Human Ecology

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 633–650 | Cite as

Evolution of Early Thule Material Culture: Cultural Transmission and Terrestrial Ecology

  • Anna Marie Prentiss
  • Matthew J. Walsh
  • Thomas A. Foor


We investigate how evolution proceeds across multiple scales considering culture as species, hierarchically integrated systems, assemblages of many coherent units, and collections of ephemeral entities in order to examine the nature of Early Thule cultural evolution with reference to material culture and adaptive strategies. Results suggest that harpoon heads evolved via cultural transmission processes with little impact from terrestrial ecological context. In contrast, characteristics of architectural features, stone tool assemblages, and combined architecture and stone tools displayed evidence for significant effects of both cultural transmission and select measures of ecological context. There is no evidence that evolution was ‘evoked’ by ecological context alone.


Early Thule expansion Inuit peoples Cultural evolution Cultural transmission Cultural phylogenetics North American Arctic 



We thank Felix Riede, Pelle Tejsner, Djuke Veldhuis, Toke Høye, and Rane Willerslev for inviting us to participate in the seminar at Aarhus University, Denmark. Time and space to pursue this research was made possible by The University of Montana and the Arctic Research Centre, Aarhus University. Prentiss thanks the University of Montana for her 2017-2018 sabbatical that provided time for completion of the revised manuscript. We thank Bjarne Grønnow for his thoughts on the version of this paper presented at the Aarhus seminar. We also thank peer reviewers for their comments. We accept full responsibility for positions taken herein.

Compliance with Ethical Statements

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.


This study was not funded by any independent or external sponsors.

Informed Consent

There was no use of human subjects in this research.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Marie Prentiss
    • 1
  • Matthew J. Walsh
    • 2
  • Thomas A. Foor
    • 1
  1. 1.AnthropologyUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA
  2. 2.Arctic Research CentreAarhus UniversityAarhus,Denmark

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