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Ancient Boot

Curated Submission
Banks Island, Northwest Territories
Circa 480 BCE
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
14.5 x 17.5
Materials & techniques
Pre-Dorset peoples / Unknown
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre 982.050.480
Made over 2,500 years ago, this sealskin boot or kamik is one of the oldest examples of footwear found in the Canadian Arctic. The small size suggests that it was made for a child. The haired side of the skin on the inside of the boot ensured warmth. On the outside the sole is sewn to the upper part of the boot with a running stitch of sealskin; overcast sinew stitching on the inside created a waterproof seam.
This boot was found during an archaeology project at the Lagoon site on the south coast of Banks Island, Northwest Territories, an ancient camp where nomadic Pre-Dorset people once lived. The Pre-Dorset people were the earliest inhabitants of the Canadian Arctic, first appearing about 4,000 years ago. During the spring and summer a saltwater lagoon provided a rich environment with abundant game and other supplies. At the end of a cold dark winter the weather warmed, and seals basking on the ice were easy targets. Migrating waterfowl were a welcome change to the people’s diet. Muskox, Arctic fox, Arctic hare, and caribou were also plentiful. Bones, antler, and stone all offered materials for making tools, including needles and awls for sewing.
A large number of tools for sewing and for the preparation of animal skin were found at the site. The ability to create warm, resilient, water-resistant clothing like this boot required exceptional craftsmanship and ensured survival for the Pre-Dorset residents of the region. 
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