Circumpolar Program at Brown University

Circumpolar Studies is one of the Department of Anthropology’s special offerings embedded within its general M.A. and Ph.D graduate programs.  In addition to providing a core of research faculty with expertise in Arctic archaeology and ethnography, it offers relevant theoretical, methodological and substantive courses in anthropology and research opportunities for graduate students focusing on northern social sciences.

Circumpolar Studies personnel also includes faculty and staff of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, located in Bristol, RI.  Facilities there include the Laboratory for Circumpolar Studies housing important archaeological collections from the Arctic, a faunal reference collect, and an Arctic library.

The focus emphasizes comparative social and natural scientific analytical approaches to the study of northern circumpolar issues both as a means to prepare students for their particular Arctic specialties and as a vehicle for integrating into their educational program multiple social scientific, historical, geological and ecological research methods and theory.  Although the program is centered in the Department of Anthropology and includes the department's general requirements for a Ph.D degree in Anthropology, students are encouraged to incorporate studies in geology, biology, and history at Brown and elsewhere.  To prepare students to meet new challenges in research and teaching on high latitude topics, the students also integrate into their graduate studies theoretical or topical specialties from the department's other strengths, such as ethnic studies, the anthropology of colonialism or gender, ethnohistory, or historical archaeology.

Beyond its coordinating role for graduate training, the focus offers a series of lecture courses, seminars, and independent reading and research courses that stress comparative approaches to the analysis of high latitude issues.  Comparisons focus on case studies derived from a wide range of Arctic and sub-Arctic ecological zones (riverine, maritime, forest and tundra) across the entire Circumpolar region.  Topics include issues of prehistoric and historic archaeology, the anthropology of hunting, fishing, and gathering peoples, inter-ethnic relations, modern problems of northern indigenous peoples, paleoecological and ecological approaches to culture and culture change, and the analysis of material cultural and ethnohistorical materials.

At the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, exhibits and publications on northern topics is part of the broad ongoing activities in the museum devoted to educating students and the public about peoples of the world. 

Fieldwork in circumpolar regions is encouraged and facilitated through research grants and linkages with other institutions and agencies with research interests in the Arctic.

Arctic Research

Arctic Studies was introduced to Brown University with the appointment of J.L. Giddings as Director of the Haffenreffer Museum and Professor of Anthropology in 1955. Formally established as the Circumpolar Studies Focus in 1973, it has become part of the graduate and undergraduate program in Anthropology and the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. To date more than 400 Masters and Ph.D. degrees with northern anthropological topics have been conferred by the university. The central facility is the Laboratory for Circumpolar Studies housed at the Haffenreffer Museum, which contains laboratory facilities, a library devoted to Arctic and sub-Arctic topics, and is the repository for important ethnographic and archaeological collections primarily from northwestern Alaska. The most important collections are from the northwestern Alaskan archaeological sites of Cape Krusenstern and Onion Portage, described as among the most complete series of archaeological materials from the coastal and the interior Arctic zones of North America respectively. Researchers from other institutions are welcome to utilize the facilities and collections for their own research.

Faculty and students in the program have developed joint research projects with various Federal agencies, such as the U.S. National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and also with Native Corporations, especially in Alaska. They have also been involved in international research in all northern countries, including Sweden, Finland, Russia, Canada, Iceland and Denmark. Its graduates have gone on to faculty, administrative, and research positions throughout the north.

Circumpolar Program Faculty and Staff

Members of the Department of Anthropology and Haffenreffer Museum participate in the Program in Circumpolar Studies.

Douglas D. Anderson, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Laboratory for Circumpolar Studies, a specialist in Arctic anthropology, particularly Alaska and Northeast Asian archaeology; Early Man; paleoecology; Inupiat/Inuit ethnography and historical archaeology; and maritime and riverine adaptations. He is the author of 4 books and monographs and 15 articles on Arctic topics.

Wanni W. Anderson, Adjunct Professor of Anthropology (Research) and Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, is a specialist on folklore and oral history of the North. Focusing on problems of modernization, changing settlement patterns, and women’s roles and networks, her specialties also include interethnic relations, and the use of oral history and folklore in teaching Inupiaq in northwestern Alaska. Among publications on the ethnography she has authored 1 book and co-authored another on the ethnography of Northwestern Alaska.

Kevin P. Smith, Deputy Director/Chief Curator, Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology and Assistant Professor of Anthropology (Adjunct), is a specialist on the archaeology of Iceland, currently focusing on the Viking age and Early Medieval Iceland. His current research is focused on a late 9th-10th century Viking period iron-production complex and an early medieval farm, a project linked to the National Museum of Iceland. Among his publications are numerous articles on the archaeology of early historic northern Atlantic societies.

Barbara A. Hail, Deputy Director of the Haffenreffer Museum (emeritus), specializes in sub‑Arctic cultures of Canada. Her research interests include northern art and clothing, collectors and collecting in the North, and the maintenance of traditional arts today. Among other publications on Native North Americans, she has published a book on the Colcleugh collection from sub-Arctic Canada.

Michele M. Hayeur Smith, Associate, Laboratory for Circumpolar Studies, is a specialist on cultural and social aspects of northern cultures, focusing on the archaeology of Viking Age mortuary practices. Her current research is on stylistic and non-ferrous metalworking analysis of jewelry and adornment from Viking age graves in Iceland. Among her publications are articles on Early Medieval Iceland.

Research

Research Reports of the Circumpolar Laboratory

No. 1  Gilsbakki in Hvítársí›a, Western Iceland Preliminary Report of Investigations, 2008 (Kevin P. Smith, 2011)

No. 2  Preliminary Textile Report - Gá́sir, Iceland, 2011 (Michèle Hayeur Smith)

No. 3 Preliminary Textile Repor - Möðruvellir, Iceland 2011 (Michèle Hayeur Smith)

Other Research

- The late prehistoric and early historic archaeology of Northwestern Alaska (Douglas D. and Wanni W. Anderson - NSF Grant 2010-11)

- The relationship between humans and the land and resources (Shepard Krech, III)

- Human environmental impact on landscapes (Shepard Krech, III).

- The folklore and oral history of the Kobuk and Selawik regions of Northwestern Alaska. (Wanni W. Anderson).

- Archaeological examination of household economies, exchange, and political economy of the Viking and Early Medieval ages, Iceland (Kevin Smith).

- Viking Age non-ferrous metalworking in Iceland (Michele Hayeur Smith)

Recently Completed Projects

- Trade Relations among the Peoples of Northwest Alaska (Douglas D. Anderson, Wanni W. Anderson)

- Human Subsistence Practices in Response to Environmental Fluctuations in Northwest Alaska Over the Last Millennium. (Douglas D. Anderson, Wanni W. Anderson)

- Archaeology of the Upper Kobuk Valley, Alaska. (Douglas D. Anderson)

- Gwich'in ethnography (Shepard Krech, III)

- Inuit avian-human relationship and ethno-ornithology (Shepard Krech, III)

- The uses of oral history and folklore in high school Inupiaq language teaching,Northwest Arctic borough, Alaska (Wanni W. Anderson)

- Excavations of the Viking Age iron production complex at Hals, Iceland (Kevin Smith)

- Viking Age non-ferrous metalworking, repar and production in assemblages from previously excavated sites, Viking Age Iceland (Michele Hayeur Smith)

- Sub-Arctic Clothing (Barbara Hail)

- Studies of Shamanism in the Russian North (Ph.D. dissertation, Eva Fridman).

- The Introduction of Firearms into Alaska (Ph.D. dissertation, David Gregg)

- Prehistoric Riverine Adaptations in sub-Arctic Finnish Lapland: The Teno River Drainage (Ph.D. dissertation, Tuija Rankama)

- The History of Thule Subsistence (Ph.D. Jarmo Kankaanpaa)

- Interaction, Adaptation and Culture Change: Lithic Exchange in Dorset Society, Baffin Island,Arctic Canada (Ph.D. dissertation, Daniel Odess)

- History, Adaptation, and Extinction: an Archaeological Narrative of the Beothuk Indians of Newfoundland (Ph.D. dissertation, Donald Holly)

- The Archaeology of Russian America (Ph. D. dissertation, Katharine Woodhouse-Beyer)

- The anthropology of epidemic disease among 18th and 19th century North Alaskan Inupiat (Ph.D. dissertation, Mary Ann Larsen)

- The use of tradition in conceptions of Mi’kmaq society (Ph.D. dissertation, Simone Poliandri)

- Environmental influences on prehistoric settlement patterns in the Brooks Range, Alaska (Ph.D. dissertation, Julie Esdale)

- Settlement patterning during the early historic period in Labrador and the Maritime Provinces, Canada (Leah Rosenmeier, Ph.D. dissertation research)

Selected Publications

Douglas D. Anderson

- Beach Ridge Archaeology of Cape Krusenstern: Eskimo and Pre-Eskimo Settlements around Kotzebue Sound, Alaska, (with J.L. Giddings, 1986)

- Onion Portage: The Archaeology of a Stratified Site from the Kobuk River, Northwest Alaska. (1988)

- Kuuvangmiut Subsistence: Traditional Eskimo Life in the Latter Twentieth Century. ((with Wanni W. Anderson, Ray Bane, Richard K. Nelson, and Nita Sheldon Towarak, 1998)

Shepard Krech, III,

- Indians, Animals, and the Fur Trade (1981)

- A Victorian Earl in the Arctic (1989)

- The Subarctic Fur Trade (1984)

- Art and Material Culture of the North American Subarctic and Adjacent Regions, in a special issue of Arctic Anthropology (1991)

- Ethnology of the Subarctic in the edited book, Native North Americans (1997)

- The Ecological Indian: Myth and History (1999)

- Inuit avian-human relationship and ethno-ornithology, in Arctic Clothing of North America (British Museum, 2007)

- Human Environmental Impact, in The Encyclopedia of Population (2007)

- Encyclopedia of World Environmental History, 3 vols., editor, with Carolyn Merchant and John McNeill (Routledge, 2003).

- and numerous articles in Arctic Anthropology, American Ethnologist, Arctic, Journal of Anthropological Research, and Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska.

Wanni W. Anderson

- Kuuvangmiut Subsistence: Traditional Eskimo Life in the Latter Twentieth Century. U.S. Government: National Park Service. (see above, 1998)

- The Dall Sheep Dinner Guest: Inupiaq Narratives of Northwest Alaska. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2005).

- Folktales of the Riverine and Coastal Iñupiat. Northwest Arctic Borough and the NationalEndowment for the Humanities. Bilingual English/Eskimo textbook for Eskimo village schools in the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, (with Ruthie Tatqaviñ Sampson 2003

Barbara A. Hail (emeritus)

- Out of the North. The Subarctic Collection of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology (with Kate C. Duncan, 1989)

Kevin P. Smith

- Regional Archaeological Research in Iceland: Potentials and Possibilities (with Jeffrey R. Parsons, 1989).

The spirit of survival: Cultural Responses to Resource Variablity in North Alaska, in Bad Year

Economics: Cultural Responses to Risk and Uncertainty, Paul Halstead and John O’Shea, editors, 1989.

Landnarn: The Settlement of Iceland in Archaeological and Historical Perspective. World Archaeology, 1995.

Who lived at L’Anse aux Meadows? In vikings: The North Atlantic Saga, William Fitzhugh, Editor, 2000.

Michele M. Hayeur Smith

Archaeological Illustrations of Artefacts from the Viking Burials of Iceland, 2000.

A Viking Age Smith from Silastaoir Iceland, 2001.

Dressing the Dead: Gender, Identify and Adornment in Viking Age Iceland (forthcoming).