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Integrating cultural and biological perspectives on long-term human-walrus (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) interactions across the North Atlantic

  • Xénia Keighley (a1) (a2), Morten Tange Olsen (a1) and Peter Jordan (a2)

Abstract

The hunting of marine mammals as a source of subsistence, trade, and commercial revenue has formed an important part of human cultures across the North Atlantic. One important prey species has been the Atlantic walrus (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus), sought after for meat, skin, blubber, ivory, and bone. Unfortunately, biological studies of current walrus populations and studies across the humanities and social sciences into past use and hunting of walruses, have been poorly integrated. Disciplinary boundaries have left a gap in understanding the reciprocal effects of human-walrus interactions. Emerging interdisciplinary methods offer new opportunities to write the historical ecology of Atlantic walruses. The integration of methods such as ancient DNA, isotopes, past population modelling, zooarchaeological assemblages, and ethnographic interviews can now be used to answer previously intractable questions. For example, how has walrus hunting shaped and been influenced by changes in human settlement and trade, what have been the cumulative impacts on walrus populations, the extent of anthropogenic selective pressures or the effect of changing hunting regimes on particular populations of walruses? New, collaborative research approaches applied to the wealth of Arctic archaeological faunal remains already housed in museum collections offer a unique chance to explore the past dynamics of human-animal interactions.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author e-mail address: xenia@palaeome.org

References

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Integrating cultural and biological perspectives on long-term human-walrus (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) interactions across the North Atlantic

  • Xénia Keighley (a1) (a2), Morten Tange Olsen (a1) and Peter Jordan (a2)

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