MATTHEW DANIEL WALLS, then a student at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, was awarded funding in April 2011, to aid research on 'Frozen Landscapes, Fluid Technologies: Inuit Kayak Hunting and the Perception of the Environment in Greenland,' supervised by Dr. Max Friesen. This project explores how technologies can characterize the manner through which people experience and come to perceive their environment. The fieldwork is an ethnoarchaeological project in Greenland where the skills of seal-skin kayak hunting are practiced as a means of engaging Inuit heritage. Kayaks are a technology that involves a high degree of developed ability; hunting involves special types of physical fitness, technical ability, social relationships, and requires extensive environmental knowledge. Modern kayakers assert that the physical process of building kayaks and becoming skilled in their use is educative of intangible cultural heritage, which cannot be acquired through any other means than practice. Through a combination of participant observation and interviews, this project documents how the process of learning kayak hunting is a unique way of encountering a complex environment. It takes many years of training to participate in hunting, and enskilment develops special types of embodied knowledge that can only be refined through a type of learning that is kinaesthetically situated. Hunters must be able to intuitively work as a team, recognize and react instantly to subtle environmental cues, and depend on instinctive physical capabilities that are committed to muscle memory. This project provides an important case-study for archaeological theory directed at the vibrancy of artefacts by demonstrating an important distinction between enskilment in technology and material agency.
Walls, Matthew, Pauline Knudsen, and Frederik Larsen. 2015. Inughuit Open Water Hunting before the Nineteenth Century: New Dates and Questions from Washington Land, Northwest Greenland. American Antiquity 80(3):602-609.