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Fantastic find from a faunal bag!

January 29, 2013

Apologies for the long silence, we’ve been so busy with research and teaching and grant writing here in Aberdeen to be able to write something interesting on the blog – but this is just too cool a find and had to go straight on the blog!


This is a piece found by Jackie found in a faunal bag. As you can see he is pretty fearsome with his big teeth  and he just caught some fishes in his mouth. I think it is almost certainly the head of a Palraiyuk, legendary gator-like critters that rushed out of swampy areas near lakes and ate people years ago when the world was much warmer that it is today.  According to the story there was a time when the ice first began to melt in February instead of April. The Palraiyuk were common then and lived in the Kuskokwim and in some of the larger lakes and bays in south Alaska. They gradually became extinct and there is a story about the last one killed.

monster from side

 Although this story was recorded by Nelson in the 1880s, there was naturally a suspicion that the story had outside origins. This is the first evidence that this is indeed a pre-contact story (as Nelson insisted) and not just some dinosaur tale gone astray.  Graphic is from Nelson (pg. 444). This creature was painted along the side of most umiaks and some kayaks in the YK delta in the 19th century to ward off any that might still remain.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. Malli permalink
    January 30, 2013 20:58

    Such a pretty thing! I can’t believed we missed that in the field! And thanks for the update 🙂

  2. Richard Wisecarver permalink
    June 17, 2015 07:49

    This is not an alligator, it is a dragon or plumed serpent. This a legend and figure that traveled perhaps over a 1,000 years ago from China up the east coast of Siberia and across the Chukchee Peninsula to the Seward Peninsula of Alaska along with glass beads, bronze, iron and steel objects and dispersed all over Alaska and the NW Coast via the complex trade routes of Alaska. Early European contacts make it clear that the folks they met on the NW coast and Alaska were already familiar with Chinese class beads and steel and iron tools as well as native copper which is found in both Canada and Alaska. The people of Nelson Island on the Bering Sea coast where my wife was from were very familiar with the stories of Palraiyuk and the name. The tundra in this are is riddled with the bones, horns and tusks of mammoths, two varieties of muskox, extinct hors and other Pleistocene animals. This dragon or its variations are found thru out the South West, the Mississippi valley, Maya lands, and Peru. No, it is not an alligator

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