The Composition of Fatty Materials from a Thule Eskimo Site on Herschel Island


  • E.D. Morgan
  • L. Titus
  • R.J. Small
  • Corony Edwards



Fatty acids, Food, Seals (Animals), Thule culture, Whales, Middens (Archaeology), Herschel Island, Yukon


Analysis of midden material from a Thule Eskimo dwelling site on the shore of Herschel Island showed it to contain a high proportion of fatty material. Chemical analysis shows this to consist of a mixture of fatty acids from the fats and oils of marine animals which has been partially, but far from completely, converted to adipocere. The lack of complete conversion is attributed to anaerobic conditions, low ambient temperature, and lack of bacterial action. The results are consistent with, but not a proof that the debris is from a mixture of harbour, ringed, and bearded seal, which is the conclusion from the bone fragments found.

Key words: Thule dwelling, midden, fat and oil, adipocere, anaerobic decay, whale fat, seal fat