Late Dorset Deposits at Iita: Site Formation and Site Destruction in Northwestern Greenland

John Darwent, Genevieve M. LeMoine, Christyann M. Darwent and Hans Lange


The site of Iita (Etah) could, in many ways, serve as a poster child for climate-change-driven destruction of arctic coastal sites. Sitting on an alluvial fan at the base of a steep-sloped kame deposit on the north shore of Foulke Fjord in northwestern Greenland, the site has rich historical and late prehistoric occupations visible on its surface. However, more uniquely for the high Arctic, 1,000 years of continuous human use are locked in stratigraphically sequenced buried soils, starting with the Late Dorset, followed by the Thule-Inughuit, and topped by debris from Euroamerican expeditions. It is clear that the draw of this particular location for all these groups, directly or directly, is the results of a large, nearby dovekie colony. Unfortunately, active erosion is now undercutting these deposits, which are falling into the fjord. Based on historical photos, this destruction has accelerated since the 1940s. Here, we detail the formation of the site’s unique stratified deposits, the artifacts recovered from excavations in 2012 and 2016, and an evaluation of the remaining deposits at the site.

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