The Bear Trap: Reinvestigating a unique stone structure on the northwest tip of the Nuussuaq Peninsula, Greenland

Matthew Walsh , Daniel Frazier Carlson, Pelle Tejsner, Steffen Thomsen

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The dry-stone structure known as the ‘Bear Trap’ or ‘Bjørnefælden’ in Danish, and ‘Putdlagssuaq’, ‘The Great Trap’ in the local Greenlandic Kalaallisut, is a unique and enigmatic feature on the Arctic landscape of the Nuussuaq peninsula in northwest Greenland. Despite its suggestive name, the intended purpose of the Bear Trap has been the subject of scholarly debate since 1740. Here we present new findings on the Bear Trap, update the archaeological context of the site and its surroundings, and present the first 3D digital reconstruction of the site and its surroundings. In-vestigations of the Bear Trap and its surroundings during summer 2019 revealed previously un-documented graves in the vicinity. Based on the newly discovered graves and the quantitative data extracted from the 3D models we concur with previous scholarly speculations (e.g. Rosenkrantz 1967) that the Bear Trap was possibly used as a grave or possible cenotaph, rather than as a skemma, the typical stone storage structure of the Greenland Norse. In addition, we demonstrate the use of 3D modeling as a means of digitally preserving cultural heritage in a rap-idly changing Arctic and in permitting remote, quantitative analysis of archaeological sites.
TidsskriftArctic Anthropology
StatusAfsendt - 2021