Fox Exploitation by the Paleoeskimo at The Tayara Site, Nunavik

Hervé Monchot and Daniel Gendron


While prehistoric hunting of marine mammals and caribou by eastern Arctic prehistoric groups is well documented, the relationship between Paleoeskimo groups and the fox has received little attention. The open-air Dorset site of Tayara (KbFk-7), in southern Hudson Strait, Nunavik, is exceptional in that it contains numerous fox remains, of which 70% have been identified as Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) and 30% as red fox (Vulpes vulpes). By analyzing the profiles of anatomical parts and examining cut marks on the bones, the authors have been able to identify the various stages in Dorset use of the carcass—skinning, butchering (disarticulating and filleting)—and also to examine the general ways in which fox was exploited. We found that these early Dorset people actively hunted foxes, which are still abundant on Qikirtaq Island where KbFk-7 is located. The whole carcass was carried to the camp, where the animal was skinned and the meat was removed from the bones for consumption. At the Tayara site, Paleoeskimo people exploited foxes not only for their pelts, but also as a valuable source of protein.