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Archaeologists believe that the Thule settled at Qaummaarviit at least 250 years before Christopher Columbus discovered America. The great distance from this prehistoric settlement from the floe edge initially puzzled experts. However, the striking diversity of the land and sea mammal bones recovered from several winter houses provided the answer. Even as late as 1860, the Arctic explorer Charles Francis Hall, was impressed with the amount and variety of game his Inuit guides took while camped here. Unlike the floe edge, where survival depended on sea mammal hunting, the mixture of land and sea animals at the head of the bay offered a measure of security when one or another resource failed, including tuktuk (caribou) which was their main source of winter clothing.
Like their Alaskan ancestors, the first Inuit to settle at Qaummaarviit were expert whale hunters. Yet, with the onset of the ‘Little Ice Age' (AD 1400), open water habitat for whales diminished and whaling declined in importance. Many Thule across the Arctic responded to this environmental shift by moving into large snowhouse villages on the sea ice. At Qaummaarviit, diminishing amounts of baleen (long, flexible plates from the bowhead's mouth) in winter houses and change sin harpoon head styles seem to mark this turn in lifestyle.
Probably no more than 25 people lived at Qaummaarviit at any one time in the past. Even so, the island must have been a favorite winter camp; it was occupied on at least three, and presumably more, occasions. There is even evidence of Inuit rebuilding house ruins of former occupants. The shallow depth of the household garbage dumps, however, suggests that most occupations were relatively brief, probably no more than several winters. Numerous stone rings, the remains of skin tents, indicate that the island also hosted small, nomadic groups of Inuit in the summer.
Over 3,000 tools and 20,000 bones dug from the tundra by archaeologists stir our imagination of what life may have been like at Qaummaarviit. Far from the bleak existence many people might envisage, Qaummaarviit's inhabitants thrived. Sled runners and a variety of dog harness equipment suggest that Qaummaarviit's hunters were capable of travelling great distances over se ice in search of game. Though evidence of skin boats is less abundant, thousands of sea mammal bones tell us that qayaks and umiaks were used repeatedly to hunt a variety of seals and whales. Artifacts used closer to home, such as hide scrapers, awls, needles, ulus, and soapstone lamps remind us of the vital roles woman played, while toy weapons, tools and dolls recall the central importance of children in Inuit culture.
Summer found Qaummarviit's inhabitants at rivers fishing for char, and along coasts hyunting seals, walrus and toothed whales. As the weather worsened, they began to stockpile food and provisions for freezeup in the fall – a time when ocean travel and sea mammal hunting wre impossible.
The ancient Inuit who settled at Qaummaarviit were not alone. Two other nearby settlements have also been found. One of these, Crystall II just outside of Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park, was the first site dug in the Arctic where Thule Inuit remains were found alongside those of the Tunnit, an earlier, distantly related culture.
Over the centuries, Frobisher Bay's Inuit alternated between the mouth and head of the bay as local ice conditions and game movements changed. By the end of the 18th century, as the Little Ice Age was easing, Qaummaarviit was abandoned once again for the floe edge.