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Relationships Between Whale Hunting, Human Social Organization, and Subsistence Economies in Coastal Areas of Northwest Alaska during Late Prehistoric Times,

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The florescence of Eskimo whaling on northwest Alaskan coasts during Western Thule times, A.D. 1000-1400, was followed by a shift to a more balanced subsistence pattern for human inhabitants of many coastal areas during Kotzebue Period times, from A.D. 1400-1900. The cause of this shift has been identified as a change in the migration routes of whales passing through Bering Strait which presented a circumstance prohibitive to effective whale hunting. Previous interpretations of social organization of the large whaling villages of the earlier portion of this period have suggested that whale hunting provided a basis for development of social ranking of village inhabitants with the umealik, or whaling captain, assuming the role of a chief Concomitant explanations for the later, more diffuse settlement pattern encountered by early European explorers have not been previously presented. An alternative position presented here is that prehistoric Eskimo societies retained many egalitarian tenets throughout late prehistoric times. This social pattern provided flexibility in subsistence economies with nuclear families as the basic unit transferable from one permanent village to the next, and as a segment of society capable of effectively exploiting sparsely distributed seasonal resource

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This article is from 'Proceedings of the International Conference on the Role of the Polar Regions in Global Change Held in Fairbanks, Alaska on 11-15 June 990. Volume 2', AD-A253 028, p401-405. See also Volume 1, AD-A253 027.



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