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Igloolik Island Archaeological Sites National Historic Site of Canada

Igloolik Island, Nunavut, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1978/06/19

General view from Igloolik Island showing an inukshuk.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parc Canada
General view
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Other Name(s)

Igloolik Island Archaeological Sites National Historic Site of Canada
Igloolik Island Archaeological Sites
Sites archéologiques de l'île Igloolik

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/05/10

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Igloolik Archaeological Sites National Historic Site of Canada consists of nine archaeological sites found on Igloolik Island, located on the north-western shore of Foxe Basin, in Nunavut. These sites, located on the island’s raised beaches, date from Dorset and Pre-Dorset occupations from as early as 2000 BCE. Official recognition refers to nine polygons representing the archaeological sites identified before 1978.

Heritage Value

Igloolik Archaeological Sites was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1978 because:
- it presents one of the most complete archaeological sequences in the Arctic and, due primarily to the excellent sea mammal hunting, people have been attracted to the area for more than 4000 years;
- it was the wintering site for Edward Parry in 1821;
- it was the base of the Fifth Thule Expedition of 1921-1924.

Igloolik Island has been home to Arctic peoples for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence places human activity on the island as early as 2000 BCE, when the Pre-Dorset peoples were attracted to the area due to its excellent fishing and sea mammal hunting. Later occupations include both Dorset and Thule. Archaeological research at the island has provided one of the most complete archaeological sequences in Arctic Canada. Today, the village of Igloolik occupies a portion of the western section of the island.

In the early 1800s, Igloolik Island served as the wintering site of the explorer Edward Parry. Captain of the Fury, Parry was one of several explorers searching for a western passage through the Arctic. During his second year of exploring the northern reaches of the Hudson Bay, he and his crew wintered at Igloolik, where they were in contact with the island’s Inuit population. Over a century later, the anthropolgist Knud Rasmussen based his Fifth Thule Expedition (1921-1924) at Igloolik Island. This anthropological expedition was a wide ranging examination of several arctic cultural groups, and the monographs produced from Rassmussen’s research are still considered some of the most important work in the areas of Arctic archaeology, physical anthropology and ethnography.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- its location on Igloolik Island, in the north-western regions of Foxe Basin, in Nunavut;
- the settings of the nine archaeological sites identified before 1978 on raised beaches throughout the island;
- any archaeological sites in their found forms, locations and materials, including evidence of the cultural occupations of Pre-Dorset, Dorset, and Thule peoples;
- any archaeological sites in their found forms, locations and materials, including evidence of the wintering and exploration activities of Edward Parry and Knud Rasmussen;
- the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains which may be found within the site in their original placement and extent;
- viewscapes between the nine archaeological sites and their surrounding landscape.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1821/01/01 to 1821/01/01
1921/01/01 to 1924/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Peopling the Land
Peopling the Land
Canada's Earliest Inhabitants

Function - Category and Type




Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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