San José State University
Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

An Interesting Story of Two Danish
Archaeologists Staying With an Inuit Family

In the book entitled, Ancient Men of the Arctic, there is an interesting short story. The book was written by an archaeologist investigating which peoples occupied which areas when. The ancestors of the Amerindians migrated into North America about 10 thousand BCE. The ancestors of the Inuit (Eskimos) came thousands of years later. Some areas that had been occcupied by Amerindians were later taken over by Inuit. There were several different Inuit cultures so the identification of the cultures occupying different areas of Arctic North America was of interest. This involved finding old living sites, excavating them and identifying the artifacts found. Digging up old home sites and skeletons was taboo to the Inuit.

In 1922 there were two Danish archaeologists doing this type of research in northern Canada. They planned on leaving the research area at the end of the summer season. When they started their trip out they found there had been an early freeze of the water areas they were going travel and their boat was too small to break through the ice. They decided that they were going to have to winter over in the Inuit village where they had been working.

They shared their stock of luxuries with the Inuit villagers. They fished and hunted with the Inuit men and they stayed with one family. They thought they were settled in for the season.

One day they became aware that the wife of the family they were staying with was suffering from a severe headache. Then one night one of the Danes woke up and heard the wife begging her husband to kill the foreigners for causing her headache by violating the taboo against digging up old home sites. After waking up his partner and explaining the situation to him the two of them spent an anxious night.

In the morning they thanked their host for the hospitality and left the village. They moved on and when the water ways froze solid they were able to walk to a Danish settlement, none the worse for the experience.

It makes one wonder how the Inuit woman's prescription for a migrane compares in effectiveness with taking two aspirins.

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