Skip to comments.Whaling scene found in 3,000-year-old picture[Russian Arctic]
Posted on 03/31/2008 6:16:51 PM PDT by BGHater
Arctic carving shows complexity of ancient hunting groups.
Northern hunters may have been killing whales 3,000 years ago and commemorating their bravery with pictures carved in ivory.
Archaeologists working in the Russian Arctic have unearthed a remarkably detailed carving of groups of hunters engaged in whaling sticking harpoons into the great mammals. The same site also yielded heavy stone blades that had been broken as if by some mighty impact, and remains from a number of dead whales.
All of this adds up to the probability that the site, called Unenen, holds the earliest straightforward evidence of the practice of whaling, says Daniel Odess, an archaeologist at the University of Alaska's Museum of the North in Fairbanks. Odess co-led the expedition team, which reported its findings last week in Vancouver, Canada, at a meeting of the Society for American Archeology. Its about as close to a smoking gun as youll get in archaeology, he says. It pushes back direct evidence for whaling by about 1,000 years, he adds. Pinning down whaling
Because whaling is such a crucial part of Inuit culture today, researchers have long wondered when the practice got started. Whaling requires a community to work together to build boats, hunt and then share out the resources from the dead animal. But pinning down the origins of whaling has proven to be remarkably difficult.
Whale remains found at a 3,000-year-old site in northwestern Alaska called Old Whaling, for instance, were once considered evidence of early hunting. But a re-examination of the site in recent years has suggested that people there were simply scavenging dead whales that had washed ashore. There are some dramatic rock carvings in southeastern Korea that show bands of hunters going after whales. But these are nearly impossible to pin down with an exact date, says Odess. In contrast, the newfound ivory carving was pegged as being 3,000 years old by nearly a dozen radiocarbon dates on the soil in which it was embedded. The previous eldest solid evidence for whaling is some 2,000 years old.
The other leader of the Unenen expedition, archaeologist Sergey Gusev of the Russian Research Institute for Cultural and Natural Heritage in Moscow, discovered the site in 2005. It sits on a hill overlooking a freshwater lagoon on the Chukchi peninsula in far eastern Russia, just across the Bering Strait from North America.
In recent years, Russian and US archaeologists have started collaborating across the strait to get a coherent picture of how societies emerged there. You can think of it like a history book flipped open, with half the pages in Russia and half in Alaska, says Odess. Now for the first time its possible to read both sides of the book. Picture this
During excavations last summer, as whales and walrus swam offshore, the team turned up stone tools, excavated a large house-like structure, and unearthed walrus skulls and bone and baleen from at least two whale species. Wondering how to find definitive evidence of whaling, Odess asked Tim Williams, a high school student on the team and a Yupik Inuit, what he might look for. Williams said casually: look for a picture.
On one of the final days of excavation the team found just that: a 50-centimetre-long ivory carving. It shows hunters in umiaqs, the traditional Eskimo boats, along with whales and harpoons.
Theres no question as to what these guys are up to, says Owen Mason, an Arctic archaeologist at GeoArch Alaska in Anchorage who was not involved in the research. Its showing the whole system is there. Its showing us social complexity.
To be absolutely sure about the dates, Mason says that he would like to see direct dating of the carving itself rather than the soils around it a task that would require taking a small chunk of the ivory, and would need to be approved by conservators in Moscow.
The pictures, engraved in walrus ivory, portray whaling communities.
Btw, can you add me to GGG? Thx
Renewable biodiesel from saltwater algae has been around a while. This was the original oil industry and was profitable for several thousand years.
And in the end you may date the ivory, but you would still have no ideal of the real date of the carving.
Thanks BGHater, and welcome to GGG.
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I read somewhere that it was due to a shortage of whale oil in World War II. that Automatic Transmission Fluid was invented.
It is certainly a fine lubricant, I use it for many things, guns, any place a very fine oil is called for, I hadn’t realized it but after 1990 Ford went to using ATF in their manual transmissions as well.
Till about 1840.
Where’s the 3,000 year old Greanpeacer inscription as the ancient whalers duck him into the Bering Sea like a large teabag?
In those days, when you dined out and said “save the whales” you had to bring with you an extra large doggie bag.
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