The Aleuts (Alutiiq)


     The early ethno cultural history of the Aleuts is connected to the Eskimos closely. The division of the uniform Eskimo-Aleutian commonality has taken place between 2600 years AD to 6000 years AD at the continental culture stage. Because the Eskimos and the Aleuts lexicon connected with the sea hunt is various. That connected to the developing of various territories of the Beringia and the American North by the Eskimos and Aleuts ancestors. Their formation on Aleutian islands is more preferable nowadays. The most ancient archeological finds indicate the genetic connection of local population with the Asian cultures.


The Eskimos (Inuit)

(Inupiat, Yupiget, and Yuplit)


      Anthropologically the Eskimo belong to the Mongoloid Arctic race. They are characterized by low stature, a stocky build, a relatively dark skin, a high cranium, stiff dark hair and a characteristic eye fold. The nose and the face with its high cheekbones are relatively narrow.


      There is very little hair growing on the face. Color-blindness is almost unknown. The language of the Siberian Eskimo belongs to the Eskimo-Aleut group of the Paleo-Asiatic languages. The Eskimos separated from the Aleuts at least 2,000-3,000 years ago and spread over a vast territory stretching from Northeast Asia across North-America to Greenland.


Beringian Tradition

   The Beringian Tradition existed approximately 12,000 years ago between Siberia and temperate Alaska. The term was used by H. West to cover various Alaskan and Siberian archaeological formations which had developed from the Siberian Upper Paleolithic period, an area now largely submerged under the Bering Strait.


   Chronologically these formations lie between the middle of the Holocene period (c 35,000-9/10,000 BP), depending on the area. West's categorization includes the Bel'kachi, Diuktai, and Lake Ushki cultures in Siberia, the Denalian culture and American Paleo-Arctic formations in Alaska and the Yukon. Although Alaska is generally thought to be the gateway through which humans entered the New World, the earliest undisputed evidence for people there dates later than 12,000 years ago, well after the climax of the last major glacial advance but while glaciers still covered much of Arctic Canada. Artifacts of 11,500 to 9,000 years ago are known from a number of Alaskan sites, where hunters of caribou (and, in one case, of an extinct form of bison) manufactured blades


Northern Paleo-Indian tradition


Paleo-Arctic Tradition 12,000 B.P. and 6000 B.P.


          The earliest well-documented human occupations of the North American Arctic, which date to between 12,000 and 6000 years ago, are assigned by archaeologists to a poorly defined cultural tradition known as the Paleo-arctic tradition.


           This tradition includes the Denali Complex, distinctive microblade cores, core tablets and their derivative microblades, large blades, biconvex bifacial knives, certain end-scraper forms, and burins. West (1981) later stated the Denali Complex is a regional variant of the American Paleo-arctic Tradition defined by Anderson (1970). Also included within this Tradition is the Chindadn, so-named by Cook (1969) from the Athapaskan word for “ancestor”, Complex. The Chindadn Complex is also called the Nenana Complex. The defining characteristic of the Chindadn Complex is the presence of Chindadn points—bifacially flaked triangular or tear dropped shaped projectile points. Scholars have at times (e.g. Dixon 1999) situated the Nenana Complex before the American Paleo-arctic Tradition in terms of chronology. However, there is some debate as to whether or not the Chindadn Complex definitely predates the Denali Complex, so for simplicity’s sake they are both included in the Paleo-Arctic Tradition.


       Sites, including a very famous site called Onion Portage, are found in Alaska and reflect a terrestrial (in other words, land-based) adaptation although that may just reflect the fact that rising sea levels since that time have now left underwater all coastal sites occupied by these people. Onion Portage is a deeply stratified inland site located on the Kobuk River, Alaska. The site appears to have functioned as a hunting station to intercept caribou crossing the river here, or for fishing. Other local sites that appear to contain Paleoarctic, or the related Paleomarine, component include Ground Hog Bay on the Gulf of Alaska coast, Hidden Falls on Baranof Island, and Chuck Lake on Heceta Island. Dry Creek in the Nenana Valley and Aishihik Lake in the southwest Yukon also have assemblages attributable to the Paleoarctic. Interestingly enough, microblade technology, a hallmark of the Paleoarctic tradition, persisted in the WRST area longer than in the arctic. Some occurrences of microblades have been dated to as late as 2200 BP on the northern Northwest Coast and in nearby inland areas. Microblade technology remained extant until 2000 years ago in such areas as southwest MacKenzie River in western Canada. This phenomenon, sometimes called the Northwest Microblade tradition, seems to have microblades mixed in an lithic assemblage that also includes lanceolate and side-notched projectile points.


Denalian culture: Denali complex:

DEFINITION: A prehistoric culture or complex of central Alaska (the Tangle Lakes) dating to c 10,500-7000 BC. Similar to the Siberian Dyuktai (Diuktai) culture and defined by H. West in 1967, it is characterized by wedge-shaped microcores, microblades, burins, and bifacial points, scrapers on flakes, and large blades.


 Denbigh Flint: Denbigh Flint complex:

DEFINITION: An Arctic Small Tool tradition flint industry found at Cape Denbigh, Iyatayet, Cape Krusenstern, Onion Portage, and other Alaskan sites. The typical artifacts are finely worked microblade tools (bladelets, small crescents), burins, and bifacially pressure-flaked points. The Denbigh complex had developed by c 3200 BC. The Arctic Small tool tradition spread eastwards over the whole Arctic zone from Alaska to Greenland and contributed to the earliest Eskimo cultures. Land mammals seem to have been the primary focus of subsistence activity.


Nenana Complex:

DEFINITION: Prehistoric culture (or complex) in south-central Alaska dated to c 12,000-10,500 bp. It is characterized by small bifacial projectile points (Chindadin points). It is the earliest dated set of archaeological finds in Alaska.


Northern Archaic Tradition 6,500 B.P. and 2000 B.P.


   Characterized by side-notched projectile points, large unifacially flaked knives and unifacially flaked end scrapers, the Northern Archaic tradition seems to have its antecedents in the Archaic cultures of the boreal forests south and east of Alaska instead of Siberia, whether by migration or diffusion is not known. Assemblages that contain side-notched points are often found with microblades as well. This has led to some controversy over exactly what and who does the Northern Archaic tradition represent, how it arrived in Alaska, and what eventually happened to the bearers of this tradition.


Arctic Small Tool Tradition 4500 B.P. and 2800 B.P. (ASTt)

Type site on Cape Denbigh on Norton Sound, Denbigh Flint complex in northern Alaska


          The first coastal dwellers of the true Arctic regions who appeared before 2200 BC and who had a hunting tradition and a distinctive set of stone tools, weapon tips, and adzes of small size (hence the name).  Their sites stretched from the Bering Sea across the north Canadian coast as far east as northernmost Greenland, though there is no evidence of sleds or boats. Within a century or two of 2000 BC, they also expanded southward in Alaska to the Alaska Peninsula and south along the northeastern American coast to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Denbigh Flint complex (or Arctic Denbigh culture, named for the type site Cape Denbigh, Alaska) is the characteristic tool assemblage. It included small chipped stone artifacts derived from Neolithic eastern Siberia -- such as blades, microblades, burins, scrapers, large bifacial projectile points. The Arctic Small tool people gradually developed into the Dorset culture. In Alaska, the Small Tool people disappeared and were replaced by 400 BC by people of the Norton culture who used Siberian-type pottery.


            The Arctic Small Tool tradition represents a widespread phenomenon in the North American Arctic between approximately 4500 and 2800 BP. It is characterized by finely made microblades, spalled burins, small side and end scrapers, and side and end blades. It includes the Denbigh Flint complex in northern Alaska, the Independence I and Pre-Dorset cultures in Arctic Canada, and the Saqqaq (Sarqaq) culture in Greenland.

It does not appear to be related to the preceding Paleo-arctic tradition and its most likely source is Eastern Siberia. ASTt peoples were the first humans to occupy the Canadian Arctic archipelago and Greenland, apparently entering those regions from Alaska in a rapid population movement around 4500 BP. In Alaska it appears to have developed into the cultures of the Norton tradition while in Arctic Canada it developed into the Dorset culture.


This apparently is the source for two subsequent lines of cultural developments in the Arctic

One trending west and the other trending toward the east:


Norton Tradition (3,000-1,000 BP)


The Norton tradition is an Alaskan phenomenon.


     Artifact assemblages typically contain flaked stone tools that are similar to those found in the earlier Denbigh Flint complex of the preceding Arctic Small Tool tradition but most Norton tradition assemblages also contain pottery and oil lamps, which are not found in ASTt assemblages. Ipiutak is the most striking culture of the Norton tradition, taking its name from a site near Point Hope.


   Arctic Alaska cultures, mainly coastal,  Choris culture, the earliest manifestation, Sometimes designated Paleo-Eskimo, the Norton tradition embraces the cultural continuum Choris-Norton-Ipiutak. The Norton aspect of this continuum is typically represented by the presence of poorly fired, check-stamped pottery and tools of crude appearance, made from basalt rather than chert. Polished slate implements and oil lamps appear as well as points, tips, side blades; discoidal scraper bits, broad flat labrets, and toggling harpoon heads. Cape Denbigh, Cape Krusenstern and Onion Portage for example, all have a Norton component. The extent to which the Norton tradition was ancestral to any of the Eskimos is open to interpretation, though the Yup'ik Eskimo are likely descendants of Norton people.


Beringian Tradition:   



Bering Land Bridge animation Click the above Picture

3.8 mb file

 Manley, W.F., 2002, Postglacial Flooding of the Bering Land Bridge: A Geospatial Animation: INSTAAR, University of Colorado, v1,









Western Eskimo


9000 B.P. -  5000 B.P.

Anagula Village Site




12,000 B.P. and 6000 B.P.









12,000 B.P. and 6000 B.P.

Akmak and Kobuk assemblages

 at Onion Portage


Ocean Bay I

7,500 to 3,800 B.P.

Northern Arctic Tradition  6,500- 2000 B.P.





Northern Arctic Tradition

6,500- 2000 B.P.




5000 B.P. - 200 B.P.




 Blades of Basalt

Arctic Small Tool 

4500 B.P. and 2800 B.P. (ASTt)



Arctic Small Tool Tradition  4500 B.P. and 2800 B.P. (ASTt)


Choris Culture

3,000 B.P.-2,500 B.P.


Norton Culture


Ipiutak Culture

 2000 BP - 1200 B.P.

Kachemak Tradition

 3,800 to 800 B.P.

Old Whaling Culture:

3400 - 3300 BP


Norton Tradition

3,000-1,000 BP


Old Bering Sea / Okvik

 2200-1250 BP

Harpoon Heads made from Walrus: Richly Ornamented in a distinctive style, characterized by a combination of smooth curved lines, circles, and ellipses.

Emphasis: Walrus and Seal hunting. The beginning of Whale. Hunting of land mammals

Okvik Phase: Limited to SLI and Eastern Chukhi Peninsula 



(Early, Middle, Late)

 1,700 B.P.- 600 B.P.

Cape Prince of Wales to Point Barrow

Birnirk - Punuk: Emerging as a development out of the OBS and Okvik phases 



 1,400 B.P.- 800 B.P

 The difference between the two stages lies in the technique of manufacture of the stone tools. In the Old Bering Sea Culture flaked tools predominated, polished tools being rarer: knives, slate arrowheads and others. Tools of the Punuk Culture on the other hand, in the majority of cases were polished.



(Early, Late)

  1200B.P to 400 B.P

Thule Eskimo culture developed directly out of Birnirk; and the development from Birnirk to Thule took place because of over-utilization of seals as the primary food resource and a change to a warmer climatic regime that further depleted the already weak seal resource, resulting in an increased use of whales for food and an expansion of hunting territories to the east.

Emphasis: Whale Hunting


Late Prehistoric



 800 B.P. to 250 B.P.

Thule Tradition

2000B.P to 400 B.P

Birnirk Culture


Western Thule


Late Prehistoric

Russian To American


The Eskimos (Inuit)

The Eskimos (Inuit)


The Eskimos (Inuit)