The Morris Bay Kayak: Analysis and Implications for Inughuit Subsistence in the Pikialarsorsuaq Region

Matthew Walls, Pauline Knudsen and Frederik Larsen


In this paper, we present results from a project to reanalyze the Morris Bay Kayak, which was discovered by Lauge Koch in Washington Land, northwest Greenland in 1921. This reanalysis is significant because the role of kayak hunting in Inughuit origins, development, and cultural transitions is poorly understood. Indeed, the subject is complicated by the apparent loss of the technology sometime before the 19th century. We reconstruct the Morris Bay Kayak’s frame, examine its life history, compare the structural fragments and associated tools to regional assemblages, and model the skills through which it would have been used. This analysis follows a recent report (Walls et al. 2015) where we presented new radiocarbon dates from the Morris Bay Kayak and proposed that it represents a tradition of kayaking that was practiced until shortly before the colonial period. Here, we expand on this position, and consider what the suite of skills, practices, and pattern of life that the Morris Bay Kayak represents demonstrates about the long-term relationship between Inuit communities and the unique ecology of the Pikialarsorsuaq region.

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