Recensions

GULLØV, Hans Christian 1997 From Middle Ages to Colonial Times. Archaeological and Ethnohistorical Studies of the Thule Culture in South West Greenland 1300-1800 AD, Copenhagen, the Danish National Museum.[Notice]

  • Claire Alix

…plus d’informations

  • Claire Alix
    Alaska Quaternary Center
    University of Alaska Fairbanks
    Fairbanks, USA

Five hundred years of Greenland history: five hundred pages! Given the size and scope of this work, one might be tempted to skip from one section to the next, reading only bits and pieces and making use of the amazing illustrations of artifacts. But this book deserves more and should be read from beginning to end. This is the only way to grasp its full importance and appreciate the enormous amount of work that lay behind it. The enrichment one gets stands on many levels, methodological, theoretical, analytical and foremost historical. Hans Christian Gulløv retraces the cultural history of the Godthåb district in southwest Greenland from AD 1300 to 1800. I know of no other study of Thule culture that reconstructs the development and evolution of the culture by correlating so many different sources of data. In the same time, more than just utilizing available data, Gulløv has produced new data and made it accessible. He has synthesized, in English, most of his work and part of his colleagues’ research undertaken since 1945, while at the same time presenting some previously unpublished archaeological material from southwest Greenland. The analyses of archaeological, ethnological and historical sources together with a scattering of linguistic studies are presented and discussed not only to reconstruct the evolution of the Thule culture into 19th century Greenlandic, but to serve a more general argument, to "re-invent" ethnohistory and recognize tradition as one of its forms. Gulløv’s argument is challenging: This use and interaction of sources leads Gulløv to expose a "living archaeology," showing the people behind the finds and the ruins. Thanks to the wealth of historical sources available for southwest Greenland, Gulløv tells a story, a "non-linear" progressive history. Some of the written information dates back to as early as the end of the 16th century when English explorers first set foot in the area. Page after page, Gulløv adds new pieces of data and slowly builds his argument toward the "grand finale:" his interpretation of the origin of Thule culture in Greenland and of the nature and consequences of the cultural interactions that must have taken place between the Dorset, the Thule and the Norse during the early centuries of the second millennium AD. Confronting Mathiassen’s view of Greenland as a "cul de sac," he presents this part of the Arctic as a crossroads of cultures. Moreover, he interprets these "primary" interactions on the basis of the mechanisms and patterns he has reconstructed from the Dano-Norwegian colonization of the Godthåb district in 1721: If one accepts Gulløv’s postulates, then his conclusions about early Thule culture are the following: the cultural development of Greenland is a result of a meeting of cultures, one of these (Dorset with Thule) predating the entrance of Thule culture in Greenland. However, he also accepts that Dorset culture may have continued in southwest Greenland well into the 13th century. The Ruin Island phase is a secondary migration of Thule people in the 14th century, directly and strongly influenced by St. Lawrence Island Punuk culture. However, some Classic Thule people were already occupying the area when the Ruin Islanders arrived. Southwest Greenland was thus populated through at least three migrations, Thule arriving from the North in the 14th century, then again in the 15th / 16th century, and Thule arriving from the South in the 17th / 18th century. Much of the culture contact Gulløv infers relies on his belief that there was a Thule colonization of Greenland that predates the Ruin Island phase as defined by Holtved (1944) and McCullough (1989). This is a view not widely held and the issue …

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