"The Thule people came with larger villages and dogsleds and boats and had come from a militaristic background," Fitzhugh said. "The Dorsets had no bows and arrows; they were sitting ducks. They were pushed into the fringes or were annihilated."
Their demise came around 1300 to 1400 A.D., before the arrival of Norse seafarers from Europe. After looking at the genetic data, it appears that no living groups are related to this extinct society, the authors say.
Anthropologists and archaeologists say there are still many more questions to answer about who settled North America, the planet's last continent to be colonized by humans.
"The picture that emerges is interesting and supports some of the things we are doing with y- chromosome analysis," said Theodore Schurr, professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania who was not part of the study. "It does add some nuance to sequence of expansions coming out of the (Siberia) and some clarity of relationship between paleo-Eskimo and neo-Eskimo. It raises some interesting questions about cultural continuity."
Schurr says understanding how the Dorset, Inuit and other groups adapted to their environment thousands of years ago is also important as a model for modern-day Arctic residents who now are dealing with increased temperatures, shrinking sea ice and changes in wildlife migrations as the result of global climate change.