A comparative paleolimnological assessment of the influences of early Arctic population groups on freshwater ecosystems from southern Baffin Island, Nunavut
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Recent paleolimnological research in the eastern Canadian high Arctic on the ecological impact of the Thule c.1000-1500 AD has documented the influence of prehistoric anthropogenic activities. Six lake and pond sites (three pairs) on the south-western coast of Baffin Island, Nunavut, were used to compare impacted and non-impacted sites in the southern-most region of Thule occupation, as well as to compare Thule occupation sites with sites occupied by another early Arctic population group, the Dorset. Tanfield 1 and Tanfield 2 (impacted and control, respectively) are adjacent to several multiple-occupation Dorset sites on Cape Tanfield; Juet 1 and 2 (impacted and control, respectively) are adjacent to a short-term occupation Dorset site on Juet Island; McKellar 1 is adjacent to a multiple-occupation Thule site near McKellar Bay. A nearby site (McKellar 2) was also studied, but it was clearly an anomalous, eutrophic site, rather than a control for McKellar 1. Diatom assemblages and sedimentary 15N profiles were analyzed in sediment cores from all study sites. Selected paired sediment intervals were AMS radiocarbon dated using both humic acids and terrestrial macrofossils in an attempt to establish basal dates for each core. Significant differences between several of the paired AMS radiocarbon dates serve as a cautionary note for dating Arctic sediments using either humic acids or terrestrial macrofossils. Paleolimnological analyses revealed that at both multiple-occupation sites (Tanfield 1 and McKellar 1), the activities of the Dorset and the Thule influenced lake ecology, while at the short-term occupation site (Juet 1), the Dorset occupation was not sufficiently large to have a discernible impact. McKellar 1 showed a greater impact compared to Tanfield 1, consistent with the intense marine mammal hunting by Thule at the former, compared to the moderate marine mammal hunting by Dorset at Tanfield 1. The origin of marine-derived nutrients at McKellar 2 could not be ascertained with certainty. The influence of early Arctic population groups remains obvious in present-day nutrient- and production-related water chemistry variables. This research points to the value of collaborations between paleolimnologists and archaeologists and may provide insight into the future implications of current anthropogenic activities in the Arctic.