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Dorset culture

Dorset culture is ancient Paleo-Eskimo, prehistoric culture of Greenland and the Canadian eastern Arctic. It existed from approximately 800 BC to AD 1500. This isolated Arctic culture known as the Dorset disappeared without a genetic trace (modern inhabitants are not related to them genetically). They lived primarily by hunting sea mammals and were capable of taking animals as large as walrus and narwhal.

The Dorset people probably numbered no more than 3,000 people in the Canadian Arctic, and 1,000 more in Greenland.

Technologies adopted by the Dorset included hand-drawn sleds with bone runners, cleated shoes called ice creepers, and soapstone vessels to burn oil. They created large storage pits and conducted winter/spring sealing, maintaining permanent residences on arctic beaches. Despite the lack of clear information on the origins of the Dorset people, they left behind substantial archaeological evidence with help from the cold, dry Arctic environment. Artifacts show that the Dorset were well-prepared and adapted to the cold northern climate and there is some proof that the Dorset were the first in the Arctic to live in igloo (snow house) camps, although they also had stone dwellings, and used tents when they moved during the summers.

Dorset were extinct by the year 1500 for not fully explained reasons – some claim they were unable to adapt well to the Medieval Warm Period, or the may have been expelled by newcomers – whale hunters, armed with bows and other comparatively advanced technology; inbreeding and diseases may have contributed to their extinction.

Its name comes from excavations made at Cape Dorset at Baffin Island.

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