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Greenland Mummies

Greenland Mummies

Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 198
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  • Book Info
    Greenland Mummies
    Book Description:

    How did they die? Why were they buried together? What had been the nature of their culture and beliefs? How had they survived in the harsh Arctic climate?

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6312-4
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. List of Contributors
    (pp. 7-7)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 8-8)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. 9-10)
    Stephen Heilmann and Aqigssiaq Møller

    It is with great pleasure that we accept the invitation to contribute some thoughts and comments on the publication of this popular book about the important find of mummies from Qilakitsoq.

    The book is the product of much effort by scholars and laymen in Denmark and Greenland. Extensive investigations were undertaken by medical specialists, conservators and historians, investigations which had the character almost of detective work. The different sections of information were pieced together in an effort to present a complete picture. It is worth noting here that some of the results not only illuminate the past but can also...

  6. Introduction
    (pp. 11-12)
    Jens P. Hart Hansen, Jorgen Meldgaard and Jorgen Nordqvist

    The decision by the Greenland National Museum to send the Qilakitsoq mummies to Denmark for study and conservation provided an opportunity for collaboration between scholars of many disciplines. This book presents the results of their work.

    While the find is of particular importance to Greenland, it is of great interest to the world beyond the Arctic. It was the wish of the Greenland National Museum, therefore, that the results of the investigations should be summarised in a book to be published not only in Greenlandic but also in Danish and one or more world languages.

    Investigations by scholars from the...

  7. 1 Inuit and Norsemen
    (pp. 13-36)
    H. C. Gulløv and Jørgen Meldgaard

    In about 1475 six women and two children were given a traditional Inuit burial at Qilakitsoq, a small settlement 450 kilometres north of the Arctic circle on the west coast of Greenland. They were well clad in warm clothing for the journey that Inuit believed took place after death – the journey to the Land of the Dead. Buried with them were the pertinent grave goods for this journey.

    Nearly five hundred years later two Greenlandic brothers on a hunting expedition discovered their graves. The combination of low ground temperature and dry air had preserved their bodies and their clothes...

  8. 2 The Fund
    (pp. 37-52)
    Claus Andreasen, H. C. Gulløv, J. P. Hart Hansen, J. Lyberth and H. Tauber

    On 9 October 1972 during the ptarmigan-hunting season Hans Grønvold and his brother Jokum were getting ready to go hunting in a well-known ptarmigan area around the abandoned settlement of Qilakitsoq on the north side of the Nuussuaq peninsula. From this site they planned to follow familiar paths on the steep slopes. About two hundred metres west of the settlement Hans Grønvold suddenly caught sight of the two graves which were covered by flat stones in a crevice. He described his discovery in a letter to a friend:

    Hello Juaakak,

    I found the graves while out hunting ptarmigan. I fetched...

  9. 3 Death and Burial
    (pp. 53-63)
    Rolf Gilberg and Robert Petersen

    The Greenland Inuit pre-Christian religion included the belief that everything was alive and contained an inner force,inua, as was so in man. People, calledinuit, protected themselves against the powers of nature by using amulets and secret formulae. Many rules had to be obeyed in order to prevent disturbances in the world order. When these rules no longer sufficed, assistance was sought from anangakkoq, a shaman, who was the link between this world and the supernatural world.

    Throughout the Inuit world existed the idea ofsila, the ruler of the universe and especially of the air. Many regarded...

  10. 4 The People
    (pp. 64-101)
    T. Ammitzbøll, S. Ry Andersen, H. P. Andersson, J. Bodenhoff, M. Eiken, B. Eriksen, N. Foged, M. Ghisler, A. Gotfredsen, H. E. Hansen, J. P. Hart Hansen, J. Jakobsen, J. Balslev Jørgensen, T. Kobayasi, N. Kromann, K. J. Lyberth, L. Lyneborg, F. Mikkelsen, J. Møhl, R. Møller, J. Myhre, P. O. Pedersen, J. U. Prause, O. Sebbesen, E. Svejgaard, D. D. Thompson, V. Frølund Thomsen and L. Vanggaard

    The people of Qilakitsoq lived in a highly developed culture which was remarkably well suited to the arctic climate. What made it possible for them to exist in such a climate which is both cold and, for much of the year, dark, and which for centuries has often been regarded as impossible to survive in? It would be logical to presume that Inuit have a special natural ability to endure the cold, but this is not so.

    Man’s adjustment to such conditions as cold can be described in terms of adaptation and acclimatisation. Adaptation refers to hereditary changes occurring in...

  11. 5 Tattooing
    (pp. 102-115)
    H. Kapel, N. Kromann, F. Mikkelsen and E. Løytved Rosenløv

    It was logical to presume that the adult mummies had been tattooed, for historical sources have told of tattooing in Greenland. When the facial skin of the mummies was examined prior to cleaning, no tattoos could be seen, but after cleaning, faint traces did show up. These tattoos must have been distinct when their bearers were alive, but mummification had made the skin very dark and the translucence of dry skin is slight compared to live skin, which has a high moisture content. It was therefore necessary to find a method which could reveal deposits of colour invisible to the...

  12. 6 Clothing
    (pp. 116-149)
    T. Ammitzbøll, M. Bencard, J. Bodenhoff, Rolf Gilberg, A. Johansson, Jørgen Meldgaard, Gerda Møller, Rigmor Møller, E. Svejgaard and L. Vanggaard

    To face the harsh climatic conditions of the Arctic, warm protective clothing was, and is, required. An Inuit hunter’s attire has to meet particularly rigorous standards and is therefore directly related to his physiology. It has to provide insulation from the cold while the hunter stands or sits, waiting motionless, and to allow for sudden, energetic and precise movement when the game comes within range. The transition from motionless waiting to sudden activity increases the body’s heat production by several hundred per cent and the body must rid itself of this heat without sweating, thus the clothing must be able...

  13. 7 Living Conditions
    (pp. 150-167)
    J. Bresciani, W. Dansgaard, B. Fredskild, M. Ghisler, P. Grandjean, J. C. Hansen, J. P. Hart Hansen, N. Haarløv, B. Lorentzen, P. Nansen, A. M. Rørdam and H. Tauber

    The mummy find at Qilakitsoq offers us many opportunities to learn about the living conditions of the fifteenth-century Inuit of Greenland. The people themselves, their clothing and the skins of which they were made, the fragments of plants and stones which have been found, combined with the information about the climate derived from the inland ice – all these factors contribute to form a picture of the inhabitants of Qilakitsoq, their living conditions, environment, daily life, game animals, diet, use of plants and much more.

    Climate is important to all, but to the people of Qilakitsoq it was of exceptional,...

  14. Appendix: Clothing survey
    (pp. 168-187)
    Rolf Gilberg and Gerda Møller
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 188-188)
  16. Index
    (pp. 189-192)