Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Hodgetts, Lisa

2nd Supervisor

Howie, Linda



This dissertation investigates the manufacture and use of Inuit ceramics through ceramic petrography. It uses an approach that expands traditional ceramic petrographic descriptive methodologies to more fully document characteristics related to organic inclusions. Changes focus on the description of voids, organic inclusions, and estimation of the amount of organic material in pastes. Organic inclusions were an important component of Inuit ceramic traditions. This methodology allows us to not only identify the types of organics used in archaeological specimens, but also quantitatively and qualitatively assess them alongside other components of the ceramic paste to build a more complete picture of ceramic production.

Unsintered ceramics were found in archaeological assemblages from across the Canadian Arctic and are well-documented in the historic record of early Inuit-European contact in the Eastern Canadian Arctic. These objects have diverse morphologies, raw material ingredients, and a heterogeneous abundance which varies geographically. All of the unsintered ceramics documented in the archaeological collections are lamps, some of which were made from composites of other materials. Patterns in technological choices reveal a preference for organic tempering agents over inorganic and the use of poor-quality clays. These patterns indicate that unsintered and fired ceramics fulfilled different roles. The technological choices Inuit potters made when manufacturing unsintered ceramics indicate they were made expediently and reflect the importance of lamps within Inuit cultures.

Ceramics from three early Thule Inuit sites in the Western Canadian Arctic show similarities in technological practice and the use of a range of local raw material sources. The universal use of local raw materials at these sites has implications for our understanding of the Thule Inuit migration into the Canadian Arctic. These sites were not occupied by a founding population who brought non-local ceramics with them. Commonalities in the manufacture of ceramics, including the use of rounded sand to-granule sized tempers and organic tempering agents, demonstrate the flexibility of this ceramic tradition and the ability of recently arrived groups to adapt them to new landscapes.