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Whales, Whaling Amulets, and Human–Animal Relations in Northwest Alaska

Author(s): Erica Hill

Year: 2017

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The use of personal amulets appears to have been a common practice among northern hunting peoples of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Many of these amulets were intended to facilitate individual human relations with sea mammals. Cooperative whaling, however, required the development of an amulet that mediated group relations with prey. This paper describes a set of Alaska Eskimo whaling "charms" dated to the late 19th century and identified in museum collections from across the United States. The charms, actually seats for umiat (large skin boats), represented idealized whales and were intended to flatter, attract, and secure this key prey species. As part of the material culture of whaling, umiaq amulets materialized social relations among the whaling crew, the whale, and the umiaq itself.

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Whales, Whaling Amulets, and Human–Animal Relations in Northwest Alaska. Erica Hill. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429578)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -169.717; min lat: 42.553 ; max long: -122.607; max lat: 71.301 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15788

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America