Laurence Côté
Master student
Department of geography
Laval University

Supervised by:

Najat Bhiry (Regular member)

Co-supervised by:

Dominique Marguerie (External collaborator)

Research project description

Evolution of preinuit and inuit archaeological sites in a climate change context : a phytoarchaeological and paleoecological approach

IntroductionSubarctic and arctic regions are now undergoing important and rapid changes in terms of vegetation growth due to the rise in temperatures. This plant overgrowth increases the vegetation cover, which could contribute to hiding pre-Inuit and Inuit archaeological sites which are numerous in Nunavik. This could lead to an important loss of cultural heritage since this greening of the Arctic makes it harder to prospect and dig up archaeological sites. Researchers have already noticed on African and European archaeological sites that human activity modifies soil nutrients and as a result influences the type of vegetation that grows on this soil. Nevertheless, there exists little research on this topic in the Arctic and sub-arctic including Nunavik. Therefore, our research aims to answer the following question: how do pre-Inuit and Inuit archaeological structures generate a particular vegetational dynamic in a context of climate change? ObjectivesIn order to understand the vegetation dynamics on pre-Inuit and Inuit archaeological sites in a northern environment, the following four specific objectives have been determined : 1) to define the geomorphological framework and the soil properties of the selected archaeological sites 2) to characterize the vegetation in terms of diversity, density and structure ; 3) to reconstruct the succession of the local vegetation during the last millennium and 4) to determine the main variables that control the dynamics of vegetation in a subarctic archaeological context. The hypothesis that guides this research is that the plant biodiversity and biomass within archaeological sites will be higher than on sites that have not been disturbed by human activity because this human activity has brought on a supply of nutrients to the soil. Study sitesThe studied archaeological sites are located north of the 58th parallel, in Nunavik, in the upright shrub tundra bioclimatic domain and on discontinuous and widespread permafrost zones. Some archaeological sites are close the northern village of Kangiqsualujjuaq and along the George River while other sites are at the estuary of the Koroc River in the Kuururjuaq National Park.Material and methodsThe fieldwork will consist of exhaustive surveys of the flora growing on the studied archaeological sites as well as on the non-anthropized (reference sites) using quadrats. Chemical and particle size analyzes will be carried out on the soil samples. Cores will be extracted for the same sites. In the laboratory, a macrofossil analysis of the cores will be carried out to reconstruct the vegetation of the past. Finally, statistical analyzes will be done to determine the factors that contribute to the biodiversity of plants growing on archaeological sites. The stage of plant succession at which each of the sites are found will thus be determined. ReferencesBhiry, N., D. Marguerie, et S. Lofthouse. 2016. Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction and Timeline of a Dorset-Thule Settlement at Quaqtaq (Nunavik, Canada). Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 48(2): 293‑313. doi: 10.1657/AAAR0015-045. Butler, D. 2011. Exploring Soilscapes and Places Inside Labrador Inuit Winter Dwellings. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 35: 55‑85. Fenger-Nielsen, R., J. Hollesen, H. Matthiesen, E. A. S. Andersen, A. Westergaard-Nielsen, H. Harmsen, A. Michelsen, et B. Elberling. 2019. Footprints from the past: The influence of past human activities on vegetation and soil across five archaeological sites in Greenland. Science of the Total Environment 654: 895‑905. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.11.018. Lemouland, Q. 2009. Phytoarchéologie : impact d’occupations archéologiques sur la flore actuelle (historique, concepts, méthodes et études de cas). Archéologie et Préhistoire, France : Université de Rennes 1. Saatkamp, A., F. Henry, et T. Dutoit. 2020. Romans Shape Today’

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