Habu, Junko and James M. Savelle (1994) Construction, use, and abandonment of a Thule whale bone house, Somerset Island, Arctic Canada, Quarternary Research (Japan), 33(1): 1-18

Keywords: archaeologyceremonial structuresqarigiSomerset IslandThule Inuittraditional dwellings

Junko Habu and James Savelle examine a Thule whale bone house on Somerset Island, Arctic Canada. Thule (ca. A.D. 1000-1600) are the ancestors of modern Inuit. The authors examine an archaeological site on Somerset Island that was a home and potentially could have been a Thule ceremonial house (karigi / qarigi)).

The Habu & Savelle suggest that the stratigraphic and structural information obtained from the excavation of whale bone houses can be significant in showing the various stages involved in the construction, use, and abandonment of these houses. The authors identified five stages of the home: construction; use and maintenance; abandonment; dismantling of superstructure; and post-occupation. Following the construction of the karigi floor, the overall structure, benches, cross pieces of whale ribs would have been added and lashed to the main support beams. The roof and entrance may have been covered by skin and sod lumps. Due to extreme weather conditions, the authors suggest the home was likely constructed during the summer or early fall.

Evidence suggests that these homes were reused by or repeatedly cleaned by the Thule. For instance, excavation shows evidence that the home was swept. The excavation suggests that much of the dislodged or swept material was either deposited outside the house, swept under benches or wedged against the whale bone roof supports. A practice common with abandoned Thule houses was the removal of the original sleeping platform or bench seating stones. Evidence indicates the removal and modification of most of the materials of the karigi most likely took place shortly after the house was abandoned.