The Central Eskimo

The Central Eskimo

The Central Eskimo

The Central Eskimo

Excerpt

The Central Eskimo is Franz Boas' first major contribution to American anthropology and one of the two first scientific monographs on the Eskimo. This distinction is shared with that other classic of Eskimo ethnology—Gustav F. Holm's Ethnologisk Skizze av Angmagsalikerne, Meddelelser om Gronland, Vol. 10, 1888 (published in English as Ethnological Sketch of the Angmagsalik Eskimo, Meddelelser om Gronland, Vol. 39, 1914). Both appeared in the same year and reported on field explorations conducted in the same period, Boas' in 1883-1884, and Holm's in 1883-1885. Both works were by-products of geographical exploration—Holm's cartographic survey of the East coast of Greenland and Boas' similar survey on Baffin Island.

Franz Boas was born in Minden, northwestern Germany, on July 9, 1858. He received his University training at Heidelberg, Bonn, and Kiel, specializing in physics, mathematics, and geography. He received his Ph. D. at Kiel in 1881, his dissertation being Beiträge zur Erkenntniss der Farbe des Wassers. In 1882 Boas was busy with plans for an expedition to the Arctic, and in preparation had familiarized himself with the literature on the area and had acquired some knowledge of the Eskimo lannuage. Seeking the assistance of the German Polar Commission, he was granted passage on the schooner Germania, which was to sail in June, 1883, for Cumberland Sound, Baffin Island, to bring back the personnel of a German polar station that had been established there the previous year. He also was offered the use of a house at the station, a good supply of provisions, hunting gear and some surveying instruments.

On June 20, 1883, the Germania sailed from Hamburg with Boas and his servant, Wilhelm Weike, on board. On July 15, after crossing Davis Strait, the vessel encountered heavy pack ice about 200 miles off Cape Mercy at the entrance to Cumberland Sound . . .

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