Erik Holtved

Dr. Erik Holtved (Greenlandic nickname: Erissuaq; translation: "Big Eric") (21 June 1899 in Fredericia, Denmark – 1981 in Copenhagen, Denmark) was a Danish artist, archaeologist, linguist, and ethnologist. He was the first university-trained ethnologist to study the Inughuit, the northernmost Greenlandic Inuit.[1]

Erik Holtved
Born21 June 1899
Died24 May 1981 (1981-05-25) (aged 81)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Other names"Erissuaq" ("Big Eric")
EducationUniversity of Copenhagen
Known forFirst university-trained ethnologist to study Greenland's Inughuit
PredecessorWilliam Thalbitzer
Spouse(s)Joko Holtved


Holtved was born in Fredericia, Denmark in 1899.[2]

An artist early on, in 1931, he was selected by Knud Rasmussen to head the Sixth Thule Expedition to Greenland which changed the course of his life. His field trips to Greenland continued in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935–1937,[2] and 1946–1947.[3] He received his master's degree (1941) and doctorate (1944) at the University of Copenhagen.

As an archaeologist, he researched Eskimo archaeology in the Julianehaab district,[4] Disko Bay, and Inglefield Land. In 1931, he did work in the Lindenows Fjord area of southern Greenland, excavating 25 houses and unearthing 2,000 artifacts.[5] In the 1930s, he was the first to identify the Ruin Island Phase of the Thule culture in northwest Greenland.[6] He excavated the Comer's Midden site from 1935 to 1937, and again from 1946 to 1947. He surveyed the Greenland coast from Humboldt Glacier to Thule.[3]

As a linguist, Holtved participated in the study of Eskimo–Aleut phonetic notation with William Thalbitzer and Knut Bergsland.[7] Regarding Eskimo folklore, he published several scholarly works, including, The Eskimo Myth about the Sea-woman, The Eskimo legend of Navaranâq,[8] Myths and tales translated,[9] and The Polar Eskimos: Language and Folklore which included song texts.[10]

In Eskimokunst : Eskimo art he surveyed Eskimo art, including items such as dolls, Tupilaqs, containers, garments, and maps.[11]

Upon Thalbitzer's retirement, Holtved became Professor of Eskimology at the University of Copenhagen.

Later yearsEdit

He lived for a time at 14 Hauser Plads, Copenhagen, Denmark.[2] After retiring from the university, Holtved painted again. He died in Copenhagen on 24 May 1981.[12]

Partial worksEdit

  • (1914). Archaeological investigations in the Thule district
  • (1900s). Mackenzie eskimo ordliste efter Petito
  • (1936). The eskimo archaeology of Julianehaab District
  • (1943). The Eskimo legend of Navaranâq
  • (1947). Eskimokunst: Eskimo art
  • (1951). The Polar Eskimos, language and folklore 2, Myths and tales translated
  • (1952). "Remarks on the Polar Eskimo dialect", International Journal of American Linguistics
  • (1962). Eskimo shamanism
  • (1962). Otto Fabricius' Ethnographical works
  • (1963). Tornarssuk, an Eskimo Deity
  • (1967). "Contributions to Polar Eskimo ethnography". Meddelelser om Grønland


  1. ^ Malaurie, Jean (2003). Ultima Thulé: explorers and natives of the polar North. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 323–325. ISBN 0-393-05150-1.
  2. ^ a b c National Research Council (U.S.), Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (1938). International directory of anthropologists. Current anthropology resource series. National Academies. p. 142.
  3. ^ a b O'Bryan, Deric (Apr 1955). "Book Review: "Archaeological Investigations in the Thule District. III. Nugdlit and Comer's Midden" by Erik Holtved". American Antiquity. Society for American Archaeology. 2- (4): 397–398. doi:10.2307/277083. JSTOR 277083.
  4. ^ Mathiassen, Therkel; Erik Holtved; W E Calvert (1936). The Eskimo archaeology of Julianehaab district, with a brief summary of the prehistory of the Greenlanders. Meddelelser om Grønland, udgivne af Kommissionen for videnskabelige undersøgelser i Grønland. 118. København: C.A. Reitzel.
  5. ^ Apollonio, Spencer (2008). Lands That Hold One Spellbound: A Story of East Greenland. Northern lights series. 11. University of Calgary Press. p. 206. ISBN 978-1-55238-240-0.
  6. ^ Guy E. Gibbon, Kenneth M. Ames, ed. (1998). Archaeology of prehistoric native America: an encyclopedia. Garland reference library of the humanities. 1537. Taylor & Francis. p. 727. ISBN 0-8153-0725-X.
  7. ^ Thalbitzer, W.; L. L. Hammerich; Erik Holtved; Knut Bergsland (1952). "Eskimo–Aleut Phonetic Notation". International Journal of American Linguistics. 18 (2): 112. doi:10.1086/464160. ISSN 0020-7071. S2CID 144740105.
  8. ^ Holtved, Erik (1943). The Eskimo legend of Navaranâq, an analytical study. Acta arctica. København: E. Munksgaard.
  9. ^ Holtved, Eric (1951). Reitzel (ed.). Myths and tales translated. The polar Eskimos : Language and folklore. 152. København: Meddelelser om Grønland.
  10. ^ Myers, Helen (1993). Ethnomusicology: historical and regional studies. The Norton/Grove handbooks in music. 2. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 71. ISBN 0-393-03378-3.
  11. ^ Lerner, Loren Ruth; Mary F. Williamson (1991). Art and architecture in Canada: a bibliography and guide to the literature to 1981. 1. University of Toronto Press. p. 446. ISBN 0-8020-5856-6.
  12. ^ Holtved, Erik (1954). "Archaeological Investigations in the Thule District, vol III. Nûgdlît and Comer's Midden". Meddelelser om Grønland. Copenhagen: C. A. Reitzel. 146 (3).