Resources -  Glossary




























Adaptation [ad-dapp-tay-shun]- the process of changes in a living organism or in cultural systems that aid in adjustment to the conditions of the environment, facilitating the ability to inhabit and exploit a particular environment.

Adze [add-ze]- a tool similar to an axe that is mounted crossways and is used for chipping or slicing wood.

Anthropomorphic [ann-thro-pa-more-fik]- attributing human-like characteristics to something that is not human (anthropomorphic sculptures and paintings). See related web page.

Arctic [ark-tik]- the area lying above 66 degrees North latitude that includes the Northern Lands and Arctic Ocean.

Baleen [bay-leen]- baleen, historically sometimes referred to as whalebone, is a hard, horny, springy substance that grows in long plates in the mouths of toothless whales. Whales use it to filter out small food organisms and plankton from the ocean waters. Baleen was a valuable product for making articles such as corsets and umbrellas.

Barbed harpoon- type of implement that detaches from its shaft after it pierces the prey, becoming lodged under the blubber and skin by means of its barbed sides. Developed before the toggling harpoon, it is thought to have originated from paleolithic fish harpoons. See related web page.

Biface [bye-face]- chipped or flaked stone tool that has been worked on both of its sides, or faces.

Blubber- thick layer of fat on whales, walruses and seals that helps insulate them from the cold. Used by people as a food source, as well as for oil and fuel, it was a major product of whaling economy.

Boreal forest- known in the Old World as the taiga, it is the mostly coniferous forest (especially spruce, fir, hemlock and larch trees) that stretches from Southern and Central Canada all the way into Alaska and Newfoundland.

C-14 dating- carbon-14 dating is a radiometric technique used to date organic materials such as charcoal, by measuring the decay of radioactive carbon-14. It can be used to obtain dates for things up to 50,000 years old.

Camouflage [kam-o-flahj]- markings or coloration that help disguise an animal so it is less visible to predators or prey.

Chert- a type of rock or stone, similar to flint, used to make chipped stone tools.

Dorset- the most recent of the Paleo-Eskimo cultures in the Canadian Arctic and Greenland, dating from 500 BC to 1400 AD. Their sites are found in the coastal tundra regions of Newfoundland and Labrador. See related web page.

Ecosystem [eee-ko-sis-tim]- an ecosystem is the entire complex of organisms that live in a specific environment as well as all of the physical factors of the environment that have an effect upon those organisms.

Erik the Red- infamous father of Leif Eriksson, Erik the Red was the first European to discover Greenland in CE 985. He established colonies on Greenland, naming it such "so that people would be encouraged to go there". See illustration.

Fjord [fee-yord]- steep walled inlet of a sea created by glacial gouging.

Glacier [glay-sher]- glaciers are accumulations of snow, ice, air pockets, water and rock debris. They can fill valleys or entire continents (as in the case of Antarctica). They have enough mass to flow across a landscape, moving as little as a few feet per year, up to thousands of feet per year. Glaciers are found throughout the world in such places as Africa, New Zealand and Chile.

Hematite [hee-ma-tie-t]- one type of iron ore that, when crushed and heated, makes a red powder called red ochre.

Iceberg- freshwater ice that has been broken off a glacier or an ice sheet or shelf. Icebergs float in the water because they are less dense than the water they are immersed in. Only 1/5th of their mass is visible above water and they come in various sizes, the largest iceberg sighted was approximately the same size as Belgium!

Ice floe- floating fragments of sea ice.

Inuit [inn-oo-wit]- translated roughly as "true men" or "the real people", this is the preferred term for Eskimo in Northern Canada and Greenland.

Innu [in-oo]- formerly referred to as the Naskapi or Montagnais Indians, the Innu reside in Nitassinan (Eastern Quebec and Labrador). The Innu population is about 16,000 today, concentrated mostly in 13 villages.

L'Anse aux Meadows [lance ow med-oh-s]- the only known Viking site in North America, L'Anse aux Meadows is located on the northern tip of Newfoundland, Canada. Found in 1960 by Helge Ingstad, it proves that Vikings reached North America around 1000 CE, 500 years before Columbus. This settlement may also have been settled by Leif Eriksson. See related web page.

Leif Eriksson [layf eriks-son]- according to the Viking sagas, Leif Eriksson, son of Eric the Red, was the first European to set foot on North American soil. He established a base camp for further explorations, which may be the site of L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland.

Mammal- one class of animals that have backbones, are warm-blooded, breath air and whose females have milk-secreting glands for their young. In the class mamallia there are 19 orders and over 5,000 species of mammals, ranging from the 2 inch shrew to the 120 foot whale.

Midden- refuse pile or dump in an archaeological site.

Migration- the movement of animals, fish and birds in search of food or shelter, often on an annual basis according to the seasons.

Nenets [nen-et]- the Nenets are native to the Yamal Peninsula in Western Siberia. Nenets live by intensive reindeer herding, travelling hundreds of miles annually between the Northern forest fringe and the Arctic coast. See related web page.

Nordic- refers to the northwestern European countries of Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark), as well as Iceland and Finland. See related web page.

Norse- name for Scandinavians from the Viking Age to today.

Permafrost [perm-a-frost]- frozen soil found in the Arctic and subarctic regions whose age may go back thousands of years.

Pinniped [pin-na-ped]- marine mammals with flippers, such as seals, walruses and sea lions.

Predator- animals which prey on other animals for food.

Projectile point- sharp tip of a weapon, pointed at one end and meant to be attached to the end of a spear, dart or arrow shaft or handle.

Saga- lengthy oral history or stories about heroic exploits and trials of Viking Age ancestors, written 200 years after the exploits occurred. Icelandic Sagas are famous pieces of literature, among the first works not written in Latin, but in the language of the people, Old Norse. See related web page.

Sea ice- During the winter, large sections of the Arctic ocean and adjacent seas freeze into patches of ice. These patches of sea ice may be carried by currents and winds as far south as Newfoundland, Canada. See related web page.

Shaman/shamanism [shah-man; shah-man-izm]- the word "shaman" originated in Siberia, from the Evenk language, meaning an 'excited, frenzied person'. Shamans were both men and women who presided over spiritual life. Shamans often shared close relationships with nature, and their duties as religious practitioners included such tasks as curing the sick, protecting the community and influencing the weather.

Sledge- a large sled pulled by animals and used for transportation across snow and ice.

Toggling harpoon- form of a harpoon that toggles sideways beneath the skin and blubber of a sea mammal, thereby securely holding heavier sea mammals than can be caught with barbed harpoons. See related web page.

Tree line/Timber line- the point at which the boreal forest meets the tundra and the line beyond which no tree vegetation grows. The line varies depending on latitude, climate and soil conditions and is also the northern boundary of boreal forest.

Tundra- the treeless vegetation type characteristic of the arctic region, having a marshy surface where mosses, lichens, berries and low shrubs grow with mucky soil and permafrost underneath.

Ulu(s) [ooo-loo]- type of knife with a semi-circular blade used by Northern peoples to prepare hides, cut fish and carry out numerous other tasks. There are numerous examples of these knives in the archaeological record, the earliest of which date back 6,000 years to the Maritime Archaic of Labrador. See related web page.

Viking Age- the time period in Scandinavian and European history from 750 to 1050 AD, or from 793 AD to 1050 or 1066 AD.

Viking- first used by Anglo-Saxons in England for the sea-based Scandinavian or Norse raiders of the Viking Age. Scandinavians or Norse were "Vikings" only when they went on raiding parties. When they returned home, they were simply Norse farmers and fishermen. See related web page.

Zoomorphic [zoo-o-more-fik]- representation of animals in art and design.