zaterdag 9 juni 2012

Tuniit art in the medieval warm period

Robert McGhee's 'The last imaginary place' surveys the human history of the Arctic north, showing that people without history (to use the phrase by Eric Wolf, another brilliant book I am reading at the moment ) do have a complex, living past. The history of the now extinct Tuniit or Dorset culture is worth your attention, I was particularly intrigued by the following quote that links the number of artistic artefacts with the despair brought about by climatic change:
 The art of the Dorset people is so varied and intricate that it allows a glimpse of the spirit-world known to these ancient hunters, a world resembling in many ways that of the other northern shamanic peoples, yet unique to this society that developed in the relative isolation of Arctic North America over a period of almost five millennia. Their art also appears to foreshadow the end of Tuniit society. In the last few centuries of their existence, between about AD 1000 and 1500, Dorset artists produced an ever-increasing number of amulets and objects of shamanic use. This was also the period of increasing stress on the societies to which the artists belonged. In these centuries the Northern hemisphere was subject to warming climatic conditions that are known in Europe as the Medieval Warm Period. To Tuniit hunters who seem to have been adapted to primarily to hunting on land and sea-ice, the unexpected appearance of open water during early summer or a delay in the expected freezing of autumn seas would have brought hardship and often disaster.
At the same time the Viking were using the warmer conditions to find their way to Greenland and beyond.  Image:"Miniature ivory mask representing a humanface, Dorset, Devon Island, Nunavut, circa 1700 B.C." Possibly it's a portrait, they lines may represent tattooing? A humbling face.

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