Thule Origins in the Old Bering Sea Culture

Owen Mason

in The Oxford Handbook of the Prehistoric Arctic

Published in print October 2016 | ISBN: 9780199766956
Published online August 2016 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Thule Origins in the Old Bering Sea Culture

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  • North American Archaeology


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The Thule culture is the most widespread Arctic whaling culture; its distribution commonly associated by researchers with climatic warming. Its origins between A.D. 900 and 1200, and development in the Birnirk and Punuk cultures are contested between Siberia and Alaska, out of a base of Old Bering Sea cultures. Although reliant on whaling, the degree of social complexity in Thule remains uncertain, as the trade in iron decreases as does aesthetic elaboration. The last incarnation of a “Northern maritime tradition” and the predecessor of modern Iñupiat and Inuit, the considerable and renowned Thule whaling prowess lends their origin a political cast in modern communities.

Keywords: Birnirk; Punuk; Thule; migration; Aboriginal whaling; Medieval Climate Anomaly

Article.  10956 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; North American Archaeology

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