The Thule Culture: Medieval Mariners Migrating In Search Of Meteoritic Iron
The modern English word, ‘Thule’, first appeared in ancient Greek and Roman cartographic documents as the Latin word Thūlē, describing farthest north location in the known world. Over the centuries historians and archaeologists have variably concluded that word represented northern Scotland, Orkney or Shetland, but according to some researchers even the island of Saaremaa (Ösel) in Estonia and the Norwegian island of Smøla have been suggested.
Thule, as “Tile” on Olaus Magnus ´ 1539 AD Carta Marina of 1539, located to the northwest of the Orkney islands with the words "monster, seen in 1537”, a whale, or balena and an orca. ( Public Domain) .
Researchers Nieves Herrero and Sharon R. Roseman in their 2015 book The Tourism Imaginary and Pilgrimages to the Edges of the World write that in Classical and Medieval literature the term Ultima Thule (Latin: farthermost Thule) acquired a metaphorical meaning of any distant place located beyond the borders of the known world.
The meaning of the original Greco-Roman word Thule had evolved by the Late Middle Ages and early modern period when it was used to identify Iceland, and Ultima Thule generally referred to Greenland. By the late 19th century Thule most commonly identified Norway. In 1910, the explorer Knud Rasmussen, the so-called father of Eskimology, became the first European to cross the Northwest Passage with a dogsled and he named the missionary and trading post he established in north-western Greenland, Thule. It was later changed to Qaanaaq.
In modern history German occultists believed that the historical Thule, (Hyperborea) was the land from which the Aryan race originated, and the Thule Society was associated with the Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (DAP), known later as the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP or Nazi party).
Thule North Sea Migrating Mariners
While for some the word Thule may bring imagery of Nazi atrocities, to other it inspires images of ancient Greek explorers navigating the North Sea, exemplifying the ancient Thule or Northern Maritime culture . These prehistoric hunter-fishers emerged around 200 BC and lasted to around 1700 AD in the Bering Strait and along the Arctic coast in northern Alaska.
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Ashley Cowie is a Scottish historian, author and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems, in accessible and exciting ways. His books, articles and television shows explore lost cultures and kingdoms, ancient crafts and artifacts, symbols and architecture, myths and legends telling thought-provoking stories which together offer insights into our shared social history . www.ashleycowie.com.
Top Image : An anonymous 1578 illustration believed to show Kalicho (left), and Arnaq and Nutaaq (right) ( Public Domain )
By Ashley Cowie