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Boas, Franz. Race, Language and Culture – T57


The Relationships of the Eskimos of
East Greenland 11

Dr. W. Thalbitzer describes in the “Meddelelser om Grønland,”
vol. XXVIII, the Amdrup collection from east Greenland,
which comprises objects found between the sixty-eighth and seventy-fifth
degrees of north latitude. The publication is of great interest, because
it brings out conclusively the close relationship between the culture
of the northeast coast of Greenland and that of Ellesmere Land, northern
Baffin Land and the northwestern part of Hudson Bay. The similarities
are so far-reaching that I do not hesitate to express the opinion
that the line of migration and cultural connection between northeast
Greenland and the more southwesterly regions must have followed the
shores of Ellesmere Land, the northern coast of Greenland, and then
southward along the east coast. One of the most suggestive types found
in Dr. Thalbitzer's publication is a needlecase, page 421 (fig. 1). I
have called attention to the distribution of this type of needlecase in my
paper on the “Eskimo of Baffin Land and Hudson Bay,” 22 and in the
discussion of the decorative designs of Alaskan needlecases. 33 The specimens
described in these two publications are from Frozen Strait in Hudson
Bay, Ponds Bay and Smith Sound. Later on I discussed another
needle-case of the same type from Rawlings Bay in Ellesmere Land, 44
(fig. 12 b, p. 572 of this volume). Among these only those from Ponds Bay
and Smith Sound were found in actual use, while the others were collected
from ancient house-sites. Two similar specimens are figured by
Dr. Thalbitzer. These were found in the region of northwestern Greenland,
that is, near the island of Disco. The ornamentation on the specimens
here is identical with the alternating spur decoration which was
discussed by Stolpe in his studies of American ornament, and by myself
in the discussion of Alaskan needle-cases before referred to. The same
593ornament occurs in the ornamentation of a comb shown on page 472 of
Dr. Thalbitzer's publication.

Among the other specimens, sealing-stools (pp. 430, 431) seem to be
particularly important. They are very similar in form to a specimen
found by Peary in Grinnell Land. 15 The ice-scraper of bone figured on
page 438 must be compared with the set of implements shown on page
409, “Eskimo of Baffin Land and Hudson Bay.” Even the perforation
for suspending the scraper agrees with those of specimens from Southampton
Island. There seems to me little doubt that the hammer-like
implement illustrated on page 442 of Dr. Thalbitzer's publication is


Fig. 1. Needlecases, east Greenland.

blubber-pounder similar to those made of musk-ox horn illustrated on
page 402 of my paper on the “Eskimo of Baffin Land.” The bone heads
of adzes 26 agree fairly well with those shown on page 381. 37 The decoration
on the handles of the bodkins 48 may perhaps be compared to the
handles of the wick-trimmers from Melville Peninsula. 59

All these types which show close correspondence in form are so much
specialized that they must be considered as evidence of old contact or of
sameness of origin. So far as I am aware, none of these types have been
594found in the region between Disco and Cape Farewell, nor do they
occur in Angmagsalik. If this is true, the conclusion seems unavoidable
that the Eskimos reached the northeast coast of Greenland by way of
the north coast.

C. Ryder has called attention to the similarity of some of the east
Greenland types to those from Alaska, and Thalbitzer again calls attention
to the similarity of the harpoon-shafts to those of Point Barrow (p.
444). I have called attention to several other similarities of this kind,
particularly the alternating spur decoration, 110 to which Thalbitzer also
refers (p. 472), and the forms of several specimens. 211 Similarities between
the Ponds Bay region and the western regions have also been
pointed out by Dr. Wissler in his description of a collection made by
Captain James Mutch in that region. 312 The distribution of types suggests
very strongly that a line of migration or of cultural contact may
have extended from the Mackenzie region northeastward over the Arctic
Archipelago to north Greenland, passing over the most northerly
part of Baffin Land, and that the culture of southwestern Greenland,
and that of southeastern Baffin Land and of Labrador, must be considered
as specialized types.595

11 From Science, N.S., vol. 30, No. 772 (Oct. 15, 1909), pp. 535-536.

22 Bulletin American Museum of Natural History, vol. 15, part 2 (1907), p. 433.

33 Proceedings of the U. S. National Museum, vol. 34 (1908), p. 326. (See pp. 571
of this volume.)

44 American Anthropologist, N.S., vol. 2 (1909), p. 135; see p. 572 of this volume.

51 “Eskimo of Baffin Land and Hudson Bay,” op. cit., p. 463.

62 Thalbitzer, p. 449.

73 Boas, “Eskimo of Baffin Land, etc.,” compare also ibid., p. 416.

84 Thalbitzer, p. 399.

95 Boas, op. cit.., p. 403.

101 See p. 567 of this volume.

112 Boas, op. cit.., pp. 461-464.

123 Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 2,
part 3 (1909), pp. 316-318.