A Processual Investigation of a Thule Whale Bone House, Somerset Island, Arctic Canada

James M. Savelle and Junko Habu


In 1991, the authors excavated a Thule Inuit whale bone house at site PaJs-13 on southeast Somerset Island, Arctic Canada. Detailed analyses of house stratigraphy provide useful data for the study of the cultural and natural formation processes relating to the feature. Based on our analyses, and following McCartney (1979a), six stages are recognized: 1) raw material procurement, 2) house construction, 3) house use and maintenance, 4) house abandonment, 5) dismantling of superstructure, and 6) post-occupation. Several characteristics of the house structure and the associated artifact assemblage indicate that this house probably functioned, at least during the later period of occupation, as a karigi [plural kariyit], or ceremonial house.

  • James M. Savelle, Department of Anthropology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2T7

  • Junko Habu, Department of Anthropology, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720-3710

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