Patricia Sutherland (born 1949) is a Canadian archaeologist, specialising in the Arctic. Much of her recent research has focused on evidence of a lengthy Norse presence on Baffin Island in the 11th to 13th centuries CE and trade between them and the now-extinct Dorset people of the region. Sutherland's theory that there were Europeans on Baffin Island hundreds of years before the Norse settled Greenland at the start of the 11th century is controversial.
Education and career
Until April 2012, she was also employed at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, now the Canadian Museum of History, most recently as curator of Arctic archaeology. She was the only female archaeologist working there. It has been speculated, including by the CBC programme The Fifth Estate, that she was let go because her research no longer fit with the changed focus of the museum on Canadian history, and some have suggested that the political motivation extends to a fear that her research will undermine Canadian sovereignty claims in the high Arctic. Other speculation points to her having been one of six staff of the museum who wrote a letter objecting on moral grounds to its acquisition of a collection of artefacts taken from the wreck of RMS Empress of Ireland.  When Sutherland was fired, her access to her research materials was cut off and many were dispersed. There have been calls by fellow archaeologists and a petition for her to be allowed to resume her research.
Sutherland is an expert in Canadian indigenous archaeology. In 1977, surveying what was to become Quttinirpaaq National Park, on Ellesmere Island, for Parks Canada, she found a piece of bronze that turned out to be half of a Norse silver weighing balance. In 1979, on Axel Heiberg Island, she found a piece of antler on which two different faces were carved: one with round-faced Dorset features, the other thin-faced and with heavy eyebrows. In 1999, she discovered among finds from a Dorset site near Pond Inlet, on northern Baffin Island, a piece of spun yarn or cordage that did not conform with the twine made of animal sinews used by the Inuit but did correspond to that used in the 14th century in Norse settlements in Greenland; however, it was spun from hair of the Arctic hare. This and evidence of metalworking–bronze and smelted iron, in addition to whetstones used for sharpening metal implements–and tally sticks like those used by the Norse, found at four sites where Dorset people had camped as much as 1,000 miles (1,600 km) apart between northern Baffin Island and northern Labrador, suggested both long-term trading contact between the Norse and the Dorset, and a long-term presence of Norsemen in the region. She presented her view at an exhibition titled Full Circle: First Contact, Vikings and Skraelings in Newfoundland and Labrador, which opened at the Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador in summer 2000, and at a meeting of the Council for Northeast Historical Archaeology in St. John's in October 2012. Further excavating the Nanook site at Tanfield Valley on southern Baffin Island, she has found fur from Old World rats, a whalebone shovel like those used in Viking Greenland to cut turf, evidence of European-style masonry, more whetstones and tally sticks, and a Dorset-style carved mask that depicts a face with apparently European features; she believes this was the location of a Norse trading site established around 1300. She has continued to find evidence of Norse metalworking elsewhere in the region. The radiocarbon dates of items at the Nanook site include some predating the Norse by several hundred years. Sutherland suggests this is possible evidence of earlier contact with Europeans.[unreliable source?] Sutherland argues that the site was occupied by different peoples over centuries. It is also possible that at least some of the artefacts are spoils of war.
Sutherland's theory that the spun yarn or cordage of Arctic hare fur is evidence of possible European contact with the Dorset is controversial. Elizabeth Wayland Barber of Occidental College, archaeologist and expert on textiles, writing about the Lascaux caves in France, "We now have at least two pieces of evidence that this important principle of twisting for strength dates to the Palaeolithic. Michele Hayeur Smith of Brown University, "The idea that you would have to learn to spin something from another culture was a bit ludicrous," she said. "It's a pretty intuitive thing to do." William W. Fitzhugh, Director of the Arctic Studies Center at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and a Senior Scientist at the National Museum of Natural History, says that there is insufficient published evidence to support Sutherland's claims, and that the Dorset themselves were using spun cordage by the 6th century. One of the pieces of 2-ply spun Arctic hare fur cordage, item KdDq-9-3:4797, returned an accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon calibrated age of calAD 73-226. Sutherland does not believe that piece of Arctic hare fur cordage was the work of the Dorset, but was the work of a European.
Sutherland is married to Robert McGhee; in 2011 she was Curator of Eastern Arctic Archaeology at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and he was Curator of Western Arctic Archaeology and they were among the authors of Upside Down: Arctic Realities, the book accompanying an exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly in Paris.
- (ed.) The Franklin Era in Canadian Arctic History, 1845–1859. Symposium report. Archaeological Survey of Canada paper 131. Ottawa: National Museums of Canada, 1985. OCLC 14414504.
- "The Variety of Artistic Expression in Dorset Culture". in: Fifty Years of Arctic Research: Anthropological Studies from Greenland to Siberia. Ed. R. Gilberg and H.C. Gulløv. Nationalmuseets skrifter, Etnografisk række 18. Copenhagen: Department of Ethnography, National Museum of Denmark, 1997. ISBN 9788789385600. pp. 287���93.
- Contributions to the Study of the Dorset-Palaeo Eskimos. Archaeology paper 167. Gatineau, Quebec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2005. ISBN 9780660194141.
- Andrew Hamilton, "The Medieval Norse on Baffin Island", Counter-Currents Publishing, February 8, 2013.
- Staff & Faculty, Geography and Environmental Studies, Carleton University, retrieved April 6, 2016.
- Honorary Staff, Researchers & Emeritus Staff, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen.
- "The Norse: An Arctic Mystery", The Nature of Things, CBC Television, November 22, 2012. Archived November 27, 2012, at the Wayback Machine at the Wayback Machine, November 27, 2012.
- Don Butler, "Fired Arctic archeologist Patricia Sutherland seeks access to research", Ottawa Citizen, March 5, 2014, updated May 20, 2014.
- Margo Pfeiff, "When the Vikings were in Nunavut", Up Here, July 29, 2013.
- "Has Political Correctness Sunk the Baffin Island Viking Research Project?", The New Observer, November 27, 2012.Alternative web address
- "Silence of the Labs", The Fifth Estate, Season 39, January 10, 2014.
- Owen Jarus, "Searching for the Vikings: 3 Sites Possibly Found in Canada", Live Science, April 18, 2016.
- Shelley Wright, Our Ice Is Vanishing / Sikuvut Nunguliqtuq: A History of Inuit, Newcomers, and Climate Change, McGill-Queen's Native and Northern Series 75, Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2014, ISBN 9780773596108, pp. 26–27.
- Don Butler, "History museum staff raised ethical objections to acquisition of Empress of Ireland collection", Ottawa Citizen, January 15, 2016.
- Wendy Stueck and Kate Taylor, "Canadian Museum of History reveals researcher was fired for harassment", The Globe and Mail, December 4, 2014, updated December 5, 2014.
- J. J. McCullough, "Media Bites: Want to Hear How Harper Hates Science? Watch CBC", blog, Huffington Post, January 13, 2014, updated March 15, 2014.
- Jane George, "Kimmirut site suggests early European contact" Archived 2009-08-19 at the Wayback Machine, Nunatsiaq News, September 12, 2008.
- Heather Pringle, "Evidence of Viking Outpost Found in Canada", National Geographic, October 19, 2012.
- Armstrong, Jane (20 November 2012). "Vikings in Canada?". A researcher says she's found evidence that Norse sailors may have settled in Canada's Arctic. Others aren't so sure. Maclean's. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
In fact, Fitzhugh thinks the cord at the centre of Sutherland's “eureka” moment is a Dorset artifact. “We have very good evidence that this kind of spun cordage was being used hundreds of years before the Norse arrived in the New World, in other words 500 to 600 CE, at the least,” he says.
- Colin Nickerson, The Boston Globe, "Canadian digs indicate wider Viking travels", Eugene Register-Guard, February 5, 2000, p. 12A.
- Patricia D. Sutherland, Peter H. Thompson and Patricia A. Hunt, "Evidence of Early Metalworking in Arctic Canada", Geoarchaeology 30.1 (January/February 2015) 74–78, DOI: 10.1002/gea.21497.
- "Fired Canadian researcher unveils new discovery about European contact in the Arctic", As It Happens, CBC Radio One, July 17, 2015 (audio).
- Weber, Bob (22 July 2018). "Ancient Arctic people may have known how to spin yarn long before Vikings arrived". Old theories being questioned in light of carbon-dated yarn samples. CBC. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
… Michele Hayeur Smith of Brown University in Rhode Island, lead author of a recent paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Hayeur Smith and her colleagues were looking at scraps of yarn, perhaps used to hang amulets or decorate clothing, from ancient sites on Baffin Island and the Ungava Peninsula. The idea that you would have to learn to spin something from another culture was a bit ludicrous," she said. "It's a pretty intuitive thing to do.
- Barber, Elizabeth Wayland (1992) Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with Special Reference to the Aegean, Princeton University Press, "We now have at least two pieces of evidence that this important principle of twisting for strength dates to the Palaeolithic. In 1953, the Abbé Glory was investigating floor deposits in a steep corridor of the famed Lascaux caves in southern France […] a long piece of Palaeolithic cord […] neatly twisted in the S direction […] from three Z-plied strands […]" ISBN 0-691-00224-X
- Smith, Michèle Hayeur; Smith, Kevin P.; Nilsen, Gørill (August 2018). "Journal of Archaeological Science" (PDF). Dorset, Norse, or Thule? Technological transfers, marine mammal contamination, and AMS dating of spun yarn and textiles from the Eastern Canadian Arctic. Elsevier. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
However, the date received on Sample 4440b from Nanook clearly indicates that sinew was being spun and plied at least as early, if not earlier, than yarn at this site. We feel that the most parsimonious explanation of this data is that the practice of spinning hair and wool into plied yarn most likely developed naturally within this context of complex, indigenous, Arctic ﬁber technologies, and not through contact with European textile producers. [. . .] Our investigations indicate that Paleoeskimo (Dorset) communities on Baffin Island spun threads from the hair and also from the sinews of native terrestrial grazing animals, most likely musk ox and arctic hare, throughout the Middle Dorset period and for at least a millennium before there is any reasonable evidence of European activity in the islands of the North Atlantic or in the North American Arctic
- "The Norse: An Arctic Mystery". The Nature of Things CBC Television. November 22, 2012.
pieces that weren't made by indigenous hands, but by Norse tradersArchived November 27, 2012, at the Wayback Machine at the Wayback Machine, November 27, 2012.
- Upside Down: Arctic Realities, Houston: Menil Foundation, 2011, ISBN 9780300169386.