This was the 3D maps that the Inuits used to navigate the Greenland coast at night

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In early 1885, the Danish explorer Gustav Holm reached the island of Apusiaajik, off the east coast of Greenland. There he met Kunit, one of the 19 inhabitants of Umuvik, a small Inuit community that had not yet had contact with Westerners. Holm, who had already done many missions, had met many Inuit and probably Kunit it would have been just another one if it hadn’t been for three pieces of wood.

Three pieces that constitute one of the few examples of tactile cartography that, between the 16th and 19th centuries, the Arctic peoples used to navigate in the dark and such a sharp cold did not allow them to take off their mittens. Those three pieces of wood represented with surprising “accuracy and precision” the coast of Greenland.

blindly in the white desert

Screenshot 2022 04 03 At 10 54 41

If it is not easy to navigate in bad weather conditions, doing it with few means is a really complex problem. But the human creativity It is one of the most powerful forces in nature.

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For years, the Canadian archaeologist Peter Whitridge, has studied how the Inuit used songs, stories, and tongue twisters to codify travel routes through Greenland. Learning a tune that apparently spoke to us of a local myth or legend was also, and by rebound,turn on a whole memory map.

Holm1887p250 Traekort

But perhaps that is not the most curious “cartographic oddity” of the arctic world. Ammassalik’s wooden maps possibly take the cake. What Holm found, were three-dimensional wood carvings from the east coast of Greenland, Yes; but with a level of detail of “the inlets and islands in sculptural relief” that could be used at night by reading them with the fingertips without much problem.

Accuracy analyzes have confirmed that, as Kunit explained, the pieces of wood represent stretches of coastline between Sermiligaaq and Kangerdlugsuatsiak, first; and between Sermiligaaql and Kangertivartikajik. It is not a representation to the use of paper maps, but the contours are exaggerated to allow blind interpretation, but with a little training it is simple recognize in them the shape of the coast.

They are not the only “three-dimensional maps” developed by traditional cultures. They are famous, for example, maritime charts made with suits used by sailors from the Marshall Islands of the Pacific. But surely Holm’s maps yes they are the most mysterious becausedespite the efforts of archaeologists, there are very few pieces that allow us to study them.

Image | Topografisk Atlas Grønland | Gustav Holm, Vilhelm Garde

In early 1885, the Danish explorer Gustav Holm reached the island of Apusiaajik, off the east coast of Greenland. There…

In early 1885, the Danish explorer Gustav Holm reached the island of Apusiaajik, off the east coast of Greenland. There…

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