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Harpoons: North Pacific Rim
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Aboriginal American
Harpoons: Study in
Ethnic Distribution
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Arctic Peoples | Harpoon Types & Regions | Chukchi | Peopling the Arctic

The Chukchi, sea mammal hunters of the coast and reindeer breeders of interior northeast Siberia, are linked genetically to Siberian and North American Eskimo or Inuit and Siberia's Koryaks. Archaeological research on harpoons -- barbed and toggling -- gives insights on the origins of the Chukchi and other maritime peoples around the North Pacific Rim.

Here are resources on ancient harpoons from Hokkaido, Japan; the Bering Strait region; Alaska; northern Canada and more, useful in understanding origins of Chukchi culture. See resources on other ancient artifacts.

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Click link to order Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People
Ainu: Spirit of a
Northern People

Ainu: Spirit of a
Northern People

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Clink link to order Ancient People of the Arctic
Ancient People
of the Arctic


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Antler on the Sea:
The Yup'ik and Chukchi of the
Russian Far East


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Native Peoples of
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Overview of Arctic & Northern Peoples  
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Ainu: of Hokkaido, Sakhalin Island & Kurile Islands, and Arctic Studies Center online exhibit: Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People

Alaska's Native Peoples: Aleuts, Eskimos, Tlingit, Haida and Tshimsians of the coastal areas, Athabaskans of the interior

Alaska's Native Peoples from Crossroads of Continent: Aleuts, Eskimos, Athabaskans and Tlingit

Aleut - Pacific Cultures: people of the Aleutians and southern Alaska, and more about the Aleut or Unangan People

Arctic Hunters: outline of North American Arctic cultures from the Paleoarctic to Arctic Small Tool Tradition to Dorset and Thule

Arctic Nomads in an Icy World: map of Arctic peoples from the Bering Strait Inuit to the Aleut to the Greenland Eskimo

Bering Sea Region - Common History of Development: including parallels between Ushki Lake artifacts in Kamchatka and sites in Alaska

Bering Strait Eskimo Cultures: sequence of cultures starting 1,000 B.C. including Old Bering Sea/Okvik, Punuk, Ipiutak, Western Thule

Canada's Native Peoples:  including ancient links to Beringia, Asia
· Paleoarctic or Beringian Tradition: a culture linking Siberia, Alaska
   and the Yukon as early as 13,000-10,000 BP
· Early Paleo-Eskimo Cultures: culture dated to 2,500 BC in Canada,
   with origins rooted in cultures of Neolithic northeastern Siberia
Middle Paleo-Eskimo or Dorset Culture: 1,000 B.C. to 500 A.D., an
   era of reduced caribou hunting, increased marine mammal hunting
· Thule or Inuit: northern maritime hunters who moved out of northern
   Alaska across the Canadian Arctic about 1,000 A.D.

Chukchi & their Neighbors: what anthropology and history tell us about the Chukchi, Koryak, Siberian Eskimo, from WorkingDogWeb

Circumpolar History Timetables: charts showing glacial periods, human migrations for Eurasia and North America, 140,000 BP to the present

Early Arctic & Subarctic Cultures: origin times, details, maps of cultures -- PaleoArctic, Arctic Small Tool Tradition Independence I [non-toggling harpoons], Aleutian [elaborate bone harpoon heads], Pacific Coast [multibarbed harpoons], Maritime Archaic of Eastern Canada [socketed toggling harpoons], then Norton, Dorset & Thule with toggling harpoons

Eskimos of Siberia & North America: guide to these native peoples

Eskimos: native peoples found on two continents and in four countries, Siberia, Alaska USA, Greenland and Canada, with maps

Eskimo Peoples: native inhabitants of the seacoasts of the Arctic and sub-Arctic areas of North America and the northeastern tip of Siberia

Eskimo Peoples of North America: including archaeology, history, and a look at the Inuit of Canada and ancestors, the Dorset and Thule people

Greenland Eskimo Cultures: starting with Independence I, 2500 BC

Inuits: preferred name for Eskimo, how they fished, hunted and lived

Microblades & Cores - Ancient Artifacts: ancient stone tools linking the peoples of Northeast Asia and North America

Siberia's Northern People from Crossroads of Continents: Nanai, Itelmen, Koryak and Chukchi

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History, Ethnology, and Anthropology of the Aleut

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Alaskan Eskimos
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The Shaman's Coat: A
Native History of Siberia


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Bones, Boats, and
Bison: Archeology &
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Arctic Adaptations:
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Raven's Children: Word Sketches of the Land and Native Arctic Peoples of Alaska


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Native Cultures
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Natives of the Far
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Hunters of the Ice


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Aleuts, Survivors of
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History, Ethnology
and Anthropology
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Alaskan Eskimos
and Aleuts


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Story of Ainu,
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The Eskimo:
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Types | Japan | Amur River & Lake Baikal | Bering Strait | Alaska | Canada

Harpoons of the Northern Pacific Rim Cultures   [ Top ]

Harpoon Types: Barbed

Barbed & Toggle Harpoons Defined: in a glossary of Arctic terms

Barbed & Toggle Harpoons Compared: sketchs of the two types and their use, plus information on where each type was used

Barbed Harpoons: from Siberia and North America, and more examples including Eskimo harpoon and ancient harpoons from Denmark, France

Barbed Harpoon: barbed harpoon of reindeer antler, La Madelaine rock shelter, France, Upper Palaeolithic, c.30,000 B.C., and a barbed harpoon with other Late Pleistocene stone tools [scroll down], and again a sketch of a barbed harpoon among other Upper Paleolithic tools

Harpoon Types: Toggle or Toggling      [ Top ]

Toggling & Non-toggling Harpoons: from the Canadian Arctic, with sketch showing "male" non-toggling harpoon and "female" toggling harpoon, use of added pieces such as foreshaft and socket piece, and sketch of harpoon heads from Independence I, Pre-Dorset, Dorset and Thule cultures

Toggling Harpoon & How It Works:  the parts of a toggling harpoon and explanation of how the line and toggle work ["female" harpoon]

Toggling Harpoon: the parts of a toggling harpoon [scroll down]

"Male" & "Female" Hapoon Heads: the former, used in eastern Siberia and the Pacific Rim, has a tang that fits into a socket on the harpoon shaft; the latter, used in the rest of the Arctic, has a channel into which a foreshaft is fitted. Canada's Independence I people used both 4000 BP.

Open- and Closed-Socket Thule Harpoon Heads: defined

Japan     [ Top ]

Oldest Toggle Harpoons: from Initial Jomon period c. 10,000 years ago

Harpoons at Japan's Takase River Site: toggle harpoons appear in the Earliest Jomon period some 8,000 to 9,000 years ago

Jomon Culture Periods:  10,500 to 300 BC, with fishhooks & harpoons plus additional Jomon & Yayoi Chronologies with evidence of early pottery, and another timeline of ancient Japanese cultures including Jomon

Jomon Hunter-Gatherers: Jomon of Hokkaido had toggle harpoons; a sketch of one is in upper right of artifact map, general shape reminiscent of antler harpoon head from L'anse Amour and from Bering Strait (see sketches in Don E. Dumond,The Eskimos and Aleuts, 1987, p. 108)

Toggle Harpoons: similarities in early toggle harpoons of Japan, Russian Far East seen at Boisman site near Vladivostok

Amur River & Sea of Okhotsk Regions    [ Top ]

Tokarev Culture: barbed and toggle harpoons used in this native culture on the northern Sea of Okhotsk coast 2,500 years ago

Lake Baikal Region     [ Top ]

Ancient fisher people of Lake Baikal: used bone harpoons to take large fish

Harpoon in ancient Baikal burial rite: a deceased man might be buried with an axe, a pike and a harpoon

Bering Strait    [ Top ]

Early toggling harpoons were found in Old Whaling and Wrangel Island Chertov Ovrag sites dated to 1500 B.C.

Neo-Eskimo Cultures: earliest cultures, Okvik and Old Bering Sea, have polished slate tools, pottery, and toggling harpoon heads of bone or ivory

Okvik & Old Bering Sea & Punuk Harpoons: from St. Lawrence Island in Bering Strait, with artifacts compared, and a chronology for the island

Old Bering Sea Culture Harpoon: parts including the head, socketpiece or foreshaft, shaft, line, and how a hunter used them, ca. 200 B.C.

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Don E. Dumond's book has sketches of toggle harpoons of antler from Bering Strait similar in shape to those from Japan and Labrador.
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Old Bering Sea I or Okvik Harpoon Heads: and other ivory carvings, dated 300 B.C. - 700 A.D., and Old Bering Sea II & III Harpoon Head with elaborated engraved, and other ivory carvings, dated 200 B.C. - 800 A.D.

Old Bering Sea Toggling Harpoon: walrus ivory, 300-400 A.D., Alaska, beautifully carved to attract the spirits of their prey, and more examples of Old Bering Sea Harpoons and other fishing devices

Harpoon Heads: from St. Lawrence Island in Bering Strait, with close-ups of a toggling harpoon head and an older barbed harpoon head; each harpoon head in display can be viewed up close here - scroll down for image

Old Bering Sea Harpoon Counterweight: 300 A.D. and a Punuk period Harpoon Counterweight and other carvings, 600-1200 A.D.

Punuk Harpoon Heads from Nukleet near Cape Denbigh, Norton Sound and more Punuk Harpoon Heads from the same area, ca. 600-1200 A.D. and a   ivory harpoon head, same location, no time period, plus from St. Lawrence Island at Bering Strait a Punuk Harpoon Head with copper blade as well as a decorated a Punuk Harpoon Head

Toggling Harpoon Heads: bone and ivory heads with ground slate tips, from the Alaskan Arctic, and more harpoon heads from Bering Strait and Greenland & a search engine with keylist to find many more Arctic photos including harpoons in use

Eskimo-type harpoons are known no further west than Chukotka

Alaska including Kodiak Island    [ Top ]

Alutiiq Toggling Harpoon: for hunting seals, sea lions, Prince William Sound, and more on the Alutiiq or Aleut of Kodiak Island, Alaska Peninsula and Kenai Peninsula, including villages with map, people, ancestors, artifacts, more on Alutiiq of Kodiak Island who used barbed and toggling harpoons

Barbed Harpoons: known from the Ocean Bay period (5500-1500 B.C.) on Kodiak Island where toggling harpoons appeared during the Kachemak phase starting 3800 years ago, and more on barbed & toggling harpoons from Kodiak Island [map] which is 250 miles southwest of Anchorage

Unilaterally Barbed Harpoon Head: 4000 BP, Rosie's Rockshelter on Hecata Island, southeast Alaska, where new harpoon forms appear 1000 BP, and image of a unilaterally barbed harpoon from Alaska or Northwest Coast

Bone Harpoon Head from Point Barrow, Northern Alaska, ca. 1500 A.D., plus a Bone Toggle Harpoon Head showing the hole for the line and the slot for the point and toy harpoon head, both from Barrow, and thought to be 300 to 500 years old, and info on hunting seals, walrus and whales plus an ancient seal dart of ivory and a bone dart and ornamented foreshaft

Inupiat Adopt New Technology: about 1870, North Slope Eskimo hunters swapped older stone or bone blades for metal harpoon blades, and an Eskimo toggle harpoon with metal blade in a bone head, and another harpoon

Elderly bowhead whales that survive hunting contain ancient harpoons

Aleutians      [ Top ]

Aleut Harpoon Model: from Commander Islands, Russia [click image to see] and an Aleut kayak - hunter holds harpoon with attached line, floats. Aleut hunters used aconite poison on harpoons to hunt whales

Harpoon Points of Bone: among ancient artifacts in the Aleutians, along with fish hooks, net sinkers, projectile points - and shell middens

Harpoon - Agattu:  research at Karab Cove here in the Near Islands, the westernmost of the Aleutians, turned up toggling harpoon heads with circle & dot motifs, dated ca. 200 AD

Northwest Coast - British Columbia, Canada    [ Top ]

Harpoons & Points (pictured): includes bilaterally barbed harpoon head (5,500-3,500 years old), unilaterally barbed harpoon (2,500-1,500 years old) and single-piece toggling harpoon (3,500-2,500 years old)

Harpoon Fishing for Salmon: 20th century coastal Salish people

Socketed Harpoon Heads: 3 types, for salmon, small sea mammals such as seals and larger ones such as sea lions, among the Salish, Tlingit, more

Toggling Harpoon Head and Bone Barbed Harpoon Heads dated to about 2000 years ago from Namu north of Vancouver Island

Labrador & Newfoundland      [ Top ]

L'Anse Amour Harpoon: toggling harpoon known from Labrador 7500 BP and more on this ancient technology for sea mammal hunting with a photo with the harpoon head from L'Anse Amour shown upper left plus barbed points and harpoon heads from Labrador ca. 4000 BP

L'Anse Amour site and the burial discovered there and a photograph of the harpoon head and other artifacts plus the burial envisioned and more on the Maritime Archaic Indians who used the toggle harpoon and other artifacts

L'Anse Amour Harpoon: made of antler, showing the hole inside the harpoon head for the harpoon lance, plus other artifacts including a walrus tusk

Toggling Harpoon with Foreshaft - Newfoundland: dated to 4000 BP and considered on improvement on the harpoon from L'Anse Amour, and more on the toggling harpoons of Eastern Canada: harpoon parts, how they work

Endblade in harpoon head and other artifacts from Paleoeskimo culture and Dorset endblade fitted to harpoon head, all from Port au Choix, Labrador

Sealing harpoon with blade, harpoon head, foreshaft, long shaft and line from the Inuit in Labrador

Northern Canada & Greenland      [ Top ]

Barbed Harpoons from Manitoba: 11 harpoons of moose leg bone found at interior Victoria Day site west of Thompson, dated to 4000 years ago

Paleo-Eskimo of Canada: non-toggling harpoons preceded toggling harpoons, yet this Paleo-Eskimo harpoon head shows the line hole, slot for a blade

Socketed Toggling Harpoons in Pre-Dorset Period: key tool first appearing in this culture starting 4000 BP, along with the bow and arrow, while the closed socket toggling harpoon is found in Dorset period starting 2800 BP, and more on the Dorset, their toggling harpoons and other tools

Dorset & Thule Harpoons: harpoons from two cultures at the Crystal site near Iqaluit, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada, plus Thule artifacts including  a dog trace buckle, ivory comb

Harpoon Heads - Copper Inuit: from Coronation Gulf region of the Canadian Arctic, and more about harpoon types including open socket harpoons and closed socket toggling harpoons

Igloo Village: engraving from Martin Frobisher's 1576-78 expedition to Baffin Island, Inuit with harpoons, dogs hauling catch of single seals

Inuit Harpoons: barbed and toggling harpoon types compared and illustrated, with toggling harpoon parts detailed; ancient and recent

Composite Toggling Harpoon: illustrated,attributed to the Alaska Thule people who brought it to Arctic Canada along with the kayak

Inuit Harpoons: Native American pre-contact toggling harpoons with use explained; more on Inuit toggle harpoon points from Aboriginal Resources

Inuit Hunting with Harpoon: on the ice, north Curry Island, Baffin Islands, and other ivory harpoons with metal tips, from Baffin Island and Quebec

Seal Hunting: ivory sculptures of hunters and harpoons

Early Thule Harpoon Styles [pdf]: with sketches of harpoons and a caribou antler, showing segments used for harpoons, from Amundsen Gulf, Canada

Thule Multibarbed Harpoon Head: from a Thule culture archaeological site at the head of Frobisher Bay

Thule Harpoon Head: of ivory, for hunting seals, Repulse Bay, and related information and illustrations of harpoons from Naujan site in the Repulse Bay area which has from four ancient Thule villages ca. 1000 AD

Western Canadian Arctic      [ Top ]

Thule Hunting Gear: bone harpoon head for hunting whales, three smaller harpoon heads for hunting smaller sea mammals, an ivory toggle, a trace buckle for a dog harness, more, from Arctic maritime hunters who left Alaska for Canada about 1,000 A.D.

Inuit Harpoon Blades & Heads: from Iglulualuit in Canada's Western Arctic, dated to about 500 years ago

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China's &
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Chukchi & Other People of Siberia   [ Top ]

Chukchi & their Neighbors: what anthropology and history tell us about the Chukchi, Koryak, Siberian Eskimo, from WorkingDogWeb

Chukchi Origins: what genetics tell us about the Chukchi, Koryak, Siberian Eskimo, from WorkingDogWeb

Paleolithic Origins of the Chukchi: and their Siberian neighbors as well as the Native peoples of the Americas, from WorkingDogWeb

Peoples of the Russian North and Far East:  resources about the North Pacific peoples including the Chukchi, Koryak, Evenki and more

Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire: info on 85 peoples of Russia and Siberia, Chukchi, Koryak, Itelmen, Eskimo, Yukagir, Evenks

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The Paleolithic
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The First Americans: In
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Ancient Encounters:
Kennewick Man and
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Drawing Shadows
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American Beginnings:
The Prehistory and
of Beringia


Peopling of Arctic America  [ Top ]

Ancient Circumpolar World: with maps of Beringia and its ice shelves, productive hunting territory for early people

Migration Routes to the New World: alternate theories on how early people migrated to North America, with animation of Canada's glaciers

Peopling of the American Continents: including possible coastal entry, supported by Arlington Springs Woman with a 13,000 14C-date, and more on coastal entry to New World 12,000 years ago

Paleoamerican Origins:  evidence of the first Americans, their relationship with Eurasian people, timing and number of migrations, likely routes, and a detailed look at Paleoamericans and the peopling of the New World

Peopling the North American Arctic: from Asia, varied theories

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The Shaman's Coat:
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East of the Sun: The
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History of the Peoples of
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Shamanic Worlds:
Rituals and Lore of
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Origins of
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