Ancient People of the Arctic

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Ancient People of the Arctic traces the lives of the Palaeo-Eskimos, the bold first explorers of the Arctic. Four thousand years ago, these people entered the far northern extremes of the North American continent, carving a living out of their bleak new homeland. From the hints they left behind, accessible only through the fragmented archaeological record, Robert McGhee ingeniously reconstructs a picture of this life at the margins. He discusses how the Palaeo-Eskimos spread across the entire Arctic, explains how they dealt with sharp climate changes that drastically altered their environment, offers glimpses into their spiritual practices and world view, and speculates about their eventual demise. For three thousand years, the Palaeo-Eskimos not only successfully adapted to their frozen land but also developed a rich cultural life. Their archaeological sites yield a trove of beautifully crafted tools made from bone, ivory, quartz, and flint. The Palaeo-Eskimos have left far more than the hundreds of pieces of art recovered by archaeologists and the evidence of human ingenuity and endurance on the perimeter of the habitable world. Their most valuable legacy lies in the realization that these two things occurred together and were part of the same phenomenon. They provide an example of lives lived richly and joyfully amid dangers and insecurities that are beyond the imagination of the present world.

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About the author (1996)

Robert McGhee is an archaeologist who has conducted thirty years of research on the ancient history of Arctic peoples. He is the author of numerous publications, among them Ancient Canada (1989) and Canada Rediscovered (1991). He is currently a curator of archaeology at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

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