay,Hudson Strait, Labrador, West Greenland, and Smith Sound, and theseviews have been strengthened over the years as data have been recoveredthat suggest the existence of "life outside the core" (Schledermann, 1978,1990; Fitzhugh, 1984; Helmer, 1991; Maxwell, 1985; Tuck and Fitzhugh,1986; Bielawski 1988). As the idea of demographically viable subcore areasgained support, a much more complicated view of colonization and extinc-tion in fringe regions evolved. With minicore areas scattered in many re-gions, the potential sources of populations and innovations has grown,making regional relationships more difficult to ascertain. Only in the DevonIsland-Smith Sound region (McGhee, 1981; Schledermann, 1990; Helmer,

    Biogeographical Archaeology in the American Arctic 409

  • 1991), in Labrador, and in Frobisher Bay (Odess, 1996) have these issuesbeen studied more closely. These results point toward a complex patternof stylistic and demographic interactions, with fringe occupations varyingin intensity from permanent to transitory. This is a much more refined pic-ture than provided by the original core area model.

    Despite its shortcomings, a biogeographical approach utilizing somevariant of the core area model is likely to dominate the theoretical under-pinnings of Eastern Arctic archaeology for the foreseeable future. No othermodel provides the ability to integrate ecological, environmental, and an-thropological data in a broad spatial-temporal perspective. However, theapproach also must evolve, and these directions are easily predicted. Forinstance, better ways are needed to identify and date (e.g., Morrison 1989)the sources of ideas, styles, raw materials, settlement patterns and structureforms. Previous efforts limited to the presence/absence of cultural groupsand general typological comparisons will have to give way to methods suchas those applied to Dorset lithic collections in Ungava, Labrador, and Baf-fin Island (Plumet, 1981; Nagle, 1985; Odess, 1996). The fact remains thatfor many prehistoric cultures of the Eastern Canadian Arctic and Green-land the future was always unpredictable and survival depended on rapidand ingenious human responses to social and environmental change. In thisenvironment, those responses frequently included migration, intensification,and diversification. We are always to be reminded that while these are, onone level, "population" events, on another they are usually the result ofindividual, personal choices; and in the Arctic, as in many other places,individual action counts, as is shown by analyses of historically-documentedmigration events (Rowley, 1985; Mary-Rousseliere, 1991).

    For much of the past 4000 years, the Eastern Arctic remained relativelyisolated from Western Arctic peoples and had only limited contact with sub-Arctic Indians. Since isolation is rare over long periods in human history,this instance offers unusual opportunities to study the culture history of theEastern Arctic as a relatively pristine, semi-isolated, self-contained system.Here, as in the Pacific, we may find a unique opportunity for developing andtesting biogeographic models and concepts against an eminently-knowablearchaeological, ethnographic, historical, and environmental record. In theprocess, we may begin building broader frameworks for anthropological bio-geography in other, questionably, more complex settings.

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    An early version of this paper was prepared as a contribution to theSmithsonian Conference on Human Biogeography organized by the author

    410 Fitzhugh

  • and John Terrell in 1974. That meeting was funded by the Wenner-GrenFoundation and the Smithsonian Institution. At the time, I was unable tocomplete a revision in time for the conference publication (World Archae-ology, vol. 9, 1977), but I am indebted to the original 1974 conference par-ticipants for their stimulation and comment to the first draft of this paper.I thank Ben Fitzhugh and Terry Hunt for the opportunity to be part of a"second generation" conference, and for comments they and other review-ers, including Stephen Loring, have made to earlier drafts. The illustrationshave been provided by Marsha Bakry.

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