Life Beyond Circumpolar Cosmologies: New Themes in the Archaeology of Arctic Human-Animal Relations

Author(s): Peter Jordan

Year: 2017


In Arctic Archaeology, human-animal relations have traditionally been studied in terms of ecology, optimality and adaptation; more recently, there has been growing interest in understanding how spiritual obligations affected treatment of circumpolar animals and their physical remains. Although these symbolic perspectives were initially useful, many tended to draw on ethnography, especially when using the concept of a single overarching ‘Circumpolar Cosmology; unfortunately, this can reduce prehistoric human-animal interactions into the same endless cycle of respectful hunting, reciprocal release of animating essences, and their eventual regeneration into new forms of life. This paper undertakes a critical reflection on the current state of Arctic human-animal studies, and concludes that we need to move beyond thinking in terms of fixed cosmologies, and engage more fully with the unique potentials of the long-term Arctic archaeological record. In fact, rather than a single timeless cosmology, these sequences provide abundant evidence for profound variability and endless transformation in the ways in which humans related to northern animals; at the same, time new scientific methods are transforming the depth, quality and diversity of information about these shifting relations, as well as their social and ecological contexts. Suggestions for future research priorities are presented in the conclusion.

Cite this Record

Life Beyond Circumpolar Cosmologies: New Themes in the Archaeology of Arctic Human-Animal Relations. Peter Jordan. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429583)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -178.41; min lat: 62.104 ; max long: 178.77; max lat: 83.52 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14349