Archaeology

Protection and development of the Qajartalik petroglyph site (JhEv-1)

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Since 1996

General view of sector B, site JhEv-1, facing west, 2004

General view of sector B, site JhEv-1, facing west, 2004

Since 1996, the Avataq Cultural Institute has been actively participating in studying and developing the Qajartalik petroglyph site, as well a creating a plan to protect the site for the long term.

Site description

Site JhEv-1’s petroglyphs are located in the far northeast corner of Qikertaaluk Island, on a small peninsula called Qajartalik (meaning “where there is a kayak” in Inuktitut). Qikertaaluk Island is roughly 40 km southeast of the community of Kangirsujuaq.

The site is trough-shaped, measuring approximately 130 metres in length. Outcrops of steatite are found across the site’s southeast axis. These outcrops were used for two primary purposes: the creation of petroglyphs and the extraction of the steatite blocks needed for making lamps and containers.

Site JhEv-1 has not been scientifically dated. Nonetheless, there is a strong stylistic resemblance to Dorset Era handicrafts. Further archaeological clues from the site’s steatite-mining evidence also indicate Dorset Era exploitation.

Petroglyphs combined with a steatite extraction zone, 2004

Petroglyphs combined with a steatite extraction zone, 2004

General view of sector B, facing west, 2004

General view of sector B, facing west, 2004

The petroglyphs

The Qajartalik petroglyphs are unique manifestations of Dorset Era artistic expression. Qajartalik appears to be the only place where Dorset Era peoples transposed onto soapstone, and on an enormous scale, the distinctive figures usually found on much smaller artifacts made of bone, ivory or horn.

In the early 1960s, Bernard Saladin d’Anglure documented 95 carvings at Qajartalik (Saladin d’Anglure 1962). During his later expeditions (from 1996 to 1998) with Avataq, we were able to identify an additional 70 petroglyphs, bringing the site’s total to 165. Some of Qajartalik’s petroglyphs are only visible in adequate light, and while most of them portray anthropomorphic features, they are not overt representations of human figures.

Petroglyph of a figure with sharp upper extremities and a rounded base, 2004

Petroglyph of a figure with sharp upper extremities and a rounded base, 2004

Petroglyph of a rectangular figure with a slightly rounded chin; this carving’s edges are studded rather than smoothly carved, 2004

Petroglyph of a rectangular figure with a slightly rounded chin; this carving’s edges are studded rather than smoothly carved, 2004

Petroglyph of an elongated figure with a prominent forehead ending in narrow points along each side of the face; the base of the figure is oval in shape. The carvings beneath the chin may symbolize shamanic breathwork. The whitened edges indicate relatively recent “updating” work on the carving, 2004

Petroglyph of an elongated figure with a prominent forehead ending in narrow points along each side of the face; the base of the figure is oval in shape. The carvings beneath the chin may symbolize shamanic breathwork. The whitened edges indicate relatively recent “updating” work on the carving, 2004

Site preservation

For the last decade, the Avataq Cultural Institute has been working with the federal government to have Qajartalik recognized as a world heritage site. Both unique and fragile, this monumental site requires protection. It is therefore important that legislation be passed in order to stop further vandalism and other activity detrimental to its preservation. A 2008 agreement between the Inuit of Nunavik, Nunavut, and the Federal Government concerning Nunavik’s coastal islands has allowed us to resubmit the Qajartalik site’s dossier to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Official recognition is anticipated in early 2010.

Data collection: rubbings of petroglyphs on acid-free paper, 1996

Data collection: rubbings of petroglyphs on acid-free paper, 1996

Data collection: taking pictures, 2004

Data collection: taking pictures, 2004

See the Qajartalik Petroglyphs Collection

Contact : Daniel Gendron and Louis Gagnon