There’s a fascinating (and frustratingly short on details) article on CBC about the so-called “Paleo-Eskimos.” Apparently, genetic testing has found that there is no relation between this group and the later Inuit peoples. What this means, in short, is that there was a group of people living in the arctic for about four thousand years, totally unrelated to the people there now.

There are two aspects of this story that are particularly fascinating. The first is that despite an overlap between the “Paleo-Eskimo” people and the Inuit, it appears that (almost) no interbreeding occurred. This is extremely rare. Even when cultures have specific prohibitions against interbreeding with outsiders, there are nearly always exceptions – people who didn’t follow the rules, sexual violence from the other culture, things like that.

The second aspect about this that I find really interesting is that Inuit oral legend had preserved their knowledge of this other people:

Inuit still talk about the Tunit people they encountered when they arrived. The oral tradition says the Tunit were very shy and would run away when approached.

This is a complicated issue when looking at mythology because it can be very difficult to tell the difference between preserved history and entertaining fabrication, mostly because so many stories are a combination of both, at least in general terms.

When reading Judges, I talked a lot about trying to find the history buried in the myth, and gave some of my own impressions and stories. Without corroborating evidence from other disciplines – such as archeological and genetic evidence as in the case of the “Paleo-Eskimos” – it remains pure conjecture.

But no less fascinating.

EDIT: A friend posted this article validating another Inuit oral tale, this time relating to the Franklin arctic expedition.