Christopher B. Wolff, Research Associate
My research is primarily focused on human-environment interaction in northern coastal areas. I have been lucky enough to work in Newfoundland and Labrador for over thirteen years, and more recently expanded my interests into coastal Alaska at the Old Whaling Site. I am particularly interested in hunter-gatherers with subsistence strategies that included sea mammal hunting. Understanding those strategies, how they are affected by ecosystem change, and in turn how they affect ecosystems has been the primary focus of my archaeological fieldwork. Since 2008, my main research site has been at Stock Cove, in eastern Newfoundland. This site contains evidence of every culture that inhabited the island, but the primary component is that of the Dorset Paleoeskimos that occupied the region between 2,000 and 1,200 years ago. The relationship between their colonization, development, and abandonment of the site and the biogeography of the region and how it may have been transformed during various climatic conditions is central to my research in Newfoundland.
My research association with the Haffenreffer has focused largely on its collections in the Circumpolar Lab from the Old Whaling Site of northern Alaska, first investigated by J. Louis Giddings and students in the 1960s. A National Science Foundation grant also allowed me to conduct new field research at the site in 2011. I am particularly interested in examining historical connections that the Old Whaling people had with contemporaneous peoples on both sides of the Bering Strait, through a study of the site’s lithic assemblage and the site’s depositional processes, both cultural and natural.
I have also begun an international study of drum production and use among circumpolar peoples. This research will engage several museum collections, including the Haffenreffer. Its focus will be a historical materialist approach in the creation and form of drums, as well as an ethnomusicology study of drum performances. My intent is to learn more about the origins and development of drum use and performance among northern peoples in hopes to discover more about their interaction and historical development. I hope to turn this research into a book and develop a traveling exhibit that includes multi-media recordings, artifacts, and drum reproductions for hands-on interaction.