An Ancient Bond with the Land

Arctic Whalers

A Warm House

Most Inuit did not live in snow houses. In summer, the majority of people lived in skin tents. In winter, they lived in houses framed in driftwood or whalebone, insulated with sod on the outside. Inuit architecture was based on the principle that warm air rises. Winter houses thus had a "cold trap" entrance set well below ground level to keep out drafts. A raised sleeping platform was the warmest part of the house. Here people slept, ate and socialized.

Wood was rarely burned as fuel. This was because driftwood was scarce, and also because an open fire produced too much smoke in an enclosed house. Heat and light were usually provided by burning sea mammal blubber in a shallow dish-shaped lamp, or qulliq.

Early Inuit lived in warm winter houses framed with whalebone, since wood is absent from much of the Arctic. Snow houses seem to have been a later development.

Drawing by Frédéric Back, from Inuit: Glimpses of an Arctic Past, by David Morrison and Geroges-Hébert Germain, Canadian Museum of Civilization, 96-1327

Winter House - Drawing: Frédéric Back - 96-1327
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