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OnderzoekArctic Centre

Fieldwork grant to study whaler cemetery

Smeerenburg 2019
23 April 2018
Whalers shoes
Whalers shoes

Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund has decided to grant our proposal to study decomposition of textile in 17th century whaler graves.

Recent excavations of 17th and 18th century whalers'graves on Svalbard show a disappointing amount of textile remains being preserved in the permafrost. This was completely different in 1981, when the Arctic Centre studied 50 graves at Utikken (Ytre Norskoya) and found well-preserved wool and sil. In a recent dissertation Comis (2017) concludes that cotton and linen was already degraded when excavating in 1981. Due to climate change, the permafrost is thawing. We hypothesize that the last textile remains are disappearing and that this process is more pronounced near the eroding coast, at the sites of the most recent excavations. Therefor, we want to investigate hydrology and permafrost in the grave field of Utikken to assess the possibiliy of more intact clothing in the entire cementry. If possible we will use drones to minimize our footprint. If succesfull, this technique couls also be used in other cementries and create a amanagement strategy for this type of cultural heritage. In combination with this field campaign, we also plan an expertimental decomposition study on different textiles materila in relation to their position in soil.

Last modified:14 February 2019 5.13 p.m.

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