Describes archaeological record connecting the Thule to modern-day Inuit. Includes rotating view of summer whalebone house frame and inquiry links regarding Thule culture and migration." />
 Illustration of whalebone house frame 
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The Thule

The Thule are the ancestors of modern day Inuit. Archaeologist Therkel Mathiassen first used the name Thule (pronounced “too-lee”) to describe a group of archaeological remains he discovered in the Canadian Arctic on an expedition in the early 1920s. He recognized that many of the artifacts (harpoons, ulu knives and stone lamps) discovered at these archaeological sites were similar to those used by living Inuit, and concluded that the Thule must be the direct ancestors of the Inuit.

Why Did Thule Culture Change to Inuit Culture?

A combination of social and environmental factors influenced the development of the diverse Inuit societies we see today in the Canadian Arctic.

The cooling climate, brought about by the onset of the Little Ice Age (sixteenth century to mid nineteenth century), restricted the northern limits of the bowhead whales’ range. Some archaeologists believe that this may explain the apparent exodus of Thule Inuit from many areas of the High Arctic. This movement was accompanied by a shift towards the hunting of smaller marine mammal species.

Rather than live in large coastal communities with semi-subterranean houses, people moved out onto the sea ice, close to the sea mammals breathing holes and gathering areas, and lived in snow house villages.

European diseases, introduced into Thule populations through sporadic contact with European explorers, may have also played a role in this transformation.