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The Last Imaginary Place: A Human History of the Arctic World

By: Robert McGhee

304 pages, 16 pp colour plates; 46 integrated halftones

Oxford University Press

Hardback | Mar 2006 | #178551 | ISBN: 0192807307
Availability: Usually dispatched within 2-3 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £37.99 $46/€43 approx

About this book

The location of a tropical paradise, the graveyard of ships straying too close to where the polar ocean drains into the earth's hollow interior, the source of unimaginable quantities of gold, the home of a lost 'Aryan' civilization - for those who do not live there, the Arctic has over the course of time been all of these things. It is the last imaginary place on Earth.

Now, renowned archaeologist Robert McGhee lifts the veil to reveal the true Arctic. Combining anthropology, history, and personal experience, this book dispels the romanticized notions of the Arctic as a world apart, exotic and isolated, revealing a land far more fascinating than we had imagined. McGhee paints a vivid portrait of the movement of Viking farmers across the North Atlantic islands, and of the long and arduous searches for sea-passages to Asia. We meet the fur-traders who pioneered European expansion across the northern forests of Canada and Siberia, the whalers and ivory-hunters who ravaged northern seas, and patriotic explorers racing to reach the North Pole.

Above all, McGhee offers a fascinating insight into the native peoples of the Arctic, societies that other histories usually neglect. We discover how northerners have learned to exploit a rich 'hunter's world' where game is, contrary to our expectations, far easier to find than in more temperate lands. He takes us to a thousand-year-old Tuniit campsite perfectly preserved in the Arctic cold, follows the entrepreneurial Inuit as they cross the Arctic in search of metal, and reveals the dangers that native people face today from industrial pollution and global warming.

'excellent survey' Jonathan Sale, Financial Times 'In The Last Imaginary Place, archaeologist Robert McGhee combines history and anthropology to dispel romanticised notions of the Arctic as exotic and isolated, and reveals its true history' Traveller Magazine The Last Imaginary Place is a fine work. Mark Abley, TLS a compelling account...The Last Imaginary Place is a skilful melding of archaeology and personal experience, written by a scholar with a gift for popular writing and evocative description. McGhee's personal experiences provide a wonderful tone. Brian Fagan, Times Higher Education Supplement


Prelude: An Arctic Vision; 1. After the Ice Age; 2. A Distant Paradise: The Arctic in Ancient Thought; 3. A Hunter's World; 4. In Arctic Siberia; 5. Vikings and Arctic Farmers: the Norse Atlantic Saga; 6. Inuit; 7. Ice and Death on the Northeast Passage; 8. Martin Frobisher's Gold Mines; 9. The Rape of Spitsbergen; 10. Bay of Tragedy; 11. Frozen Glory; 12. The Peoples' Land; 13. An Arctic Journey; Useful References, Interesting Reading; Index

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