Anthropology 2230F/G Lecture Notes - Arctic Small Tool Tradition, Umiak, Cold Trap

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Published on 12 Oct 2013
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Oct, 03, 2013
Thule
-They are the earliest Inuit and we have to be careful to distinguish between the Thule culture versus the Thule
tradition and they are broadly distinguished from the Arctic Small Tool Tradition (Inuit aka Neo-Eskimo)
-There are marked breaks between Arctic cultures so distinct new groups could not have resulted from evolution
from earlier peoples
-Ca. 2500 BP there was the Old Bering Sea Culture and they were hunting whales for a living and this led to social
changes and later this culture evolved into the Punuk and it was them that evolved to the Thule
-Birnirk made it to Alaska as an earlier part of the OBS Culture and they became the Thule who travelled east into
the Canadian Arctic and they may have entered an abandoned area or they could have met the Dorset
OBS Culture:
-They were in the Chuckchi Peninsula and St. Lawrence Island from 2200-1400 BP and they are characterized by
highly decorated artifacts and they were very maritime focused
-Their stone tools were mainly polished slate and not flake like before and they had pottery with small gravel
temper (Norton people use plant fibre) to prevent shrinkage and breaking upon being fired (pottery is fired and
ceramics are made of clay and they are not)
-There were technological advances in mammal hunting like seal and walruses and here we see the first evidence
for whaling which led to new harpoon technology (used blown up seal skins to track and drag the animals and we
have found plugs and mouth pieces as evidence of this and they were called harpoon floats)
-They used kayaks and umiaks with clear evidence for the umiak (translates as “woman’s boat”) which were larger
and made of skin and they were used for transporting larger groups of people
-They had oil lamps of baked clay (not soap stone here) and everything was decorated and this shows they had an
advanced symbolic life and animals were a common decorative motif
-They had large houses dug down into the earth with wood supporting the sod roof and there were bones all over
in middens (these were increasingly large after Dorset times because of the increased amount of sea mammal
hunting leading to more bones) and these show that the people were more sedentary and it points to what they
were eating
-This culture evolved into the Punuk in Chuckchi and Birnirk in NW Alaska and continued until 900 AD or until
European contact, and these are related because they have a wide array of hunting equipment including toggle
harpoons, bird darts, throwing boards (atlatl), bolas (three piece whip with weights that when thrown at birds
tangles them), and fishing spears
-After contact with Europeans these people are now called Inuit but this is less accepted now and they are just
seen as one group
-There was increased use of slate, settlement size and numbers, and focus on whaling (they still did have broad
based subsistence though)
-Their houses were usually square and had plank floors with a raised sleeping platform, a cold trap entrance, walls
of driftwood and whale bone, and usually the space was divided with the back used for sleeping and daily activities
-The cold trap entrance went under the floor before the people came up and this locked the cold air under the
floor where it wouldn’t rise or get into the main living area
-There is the first evidence of dog sleds and harness parts have been found
-They made a rapid spread east and north into the Canadian Arctic and Greenland ca. 1200-1300 AD and this was
very fast taking place within 2-3 generations over 100 years
-The old explanation for this was that they were moving ca. 1000 AD during the Medieval Warming Period and the
people were forced to follow new animal movements and they had to use umiaks
-For the Thule whaling was of great importance for food and architecture
-Beluga whales were in the Hudson Bay, St. Lawrence, and the Mackenzie Delta and there were huge populations
in large groups so there was heavy focus placed on them because they were easier to kill en masse
-Bowhead whaling was a group job because of their size and they move through leads in the ice and they are
baleen whales (have flexible long teeth)
-The umiaks were led by a umialik who was the captain who provided the boat and most of the tools so her was
entitled to certain perks but there were other jobs like the harpooner, lancer, and paddlers which each had a
position in the hierarchy of food division
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Document Summary

They are the earliest inuit and we have to be careful to distinguish between the thule culture versus the thule tradition and they are broadly distinguished from the arctic small tool tradition (inuit aka neo-eskimo) There are marked breaks between arctic cultures so distinct new groups could not have resulted from evolution from earlier peoples. They were in the chuckchi peninsula and st. lawrence island from 2200-1400 bp and they are characterized by highly decorated artifacts and they were very maritime focused. They used kayaks and umiaks with clear evidence for the umiak (translates as woman"s boat ) which were larger and made of skin and they were used for transporting larger groups of people. They had oil lamps of baked clay (not soap stone here) and everything was decorated and this shows they had an advanced symbolic life and animals were a common decorative motif.

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