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Assembling Arctic lifeways

A relational approach to lithic assemblages from the Greenlandic Dorset period
PhD ceremony:Mr E.H. (Eirik) Roe
When:April 29, 2021
Start:12:45
Supervisors:prof. dr. P.D. (Peter) Jordan, prof. dr. B. Gronnow
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Arts
Assembling Arctic lifeways

Portable, composite tool kits have been essential to the prehistoric dispersals of people around the globe. Nowhere is this clearer than during Greenlandic prehistory. Archaeological studies of tool kits have been vital to our understanding of this unique area and period in human history.

The present thesis proceeds from the recent culture-historical definition of the Greenlandic Dorset (ca. 800 – 200 cal. BC), a Paleo-Inuit tradition that branched off into Greenland from the Canadian Early Dorset. This was achieved by the construction of a standardised taxonomy of its tradition for producing lithic components, using the chaîne opératoire methodology. This provided a rigorous means to assign lithic artefacts – the dominant remains from the period – within a coherent chapter of eastern Arctic prehistory. As such, the definition of the Greenlandic Dorset erased the separation between the Independence II and Dorset 1 of northernmost and western Greenland respectively.

However, interpretations on the Arctic lifeways of the period have become equally standardised. With circular logic, the taxonomy itself has based interpretations of social behaviour within the period as highly conservative. To address this issue, the present thesis contributes as follows: 1) Demonstrate that relational thinking is a useful framework for researching how technologies structured Arctic lifeways; 3) Showcasing how a Relational Approach can help us reach relational perspectives on Arctic lifeways through bottom-up lithic study; 3) A comprehensive case-study that offers a novel understanding of how people and tool kits co-created a unique period in Arctic prehistory.