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The myth of the Arctic as an untouched wilderness penetrated only by the most intrepid of adventurers and populated by primitive peoples who had to be tamed along with their wilderness takes a beating in this refreshing primer from McGhee, the curator of Arctic Archeology at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Coupling personal memoir with a broad historical overview, McGhee's book offers a more realistic view of the present-day Arctic and shows that, far from being cut off from the rest of the world, the Arctic peoples traded with their southern neighbors for thousands of years and have both influenced and been influenced by these contacts. McGhee draws on his 30 years experience as an archeologist to demonstrate that large-scale human migrations have occurred around the entire North Polar region, particularly in the past 2000 years, and that the current Inuit, Sammi, Nenets, Chukchi and other Arctic peoples have long histories that can be documented archeologically and through oral and written records. McGhee devotes an entire chapter to the fascinating history of contact between the Vikings and the Inuit in the North Atlantic, which occurred over a period of 500 years, until circa 1400. A later chapter describes the exploitation of the marine mammals living around the Spitsbergen islands. While not comprehensive, McGhee's book is an excellent introduction to the Arctic's history, peoples and contemporary political issues.
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McGhee writes in this compelling account, "the sea ice and the midnight sun, the whales, walrus, reindeer, the flaring aurora, and the endless winter night are viewed only as scenes and players in the human history of the polar zone." He presents this history as a part of what he calls the global history of human endeavor, exploring such themes as the Arctic in ancient thought; the role fur traders, whalers, and ivory hunters who benefit from an extreme range of seasonal variation; and the rapport between hunter and the hunted. He recounts life in Arctic Siberia, Vikings and Arctic farmers, life among the Inuit people, ice and death on the Northeast Passage, gold mining, and the early exploration of Hudson Bay. He believes that the Arctic is not so much a region as a dream--what he sees as a dream of a unique attractive world, the last imaginary place on earth. An archaeologist who spent 30 years there, the author lets his love for the region shine through on every page. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.