March Lecture Series

Presenter: Dr. Max Friesen, University of Toronto
Title: Inuvialuit Architecture: The Archaeology of Cruciform Houses in the Mackenzie Delta
Where:University of Calgary ICT 121
When: March 21st, 7:30 pm
Within the great range of house types occupied by Northern peoples in the 19th century, a few stand out due to their size, complexity, or unusual form. One of the most spectacular is the cruciform semi-subterranean house occupied by Inuvialuit in the Mackenzie Delta region, Northwest Territories. These are known through traditional knowledge and ethnohistoric sources as very large, carefully constructed driftwood-framed houses with three alcoves bordering a central floor area. Over the past 60 years, several archaeologists have excavated portions of cruciform houses, leading to gradually increasing knowledge about them. However, due to their great size, deep burial, and problems with permafrost, it has been difficult to excavate one fully. In this paper, I report on the recent excavation of two large cruciform houses at the site of Kuukpak on the East Channel of the Mackenzie River. Following a brief overview of the ethnohistoric record, I will interpret aspects of the houses’ architectural form, construction techniques, episodes of rebuilding, and change over time.