|Independence I reproductions (L) and artifacts (R)|
Independence I is an unusually appropriate name for a group of Arctic pioneers, but the origin of the name is simply the location that the first sites belonging to this culture were found; Independence Fjord in northeastern Greenland. In Greenland, sites belonging to this culture date from 4400-3300 B.P. These early Palaeoeskimo sites were first described in the 1950s by Eigil Knuth, a Danish archaeologist. He called the earlier sites, located at higher elevations, Independence I and the lower, later sites Independence II. There aren't any Independence I sites in Newfoundland and Labrador, but there are remarkable similarities between Independence II artifacts and the tools found at Groswater Palaeoeskimo sites in this Province.
|Muskox provided food, tents, clothes, but not fuel|
In his book, Ancient People of the Arctic, Bob McGhee envisions an Independence I way of life that is "well beyond the bounds of endurance known from any human group described by anthropologists or historians." (McGhee 1996:64). In an environment where the summer is perpetual daylight and the winter is perpetual night, McGhee reconstructs an annual cycle of activity for the Independence I people in which they take advantage of the brief summer to prepare for near hibernation in the winter. Without seal oil lamps, the people would have relied on inactivity and the careful conservation of body heat, through extended periods of inactivity and sleep, to survive the darkness and cold.
According to McGhee:
Eigil Knuth was the first to suggest that the Independence people may have passed the winter 'in a kind of torpor'. The months of winter darkness must have discouraged all but the most essential hunting, preventing women from sewing clothing and men from working at their crafts. We are forced to imagine a winter life devoted to amusing the children, singing or telling stories, thinking of the coming summer, and dreaming. Northern Canada used to teem with anecdotes of isolated White trappers who spent the winters in semi-hibernation, passing days or weeks at a time in dream rather than in the reality of cold darkness and scarce food. The early Palaeo-Eskimos may have survived the High Arctic only by adopting such a way of life as the ordinary custom for an entire society. (McGhee 1996:64-65)
|Southern Ellesmere Island in September. Imagine living on Northern Ellesmere Island in February with your family, in a Muskox skin tent.|
|Scraper from Kettle Lake, Quttinirpaaq|
1-3,5,6: Tim Rast