Dwellings for all purposes

The Inuits lived in and from their natural surroundings, and this required dwellings that were easy to build and which were located close to the places where the hunting was good. Right up until the mid-1950s there were still regions in Greenland where the Inuits lived in rather primitive, but highly adequate, dwellings.

This is particularly true of the winter dwelling, which was a turf hut, as well as the more mobile tent made from animal hide, and the igloo, a temporary shelter made of snow.

"Right up until the mid-1950s there were still regions in Greenland where the Inuits lived in rather primitive, but highly adequate, dwellings."

"An igloo is constructed of large blocks of snow that are cut out in different sizes with a special snow knife."

The Greenlandic igloo

During the winter it was sometimes necessary to build a temporary home if the hunters were away for longer periods or were caught out by bad weather. In this case the igloo was ideal. The word 'igloo' actually means 'house', and although it is a somewhat primitive house, the igloo can provide shelter and temperatures adequate for survival.

An igloo is constructed of large blocks of snow that are cut out in different sizes with a special snow knife. The blocks are placed on top of each other in a spiral and form an effective dome-shaped shelter. The igloo was only used in the very north of Greenland, where the sea was frozen in winter.

Greenlandic turf huts

Turf huts - or earth huts - are still seen in many towns in Greenland, but mostly in connection with exhibitions at local museums. The turf hut was the most common type of dwelling, as they were so robust and well insulated that they could be lived in more or less permanently.

A typical turf hut was low, square and its walls were made of large stones and turf and the roof was supported by wooden beams made of driftwood. The dwellings were always situated close to the sea so that the hunters could easily get to their kayaks when hunting for seals.

"A typical turf hut was low, square and its walls were made of large stones and turf."


"To avoid having to sleep out in the open, they took with them tents made of sealskin."

Hide tents for the summer months

When families left the winter settlement and turf huts in early spring, youngsters and adults went out to gather berries, hunt reindeer and catch fish. This enabled them to gather sufficient provisions to last throughout the long winters.

To avoid having to sleep out in the open, they took with them tents made of sealskin that were easy to carry and could be set up where the food was to be found. The tents were supported by a wooden frame of driftwood and the outer sealskin covering was attached to the ground using large stones.