Paleo-Eskimo kitchen midden preservation in permafrost under future climate conditions at Qajaa, West Greenland

Publication: Research - peer-reviewJournal article – Annual report year: 2011

  • Author: Elberling, Bo

    University of Copenhagen2

  • Author: Matthiesen, Henning

    National Museum of Denmark, Department of Conservation

  • Author: Jørgensen, Christian Juncher

    University of Copenhagen2

  • Author: Hansen, Birger Ulf

    University Centre on Svalbard

  • Author: Grønnow, Bjarne

    National Museum of Denmark, SILA (Arctic Centre at the Ethnographic Collections)

  • Author: Meldgaard, Morten

    University of Copenhagen2

  • Author: Andreasen, Claus

    Greenland National Museum and Archives

  • Author: Khan, Shfaqat Abbas

    Geodesy, National Space Institute, Technical University of Denmark, Elektrovej, 2800, Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark

View graph of relations

Remains from Paleo-Eskimo cultures are well-documented, but complete preservation is rare. Two kitchen middens in Greenland are known to hold extremely well-preserved organic artefacts. Here, we assess the fate of the Qajaa site in Western Greenland under future climate conditions based on site characteristics measured in situ and from permafrost cores. Measurements of thermal properties, heat generation, oxygen consumption and CO2 production show that the kitchen midden can be characterized as peat but produces 4–7 times more heat than natural sediment. An analytical model from permafrost research has been applied to assess future thawing of the midden. Results show that the preservation conditions are controlled by freezing temperatures and a high water/ice content limiting the subsurface oxygen availability. Threats to the future preservation are related to thawing followed by drainage and increasing subsurface oxygen availability and heat generation. The model predicts that the unique 4000-year-old Saqqaq layer below more than 1 m of peat is adequately protected against thawing for the next 70 years.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Publication date2011
Volume38
Issue6
Pages1331-1339
ISSN0305-4403
DOIs
StatePublished
CitationsWeb of Science® Times Cited: 2

Keywords

  • Greenland, Permafrost, Paleo-Eskimo, Preservation, Qajaa, Kitchen midden
Download as:
Download as PDF
Select render style:
APAAuthorCBEHarvardMLAStandardVancouverShortLong
PDF
Download as HTML
Select render style:
APAAuthorCBEHarvardMLAStandardVancouverShortLong
HTML
Download as Word
Select render style:
APAAuthorCBEHarvardMLAStandardVancouverShortLong
Word

ID: 5526577