To freeze or to dry: Seasonal variability in caribou processing and storage in the barrenlands of Northern Canada


en Anthropozoologica 48 (1) - Pages 89-109

Published on 28 June 2013

This article is a part of the thematic issue Circumpolar archaeozoology in the new and old worlds. Arctic Hunter-Gatherers in Context.

This paper presents description and interpretation of 20 caribou bone assemblages from Inuit sites on the Kazan River in northern Canada. A diversity of features including caches, disposal areas, and surface scatters, are quantified in order to understand aspects of butchery, transport, and storage of caribou carcasses. Element distributions are compared to four published indices which quantify bone density, food utility, meat drying, and marrow, in order to understand which factors played important roles in decision-making by Inuit in the region. While several factors are identified as having affected these assemblages, by far the most important factor relates to the season during which the caribou were hunted. During warm seasons, the drying of meat dictated relatively complex division of the carcass for processing and storage. During colder seasons, on the other hand, rapid freezing of meat allowed for greater flexibility, which often simply meant that entire articulated carcasses were cached after skinning and gutting.


Arctic, Nunavut, Inuit, archaeozoology, caribou, Rangifer tarandus, hunting, storage, dry meat, seasonality

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