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An Early Inupiaq Occupation: Observations on a Thule House From Cape Espenberg, Alaska

Lauren E. Y. Norman
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  • Department of Anthropology, University of Kansas, 622 Fraser Hall, 1415 Jayhawk Blvd. Lawrence, KS, United States of America
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/ T. Max Friesen / Claire Alix / Michael J. E. O’Rourke / Owen K. Mason
Published Online: 2017-03-30 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2017-0002


This paper describes and interprets a well-preserved early Thule semi-subterranean dwelling from Cape Espenberg, Alaska. The house architecture is similar in many respects to other early Thule dwellings with a sub-rectangular main room, long sunken entrance tunnel, and associated kitchen area. However, the presence of narrow side benches and associated flooring differences adds significantly to the variability present in Thule house form. Radiocarbon dates indicate occupations spanning 1300 to 1450 cal CE. Wood analysis suggests that the house underwent at least one rebuilding episode, which seems to have extended the house occupation into the early 15th century. People acquired mostly small seals for their subsistence, but supplemented their diets in the spring and fall with migrating birds, fish, terrestrial mammals, and other marine mammals. This house represents a fairly typical early Thule coastal winter occupation, but careful excavation of a well-preserved house reveals interesting details in house form, wood use, and subsistence patterns.

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Keywords: Thule; dwelling; Alaska; Kotzebue Sound; wood architecture; zooarchaeology


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About the article

Received: 2016-01-15

Accepted: 2017-02-17

Published Online: 2017-03-30

Published in Print: 2017-01-26

Citation Information: Open Archaeology, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 17–48, ISSN (Online) 2300-6560, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2017-0002.

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Lauren E.Y. Norman
Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 2018, Volume 51, Page 1

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