Thule Inuit environmental impacts on Kangeq, southwest Greenland

Eva Panagiotakopulu*, J. Edward Schofield, Kim Vickers, Kevin J. Edwards, Paul C. Buckland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Palaeoecological investigations of a rapidly eroding coastal midden and an adjacent peat bog on the island of Kangeq in southwest Greenland have provided new information on environmental change and human impact associated with Thule Inuit occupation. Palynological and palaeoentomological datasets have been produced through the 14th to the 17th centuries AD. The pollen and sedimentary data provide evidence for peat formation, increased frequency of the northern annual herb Koenigia islandica (Iceland purslane) from the end of the 15th century AD, and a decline in shrub pollen over the same period. These changes are interpreted as local responses to Little Ice Age cooling. No clear signal for human impact on the vegetation was revealed in the pollen record, and there was little macroscopic charcoal recovered from either of the sedimentary contexts that were examined; microscopic charcoal evident in the peat column is probably evidence for domestic fires. The insect remains suggest periodic patterns of disposal on the midden and provide information on natural environments in the vicinity. Fossil fly puparia (Diptera) are associated with decaying animal materials and perhaps indicate waste produced from the skinning of marine mammals and birds as opposed to butchering. The faunas contrast with results from the Saqqaq site of Qeqertasussuk and several Norse farms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-190
Number of pages5
JournalQuaternary International
Early online date14 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2020

Bibliographical note

The Leverhulme Trust is thanked for financial support for the project “Footsteps on the Edge of Thule” (Programme Grant F/00 152/Q), directed by Kevin Edwards (University of Aberdeen), Andy Dugmore, Eva Panagiotakopulu (both University of Edinburgh), and Ian Simpson (Stirling University). We are grateful to Andy McMullen, Kirsty Collinge and Ian Simpson for assistance with fieldwork and advice. Gordon Cook is thanked for the provision of radiocarbon dates. Jamie Bowie kindly assisted with the production of diagrams relating to palynological work. The maps and section were drawn by Anastasios Panagiotakopoulos, whose help is warmly acknowledged. Last but not least we are grateful for the helpful comments by the editor and three anonymous reviewers.


  • Climate change
  • Fossil insects
  • Greenland
  • Human impact
  • Palynology
  • Thule Inuit


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