Middle Dorset Communal Structures on Victoria Island

T. Max Friesen 1
  • 1 Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, 19 Russell St., Toronto, ON, M5S 2S2, Canada


This paper describes a cluster of large communal structures in the Oxford Bay region of southeastern Victoria Island in Nunavut, Arctic Canada. The structures consist of linear stone outlines of up to 24 meters in length, and resemble the relatively well-documented Late Dorset longhouses which have been found across much of the Eastern Arctic. However, radiocarbon dates indicate that the Oxford Bay structures were built and used from roughly 200 to 600-700 cal AD, placing them in the Middle Dorset period. Elsewhere, Middle Dorset communal structures are rare, making the Oxford Bay phenomenon unique. The sites are interpreted as resulting from population aggregations associated with the fall caribou hunt, and may represent direct predecessors of the more widespread Late Dorset longhouses.

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