This article is over 5 years old and may contain outdated information.


Land-based archaeological sites in Nunavut hold promise

Franklin related or not, experts evaluate the potential of tourism to historic sites in the territory

  • Sep 01, 2014
  • 259 words
  • 2 minutes
A tent ring in Nunavut. Expand Image

As searchers probe beneath the waves of the Queen Maud Gulf for signs of the Franklin Expedition’s ultimate fate, another, quite different, archaeological survey is taking place on the gulf’s islands. There are thousands of archaeological sites in Nunavut, ranging from tent rings left by the Thule (predecessors of the Inuit), to Inuit-built cairns, and inuksuit to artifacts left behind by European explorers such as Sir John Franklin and his crew.

As with nearly everything else in Nunavut, the territory’s weather and size are a challenge for archaeology. Most field work needs to be conducted when the ground is snow-free, but even once the snow has melted, the sea ice can lag behind, further hindering access to remote locations.

Helicopters are expensive to run and have a limited range, so even when archaeologists have access to them — as this summer’s Victoria Strait Expedition search team does — it can still be difficult to access known archaeological sites. The staging ground for this summer’s land-based survey is the Canadian Coast Guard’s Sir Wilfrid Laurier icebreaker, whose helicopter is ferrying government of Nunavut archaeologists to their survey sites.

“Part of what we’ll be doing this summer is evaluating the value of archaeological sites for tourism in Nunavut,” says Doug Stenton, director of cultural heritage for the government of Nunavut. “We’ll belooking at their accessibility for cruise ships, their interest levelfor visitors and we’ll also be identifying which sites areparticularly fragile or vulnerable to the effects of tourism, so thatwe can preserve those sites that need it.”


Are you passionate about Canadian geography?

You can support Canadian Geographic in 3 ways:

Related Content

Women in Nunavut running across a snow-covered field towards the camera


Throwback Thursday: Nunavut up and running

On April 1, 1999, Canada’s youngest population took control of its largest territory. Here’s how Canadian Geographic covered the story. 

  • 2880 words
  • 12 minutes
former archaeological site is now inundated at high tide. The rich artifact-bearing soil has been washed away, and with it all the Indigenous pot fragments, stone tools, animal bones, and cultural features. Only a few flakes from making stone tools remained scattered amongst the boulders.

People & Culture

“Burning libraries:” The race to save Canada’s coastal archaeological sites before they’re washed away

As sea level rise and the accelerating pace of coastal erosion threaten cultural heritage around the world, Canada has a lot to lose

  • 872 words
  • 4 minutes
a collage of images of Nunavut, including an Inuit child, Aaju Peter, a polar bear, the community of Pond Inlet, Lamech Kadloo, the community of Kugluktuk, ice

People & Culture

Our land, our strength

Reflecting on 20 years of Canada’s newest territory, Nunavut

  • 2009 words
  • 9 minutes

People & Culture

In search of promised lands

Uprooted repeatedly by development projects, the Oujé-Bougoumou Cree wandered boreal Quebec for 70 years before finding a permanent home. For some, the journey continues.

  • 7148 words
  • 29 minutes