An ethnographic framework for identifying dog sledding in the archaeological record

Emma Vitale, Jacob Rasmussen, Bjarne Grønnow, Anders Hansen, Morten Meldgaard, Tatiana Feuerborn

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


For at least 9000 years dogs have been pulling sleds across the Arctic, facilitating subsistence strategies and migrations. Despite the enduring presence of dogs in the Arctic there is an absence of comprehensive studies of the material culture associate with dog sledding, including the diverse technical elements needed for the activity. This study proposes a framework for the recognition of reliable archaeological indicators of dog sledding. The outcome is based on comparisons between ethnographic information of the dog traction technology and archaeological sites from the Arctic regions of Siberia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland using multivariate analysis. These sites were selected as case studies to encompass the breadth of geographical and Inuit cultural diversity where dog sledding traditionally has been practiced. We argue, that by using this framework it is possible to study dog sledding in the Arctic prior to the Thule Inuit period and gain more knowledge about the origin of the practice. By combining sources from ethnography, history and archaeology, our framework identified items involved in dog sledding that were universal to the practice as well as items that were regionally specific. However, the most reliable evidence for dog sledding is the presence of both sled parts, dog bones and equipment for harnessing the dogs.
Translated title of the contributionEn etnografisk baseret metode til at identificere brugen af hundeslæde i et arkæologisk kildemateriale
Original languageEnglish
Article number105856
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number2023
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Arctic
  • Dog sledding
  • Archaeology
  • Material culture
  • Ethnography

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