Woman of the House: Gender, Architecture, and Ideology in Dorset Prehistory

Genevieve LeMoine


The role of women in Paleoeskimo households has rarely been examined. Careful application of analogies to Inuit culture reveal that there are both similarities and differences in how Late Dorset and Inuit gender roles are expressed in household organization. On an ideological level, Late Dorset women probably had a similar role to that of women in Inuit society, as the soul of the house and an important intermediary between hunters and the souls of the animals they hunted. On a day-to-day basis, however, Late Dorset women seem to have shared more of their labor as members of dual family households than did Inuit women, as members of nuclear family units. The increased importance of small, trapped game such as foxes and rabbits during Late Dorset times (Darwent 2001) may have contributed to the need for shared labor. Finally, women, in their role as keepers of the hearth, were important in maintaining community ties at seasonal aggregation sites dominated by long houses and external hearth rows.

  • Genevieve LeMoine, The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, Bowdoin College, 9500 College Station, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8495