History

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
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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.”

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