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Arctic Archeology offered spring quarter 2013

Inuit settlement.
Inuit settlement. Photo credit:

March 31, 2013

by Ben Fitzhugh, professor, University of Washington

Archy 377: Arctic Archaeology will be offered this coming Spring quarter (2013). The course examines the archaeology of the arctic and subarctic from the late Pleistocene to the 19th century AD. Arctic and subarctic environments represent some of the most extreme environments ever occupied by humans, and the history of human adaptation to these environments is a testimonial to human creativity and its limits. This course compares the archaeological evidence from northern Eurasia, Beringia, North America and Greenland to illustrate variability in human adaptation to geographic, ecological, and climatic differences and to explore questions of cultural change and history in these different areas.

Themes include human-environmental interactions in arctic and subarctic environments; Ice Age and Holocene settlement of the circumpolar subarctic and arctic; development of and change in terrestrial and maritime adaptations through the last 10,000 years; the dramatic upheaval and reorganization of indigenous culture following contact with Eurasian explorers and settlers in the last millennium. In particular, we will look at the archaeology of Norse and Inuit settlement Greenland in the early second millennium AD. We will study the expansion of the whaling and fur trades and their consequences for indigenous communities in arctic and subarctic Canada and Alaska. A closing unit will examine the colonial legacy of archaeological research in the north and the role of archaeology in contemporary cultural heritage work. The course is targeted to upper level undergraduate students, but is appropriate for engaged and enthusiastic first and second year undergraduates willing to keep up with the work and to graduate students (talk to the instructor for graduate student registration options). Readings will be drawn from a variety of sources and will include summary articles, peer-reviewed primary journal articles, and two text books.

Course Information: Archy 377, SLN 10420: TTh 11:30-1:50 MEB 246. Instructor: Ben Fitzhugh (

Ben Fitzhugh is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington. His interests revolve around the study of technological, demographic, economic, social and political (i.e. cultural) change of maritime hunter-gatherers in the North Pacific using archaeological data and methods and in interdisciplinary collaborations with ecologists, geologists, climatologists, oceanographers, and ethnographers. These interests have led him to investigate variables affecting island colonization, maritime foraging strategies, changes in subsistence economy, changes in mobility and sedentism, technological development and intensification, ‘origins’ of institutionalized social inequality and stratification, intensification of warfare and factors that create vulnerability and resilience for coastal communities and the environments they rely on in the past and present. 

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