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Bows and Arrows of the Greenland Thule Culture (1200–1900 AD)

A study of archaeological and ethnographic sources

Sebastian J. Pfeifer
Publication Year:
118 pages
BAR number:


This study presents the bows and arrows attributed to the Greenland Thule culture in the archaeological and ethnographic collections of the National Museum of Denmark. It contains a catalogue with comprehensive visual and metric data. Supplemented by material from other collections and written sources accessed through the literature, both regional variability and chronology are discussed. It becomes clear that in the course of the spread and development of the Thule culture, its archery tradition developed into very different regional forms. This process was mainly triggered by resource availability and intra-group communication, or lack thereof. The second focus of the study is on functional analysis and examines the influence of raw material, technology and design on the performance of different bow and arrow types. It becomes clear that archery in Greenland, as in other Arctic regions, was highly complex and reflects specific environments of use. This makes it a primary source for Arctic cultural history.

Sebastian J. Pfeifer studied Prehistoric Archaeology, Classical Archaeology, and Medieval History in Jena and Zurich. In 2013, he was awarded a DPhil for his study on antler finds from the Late Upper Palaeolithic Petersfels cave site in Germany. His research focuses on organic technologies of archaeological and historical hunter-gatherer societies.

‘The bow-and-arrow is one of the oldest and most widespread complex hunting and warfare technologies on earth, and is the subject of much study among archaeologists. As such, this volume represents a significant contribution not only to Arctic material culture studies, but also to the study of premodern archery elsewhere in the world.’ Dr Sean P. A. Desjardins, Arctic Centre, Groningen Institute of Archaeology

‘I believe that this book will be of interest not only to Arctic specialists and archery enthusiasts, but also to all researchers working on the weapons and hunting techniques of hunter-gatherer peoples of all periods and regions, and even of early agro-pastoral societies, in which the bow and arrow still play an important role.’ Dr Pierre Cattelain, CRéA/Patrimoine, Université de Bruxelles & Cedarc, Treignes

Introduction (S3060_Pfeifer_9781407359021_-_Introduction.pdf, 183 Kb) [Download]

Table of Contents (S3060_Pfeifer_9781407359021_-_ToC.pdf, 234 Kb) [Download]