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date: 20 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Renderings of human figurines (inuguat) appear consistently throughout the archaeological record of the North American Arctic. Artefacts which date from the Old Bering Sea cultures in northwestern Alaska to the Dorset and Thule periods in the Canadian Arctic and Greenland include representations of the human figure, typically carved in ivory or wood. These images often reveal elemental concerns of Arctic peoples with regard to procreation, maternity, healing, shamanism, mortuary practice, and animal–human transformation. The persistent appearance of human figurines throughout the historical and contemporary periods demonstrates an abiding interest in the role of the human figure. Beyond the use of dolls as a source for children’s play, human figurines served as a means of developing skills for everyday life (and human survival) with a focus on social interaction, the hunt, and the creation of fur clothing, as well as on ceremonial activities and ritual practices.

Keywords: Arctic, human figurine, dolls, ritual practices, Old Bering Sea cultures, Dorset, Thule, Alaska, Canadian Arctic, Greenland

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