The Thule Culture: Medieval Mariners Migrating In Search Of Meteoritic Iron

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An anonymous 1578 illustration believed to show Kalicho (left), and Arnaq and Nutaaq (right) (Public Domain)

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).

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.


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