We know people have lived in the New World Arctic for about 5,000 years. Archaeological evidence clearly shows that a variety of cultures survived the harsh climate in Alaska, Canada and Greenland for thousands of years. Despite this, there are several unanswered questions about these people: Where did they come from? Did they come in several waves? When did they arrive? Who are their descendants? And who can call themselves the indigenous peoples of the Arctic?
We can now answer some of these questions, thanks to a comprehensive DNA study of current and former inhabitants of Greenland, Arctic Canada, Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and Siberia, conducted by an international team headed by the Centre for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen.
The results have just been published in the leading scientific journal Science. Read more.
For centuries, indigenous peoples in the Arctic navigated the land, sea, and ice, using knowledge of trails that was passed down through the generations.
Now, researchers have mapped these ancient routes using archival and published accounts of encounters with Inuit stretching back through the 19th and 20th centuries, and have released it online for the public as an interactive atlas – bringing together hundreds of years of accrued cultural knowledge for the first time.
The atlas, found at paninuittrails.org, is constructed from historical records, maps, trails and place names, and allows the first overview of the “pan-Inuit” world that is being fragmented as the annual sea ice diminishes and commercial mining and oil drilling encroaches. Read more.
This year’s Arctic search led by Parks Canada for the ships lost in the mid-19th century Franklin expedition turned up more human bones and about 200 small artifacts on King William Island but offered no new hints about the fate of the reinforced wooden vessels.
The 5½-week search wrapped up recently, with nothing found in the frigid Nunavut waters thought to hold a high potential for discoveries connected to HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.
Parks Canada says this year’s search — the fifth in six years — turned up no sign of the ships, but covered more territory than any previous search season. Read more.
A long-standing Arctic mystery has become even more baffling with research that appears to debunk a common theory about the demise of the Franklin expedition.
Chemists at the University of Western Ontario used an array of the latest analytic techniques to conclude that poorly made cans of food were not responsible for the lead that poisoned the officers and crew of the doomed 19th-century voyage to explore the Arctic.
"We’ll probably never know what happened to the crew of the Franklin [expedition], so it will remain one of the great mysteries of Canadian history," said Prof. Ron Martin.
"Our resources fail to support the hypothesis that the lead in the bones came from tins, and I certainly believe it didn’t." Read more.
For decades, scientists thought that the Clovis hunters were the first to cross the Arctic to America. They were wrong — and now they need a better theory
The mastodon was old, its teeth worn to nubs. It was perfect prey for a band of hunters, wielding spears tipped with needle-sharp points made from bone. Sensing an easy target, they closed in for the kill.
Almost 14,000 years later, there is no way to tell how many hits it took to bring the beast to the ground near the coast of present-day Washington state. But at least one struck home, plunging through hide, fat and flesh to lodge in the mastodon’s rib. The hunter who thrust the spear on that long-ago day didn’t just bring down the mastodon; he also helped to kill off the reigning theory of how people got to the Americas.
For most of the past 50 years, archaeologists thought they knew how humans arrived in the New World. The story starts around the end of the last ice age, when sea levels were lower and big-game hunters living in eastern Siberia followed their prey across the Bering land bridge and into Alaska. Read more.
GATINEAU, Qc - A delicate watercolour showing a group of British sailors rowing over the reflection of a cathedral-like Arctic iceberg has returned to Canada nearly 200 years after it was painted.
Their ship anchored nearby — HMS Terror — was a famous vessel in both the War of 1812 and its subsequent voyages to map out and lay claim to the Arctic, including the legendary Franklin Expedition.
The small work done in pale strokes of peach, blue and white was painted by Admiral Sir George Back, an important Arctic explorer who wrote in his 1836 diary about coming upon just such a skyscraper of an iceberg.
His crew took off from the historic HMS Terror to chip off chunks for water. In the painting, walruses look on, while barely perceptible sea birds fly in the foreground. Read more.
A musket and other artifacts from HMS Investigator, the ship abandoned in the Canadian Arctic in 1854 during the hunt for Franklin’s lost expedition, have been recovered by divers.
Shoes, a musket, a copper sheet, and parts of the ship’s rigging were are among the items brought up this July from the wreck discovered last summer in Mercy Bay, off Banks Island in the Northwest Territories.
Marc-André Bernier, the Parks Canada scientist who led the expedition, said that “to dive on a shipwreck that is literally frozen in time, with artifacts on the deck” made it one of the most phenomenal projects he has taken part in during the past 20 years. Read more.
Nunavut government officials are defending their decision not to give a Chicago man an archeological permit to search for Sir John Franklin’s grave in the Arctic.
Ron Carlson, a Chicago-based architect, pilot and Franklin history buff, had wanted to fly over King William Island with his DeHavilland Beaver aircraft and use thermal imaging equipment to look for the British explorer’s grave.
But Carlson told CBC News this week that his application for a territorial archeological permit was rejected just as he had arrived in Nunavut late last month.
The territory’s Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth, which is responsible for issuing the permit, ruled that Carlson was not qualified.
Doug Stenton, the department’s heritage director, said many people want their name associated with Franklin, whose doomed 1845 voyage and disappearance in the Northwest Passage has fascinated historians for almost 170 years. Read more.