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Uncovering history at Hall Beach

Karen Mackenzie
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 27, 2007

HALL BEACH - The dig into Hall Beach's Thule past continued this summer, as a trio of Nunavut students uncovered the well-preserved artifacts of the historic Arctic people.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Judah Qanatsiaq of Hall Beach and Adam Lightstone of Iqaluit screen excavated soil to collect even the smallest remains. - photo courtesy of Karen Wittke

Excavation work on an ancient sod hut began last year with a dozen youth from throughout Nunavut.

This year, three students were employed. They received a $60 daily stipend along with school credits.

Eric Tungilik, 17, can't seem to get enough of his newfound love for archeology.

The Grade 11 student returned for the second summer of the dig, and has continued working on it in his spare time after school.

He has been focused on a section where people used to throw their garbage.

"They usually threw bones, and when they had an ulu that was broken, they would throw it there too," he explained.

Tungilik, along with fellow Hall Beach student Judah Qanatsiaq and Adam Lightstone of Iqaluit, found a muskox bowl, a game piece and a knife since their job began back in June.

Inspired by his time on the site, Tungilik said he would now like to study at the University of Toronto, "to someday be a supervisor for archeologists," he said.

The dig will continue next summer with more students, according to Karen Wittke, field worker and instructor from the University of Toronto.

"This is a really incredible house, and we are finding some amazing artifacts," Wittke said.

The area, which is located near a DEW Line site, is rich with traces of the Thule.

The Thule lived there between 300 and 1,000 years ago, and Wittke estimated that the artifacts they have found could be about 500 years old.

"This particular home was abandoned when its owner died, and over the years the semi-subterranean structure filled in with earth. The permafrost protected everything that was inside, "like a time capsule," she explained.

One notable find was a decorated bow drill, its handle carved with a whaling scene.

"They've been found before, but they're very rare," she said.

Wittke will return south on Sept. 5 with the collected artifacts to study them further, but the pieces will be returned to Nunavut, she said.

The project is a collaboration of the Government of Nunavut, Inuit Heritage Trust and International Polar Year.