Greenlandic history

In both Spitsbergen and Antarctica, history is something new. The oldest historical remains in Spitsbergen date back to the 17th century, and in Antarctica, it’s little over hundred years old. In Greenland, this is different though. Here you can find remains of the Thule culture who came to Greenland about a thousand years ago. These Inuit came from Canada and moved along the western and northern shores of Greenland. Few made it, taking the route along the shores of the north, as far south as Scoresbysund on the east coast.

Remains of a Thule food storage, a very primitive fridge

As can be expected, not much is visible after all these years. They didn’t live in igloos, as many would expect, but had tents for summer housings and tiny stone houses for winter. From the first, nothing but some nearly invisible, stone circles are left. The tents themselves are gone obviously, and the only thing that is left are the stones they used to pin the tents down with. Very difficult to see, and very unimpressive.

Impressions in the landscape of the Thule winter houses.

The winter houses are more easily visible though. They were dug into the ground and surrounded by stones and covered by whale bones and hides. The bones and hides are gone, but the small impression in the landscape and the rocks are left. Sometimes even the tunnel entrance to the house can still be seen. These houses are tiny and were most likely only used to sleep and to shelter for severe weather.

A Thule winter house

For me, it’s always very special to walk around in places like this. I try to imagine what it would have been like, hundreds of years ago, with the place buzzing with life of the several Thule families walking around there. Very primitive, but exceptionally well adapted to living in these harsh climates.


Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.


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