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Ancient Arctic Thule Bone Harpoon Foreshaft Slate Blade

Native American, Arctic Region from Alaska to Greenland, Thule culture, ca. 1200 to 1700 CE. A fossilized bone harpoon point with a knapped slate blade. The bone is from a marine mammal, based on similar known examples. The bone handle is long, with a drilled hole where it widens. This created a socket, that allowed the harpoon to be rigid when thrown, and then bend when it hit prey. This was a crucial technological development on the part of the Thule, who subsisted on marine mammals. The slate blade is triangular and thin, set into a carved groove in the narrow end of the bone. This would have been used to hunt seals and walruses. Size: 5" W x 11.45" H (12.7 cm x 29.1 cm); 7.75" H (19.7 cm) on included custom stand.

The Thule people were the ancestors of modern Inuit whose advanced culture and technology made them a part of the global economy during what we in the west call the medieval period. This figure was carved during a dynamic time in Thule history; recent research indicates that sometime after ca. 1200 CE, perhaps in a span of just a few years, the Thule people spread from their Bering Strait homeland all the way to Greenland, likely driven by the search for iron, both from meteoric deposits they may have heard about from the Dorset people to their east and from trade. They traded with the Chinese to their west - metal beads and a belt buckle of Chinese manufacture and dating to 1100 to 1300 CE have been found in in the Seward Peninsula - and interacted with the Vikings to their east, who describe them in the Vinland Saga as the Skraelings.

Condition: Fossilized bone has a crack near the split to attach the slate. Slate has small chips commensurate with age. Nice patina on the bone handle.

Provenance: private Newport Beach, California, USA Collection

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