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Old Bering Sea Culture

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Archaic Stage marine‐mammal‐hunting communities flourishing around the coasts of the Bering Straits in North America and Siberia between about 200 bc and ad 500. Representing the early stages of the Thule Tradition, the material culture exhibits pottery influenced by developments in Siberia. Stone tools tend to be polished slate rather than chipped stone, and include lanceolate knives, projectile heads, and the ulu transverse‐bladed knife.

Weapons of these groups were decorated with incised designs and spirit images in the belief that their beauty, which honoured the animal spirits, would draw game to the hunter. Feathers and wings transformed the weapons into swift birds of prey. Stylistic variation suggests that the carvings were the symbols of individuals rather than groups. Kayaks and umiaks (large skin boats) appear in the archaeological record, as do a wide range of bone tools dominated by ivory harpoon heads, bird darts, fish spears, snow goggles, blubber scrapers, needles, awls, mattocks, snow shovels made from the shoulder‐blades of walrus, and harpoon‐mounted ice picks for winter seal hunting.

Houses were rectangular with an entrance tunnel that dipped lower than the floor of the living space in order to trap cold air. Yupid Eskimo hunters of southwest Alaska continued these traditions down to the present century. The Old Bering Sea Culture was the predecessor of the Punuk Culture that developed on the St Lawrence islands after ad 500.

Subjects: Archaeology

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