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Hunting gear from Nunalleq

January 6, 2017

For years Rick has been working like a madman in the lab to, with the aid of conservator Julie Masson-MacLean and a dedicated group of students and volunteers, curate and catalogue all the artefacts from the six excavation seasons at Nunalleq. Here are pictures of some of the fully treated artefacts that will soon go back to the new cultural center in Quinhagak.


Toggling harpoon heads. These are all made from caribou antler and were designed to toggle, or turn, inside the sea mammal to prevent it from escaping. Sharp triangular endblades made from ground slate fit into the slots at the end. One harpoon point (2) still has a bit of the endblade remianing.




Toggles for attaching harpoon cords to the main harpoon line. Many are carved into the shape of sea mammals. Hunting gear was often beautifully made to show respect to the animals.


The harpoon or dart shaft was kept from sinking by an attached float made from hide or a bladder. These are the inflator valves used to blow them up. Two (2 &3) still have their wooden stoppers intact. They are made from antler, bone and walrus ivory.


These small objects are also part of the hunting equipment. The bottom row are harpoon rests, lashed to the deck of a kayak to keep weapons from rolling off. The top row are finger rests, tied to a lance or harpoon to make it easier to throw by had if necessary.


Throwing boards, or atlatls. Used to throw darts and harpoons from a sitting position in the kayak.


Bow staves. Wooden bows made at Nunalleq were short, recurved and very powerful. When they broke they tended to shatter. On some of these pieces you can see the shadow of the braided sinew lines on the back of the bow that were added to increase its strength.


Harpoon and arrow endblades were sharp, so they were contained in wooden point sheaths like these. The two halves were lased together to form the sheath. We found these by the hundreds in all sizes. These examples are complete with both halves, and you can see the shadow of the lasing on the outside surfaces.

All pictures are taken by Rick Knecht

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Marilyn F. permalink
    January 6, 2017 14:22

    What a marvelous collection and photos of these artifacts found at Nunalleq. The explanations of the different parts and methods used for harpooning was very informative. So many different parts – actually very complex. The artifacts look well preserved by your team and should display nicely at the new cultural center. Great work – you all should be very proud!!!

  2. Rosemary Pilatti permalink
    January 6, 2017 16:55

    AWESOME collection THANKS for sharing and for the explanations. Looking forward to seeing more….. rose p nikiski


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