ALASKAN ARTIFACTS

 

Very Scarce information on these Artifacts

A Flaked Grey Chert Amulet reminiscent of a Grizzly Bear. This  effigy was considered a powerful totem for the owner.

 

Length: Snout to Tail 2.8" = 7.1cm

Height: Front Shoulder to Bottom of Front Foot: 1.3" = 3.3cm

Height: Rear Hump to bottom of Rear Foot: 1.4"= 3.6cm

Thickness: .30"

Distinct hump on the back suggests a grizzly bear

Possible Cultural Association: Birnirk

Possible Age: Birnirk 1,700 B.P.- 600 B.P.

 

Providence: Collected by Thomas Kennedy at Pt. Barrow 1883, Sold to Dr. HH Stewart

of Eureka Ca., Sold to Gene Favell for the Favell Museum in the 1970's.

This item was de-accessioned in 2004. Purchased by Lummi Trading company, then sold to me in early 2008

 

 

References for the following text:

Jordan, R. (1980, March). The University of Pennsylvania Museum Collection of
     Chipped Stone Amulets.
Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska,
     
19(2), 33-35. Abstract obtained from Anthropological Papers of the
     University of Alaska
.

 

To Purchase the complete Volume 19 Number 2

Click on the Below Link

Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska

 

Miles, C. (1963). Ceremony and Religion. In Indian and Eskimo Artifacts of North
     
American (p. 155). Bonanza Books.

Chert Amulets from the Charles Miles Collection 

 

 

Powell, J. W., & Murdoch, J. (1892). Ethnological Result of the Point Barrow
     
Expeditions (Bureau of Ethnology No. 9). Washington DC: Smithsonian
     Institution. Bureau of Ethnology.

The Ninth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology 1887 -'88 - printed in 1892

 

 

 

Click Each Picture For Close up

 

 

 

Click Each Picture For Close up

 

 

Surface Patina

 

Surface Incrustation

 

Surface Inclusion (Pyrite)

 

Close-up of Ink

 

Surface Incrustation

 

Close-up of Ink

 

Surface Incrustation

 

Surface Incrustation

 

Surface Patina

 

Surface Patina

 

 

 

Profile showing the curvature and thinness of the flake.

 This piece was not cut from a slab.

It is made from a spall. Click on picture for a closer view

 

The next group of artifacts are from Point Barrow

 

THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA MUSEUM COLLECTION OF CHIPPED STONE AMULETS

 

The use of amulets in hunting magic is common among the Inuit across the entire North American Arctic both ethnographically and archaeologically. Although amulets functioned in a wide variety of contexts, they were often used to attract the animal to the hunter, to appease the animal so that it would allow itself to be killed, and to return the animal's "shade" or spirit back to the land or sea. Compulsion, propitiation and reproduction were thus the main elements of hunting magic. Among the Inuit, hunting was much more than a secular economic activity; it was intimately interwoven with their animistic religion.

Amulets generally represent the desired game animal and were often rendered in bone, antler, wood or, most commonly, ivory. Less well known are the chipped stone amulets in a variety of cryptocrystalline materials. Murdoch (1892:399, 435) mentions that he collected six of these at Point Barrow, Alaska. Four of these specimens are naturalistic representations of whales and were chipped from colorless glass, quartz crystal, smoky quartz, and red jasper. A fifth specimen probably also represents a whale but is much more abstractly conceived. Murdoch states that "it is precisely the shape of a skin scraper, except for the roughly indicated flukes (p.435)." He also notes that "the flint whale is a very common amulet intended to give good luck in whaling, and is worn habitually by many of the men and boys under the clothes, suspended around the neck by a string. The captain and harpooner of a whaling crew also wear them as pendants on fillets (head bands) ... , and on the breast of the jacket (p. 435)." A sixth piece is of dark gray chert which Murdoch identifies as a polar bear with a disproportionately long tail.

The purpose of this paper is to describe and interpret, whenever possible, a series of thirty seven chipped stone amulets now in the possession of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. These pieces were collected by E.A. McIlhenny between 1897-1899 at Point Barrow and by W.E. Van Valin (1944) in the years 1917-1919 in conjunction with work conducted for the University Museum. This work included both the collection of ethnographic materials and the excavation of archaeological sites. While the archaeological materials recovered by Van Valin have been summarized by J. Alden Mason (1930) and James A. Ford (1959), to my knowledge none of the ethnographic materials from either collection have been reported.

 Of the thirty seven amulets in this collection, eighteen are definite or probable whales, and six are adult bears. Also included are two foxes, a probable bear cub, two human figures, two quartz crystals, a bird (?), a boot (?), a seal head (?), a jumping seal, a fish (?), and a possible mythical figure (Table 1). This formal distribution reflects the overwhelming importance of whale hunting in the subsistence economy and social organization of Point Barrow, and the significance attached to the bear in mythology and shamanistic rituals. All of these amulets are chipped from a variety of cryptocrystalline rocks with the exception of a single steatite whale effigy.

Bears. Two species of bears are present in the Point Barrow region, the Barren Ground grizzly and the polar bear. Although neither is an important subsistence resource, polar bear meat is a particular favorite (Spencer 1959:32). The grizzly bear spirit is considered extremely powerful and allied with shamans particularly in curing activities. A number of taboos also surround the killing, butchering and consumption of the grizzly (p. 271). Polar bears are considered both physically and spiritually weaker primarily because the bear's spirit could not be transferred to humans.

  Plate1:A, G illustrates two laterally-viewed chert bears of indeterminate species. The front legs are not broken in either specimen as there is evidence of more than one flake scar on the edge, but they stand in marked contrast to the well-defined rear legs and paws. Both amulets are bifacially knapped over their entire surface although the chipping is quite crude on amulet l:A compared to other specimens. Amulets B and C are both bifacially flaked gray chert bears. The distinct hump on the back of B suggests a grizzly bear while the blunt ears and smooth back of C may indicate a polar bear.

 

 

Plate1:D represents an animal with short, rounded head and legs and a relatively squat torso, suggesting a bear cub. There is sporadic grinding on the thickest areas and a black resinous material adhering.

 

Note: There is no mention of Bear "E"

 

The red jasper amulet F may also be a polar bear since it lacks a dorsal hump.

Spencer (1959:339-40) notes that amulet boxes owned by whaling captains were marked with lamp soot and grease, a mark for each whale taken. This mixture evidently had some magical or symbolic value as both the whaling captain and harpooner also wore a mixture of soot and grease on their faces signifying the number of whales taken in previous seasons. Thus, it is not unlikely that amulets may have been deliberately smeared with this mixture to enhance their effectiveness. Note that five other amulets in this collection also retain this mixture of soot and grease.

The final bear, amulet G, of gray chert and red jasper is particularly interesting since the erect ears and tilted-down head give the appearance of a bear fishing or hunting ground squirrels.

Alaskan Artifacts Collection

 

 

 

Collected by William Van Valin in 1918 from Point Barrow, Utkiavik.

The collection entered the Museum in 1919. Mr Van Valin was a schoolteacher in Alaska who was approached

by George Byron Gordon, our director in the early 20th century, to collect for the Museum.

He began doing so in 1916 and between that date and 1921

sold two collections of Inuit material to the museum.

 

IDENTIFICATION

PLATE

CATALOGUE NO.

MATERIAL

COLOR

TECHNOLOGY  

MEASUREMENTS IN CM

Picture

Bear

1A

NA/6605

Chert

Gray & Red

Chipped

6.75x2.0x1.2

Grizzly Bear

1B

NA/6607

Chert

Gray & Black

Chipped

6.01x1.95xO.98

Polar Bear

1C

NA/6605

Chert

Gray

Chipped

5.90x1.92x1.62

Bear Cub

1D

NA/6605

Chert

Gray

Chipped & ground

3.23x1.87xO.86

Grizzly (?) Bear

1E

NA/6605

Chert

Gray & Red

Chipped & ground

5.0x2.05xO.84

Polar (?) Bear

1F

NA/6605

Jasper

Red

Chipped

5.41x1.87xO.71

Bear

1G

NA/6605

Chert

Gray & Red

Chipped

5.74x1.94x1.0

 

Polar Bear

 

My Collection

Chert

Gray

Chipped

7.14x3.7x.79

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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