Changing Subsistence Practices at the Dorset Paleoeskimo Site of Phillip’s Garden, Newfoundland

Lisa M. Hodgetts, M. A. P. Renouf, Maribeth S. Murray, Darlene McCuaig-Balkwill and Lesley Howse


A comparison of identified faunal assemblages from the Dorset site of Phillip’s Garden indicates that harp seal hunting was the main focus of activity throughout the site’s occupation. Despite the highly specialized nature of site use, it appears that reliance on harp seal decreased over time while fish and birds became increasingly important. These changes may reflect longer seasonal occupations at the site in later centuries, and/or a decrease in the local availability of harp seal. The observed shift coincides with the onset of a local climatic warming trend, which might have affected harp seal movements in the area. Dorset subsistence and settlement patterns in Newfoundland are still poorly understood due to a lack of preserved faunal assemblages in the region. The temporal trend illustrated here indicates that we cannot assume that these patterns were static throughout the Dorset occupation of the island.

  • Lisa M. Hodgetts, M. A. P. Renouf, and Lesley Howse, Archaeology Unit, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s NL, A1C 5S7 Canada

  • Maribeth S. Murray, Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775-7720

  • Darlene McCuaig-Balkwill Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa ON, K1P 6P4 Canada