Claire Houmard


Summer 2023

Portrait de Claire Houmard

© Claire Houmard

  • Museums
  • Cities
  • Quinhagak, Alaska
“Many Arctic societies are having to demonstrate resilience in the face of modern socio-climactic upheavals. Among the Yupiit, this resilience involves a reassertion of their identity, and a stronger interest in their tangible and intangible heritage.”

Passionate about archeology since childhood, I have participated in and led digs at numerous sites across Europe and North America, dating from the Paleolithic right through to the 20th century. These experiences, as supported by my university studies, have gradually drawn me towards the study of societies that did not initially use writing. Understanding their ways of life and perceptions of their surroundings can only be done by examining the material culture available (finished artifacts and scraps of materials used to craft them). The core objective of my research is to investigate their intangible heritage through these remains. 


While I am still interested in European prehistory, my focus since completing my PhD has been on the New World. More specifically, I look at the glaciated past of the Arctic, which pre-historians studying the Ice Ages (of the last 40,000 years) most often cover. From the first human settlements to Medieval and modern times, I trace the movements of populations and cultural interactions between Native (pre-Inuit, Inuit and Yupiit) and non-Native (Norse, European, Euro-American and Russian) societies. Exchanges were sparse between so-called “pre-contact” Arctic societies (which, depending on latitude and geographical isolation, refers to those who lived between the 16th and 20th centuries) and foreign ships or explorers in search of new resources (walrus tusk, whalebone, whale oil, furs) or quicker transport routes between Asia and Europe. Nevertheless, these contacts did influence the lifestyle of these nomad societies, who were particularly keen to acquire new goods (metals, pearls, smoking pipes, textiles, tobacco, sugar, alcohol, etc.), which became highly coveted items during the “contact” period. 


An archeologist and junior professor at the University of Franche-Comté, Claire Houmard is involved in the Inter-Arctic and PaleoCet ANR projects. She received her PhD as part of a co-supervised program between the University of Paris-Nanterre, France, and Laval in Quebec, Canada. Winner of two thesis prizes (CIEC and Chancellerie des Université de Paris), she has also completed many postdoctoral degrees (Fyssen Foundation, MQB-JC, Labex PasP, Carlsberg Foundation) and carried out extensive research in Paris and Nanterre, and then in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Besançon, France. She is currently directing the “Yup’ik” project, which is supported by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and by Villa Albertine. 


In partnership with

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University of Aberdeen

The University of Aberdeen Department of Archaeology is partnering with the village corporation Qanirtuuq, Inc. and the Yup’ik village of Quinhagak on a large scale archaeological project. Archaeological sites, as well as the modern infrastructure in the region, are threatened by melting permafrost and rising sea levels along the Bering Sea. Our work focuses on the Nunalleq site, a 14th-18th century pre-contact Yup’ik village with exceptionally well-preserved organic remains. Since 2018, we have been processing finds in a Quinhagak-based lab in the newly opened Nunalleq Culture and Archaeology Center.


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Université de Franche-Comté

The University of Franche-Comté (uFC) is a French university founded in 1423, a public establishment of a scientific, cultural and professional nature (EPSCP), whose headquarters are in Besançon. It is made up of 12 components which are either training and research units (UFR), more commonly called faculties, or schools or institutes. It is spread over five sites: Besançon (Doubs), Belfort (Territoire de Belfort), Montbéliard (Doubs), Vesoul (Haute-Saône) and Lons-le-Saunier (Jura).


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