Finally there is the ornamentation of the Scythians, which perhaps significantly, appears to be reflected (or continued) in later Viking artwork. More interestingly however, the Scythians also appear to be linked with items recovered from the Anglo-Saxon burial ship at Sutton Hoo which in turn provides a further connection with the Vikings. But the Scythians, like the Greenland Vikings, the Dorset and the Sadlermiut of Southampton Island and the Mandan Indians also suffered a rapid decline. The following summary by Tamara Talbot Rice provides a useful catalogue of Scythian symbology and its link with Scandinavian art. It also includes the advance of Christianity in Russia in the year 988, roughly paralleling the events which took place in Greenland around the same time:
The Scythians vanished from the pages of history as abruptly as they had entered; it was as though they had fallen into a deep well, for though they themselves disappeared, very considerable ripples were left behind them. These spread over much of Europe, but it is scarcely surprising that the most profound of them formed over Russia, where their fluid outlines were occasionally visible even in the present century....A major feature of the bird of prey on the Sutton Hoo Shield is undoubtedly the spiral forms accentuated on both the beak and the claws, while the Oseberg Ship is noteworthy for not only the magnificent Spiral serpents on prow and stern that crown the ornamentation used in the construction, but also the carved heads adorning the carts buried with it. A similar head also adorns a Viking pin and clasp and much more could be said about both vessels in the present context. However, it is the apparent continuance of Scythian art forms among the Vikings that concerns us here and the realization that the latter may by intent or default have become one of the last repositories of their art. Here the solar component may have been subsumed, but it may still have been present. Either way the prominence of the spiral form assumes importance, although beyond the destruction and filtering carried out by Christian zealots there remain huge gaps in present-day knowledge of what may have been retained. Although still largely negated by the image of the blundering, plundering Viking, what may be termed their astronomy is perhaps best evidenced in the successful navigational techniques, which in turn may also have included a wider and more detailed understanding of geography than is generally supposed. As for their symbolism, it may well be that the "Hammer of the North" is janus-faced - not necessarily only representative of bloodshed and violence, but also including knowledge and understanding. Whether the latter pair were to any degree reflected in the spirals and dragons ("serpents of wisdom") on Viking ships is another matter altogether, but what does remain is the suspicion that their symbology might supply a useful guide concerning what the Vikings may have taken with them through the Northwest Passage, and what they may have applied as markers along the way.
It was with inherent Russian ruthlessness that, by order of Vladimir, Grand Prince of Kiev, the pagan idols, totem poles and other articles of heathen worship were destroyed in the year 988, at the time of the country's conversion to Christianity. Nevertheless, the peasantry of the land continued to cling to their native traditions and beliefs with no less characteristic tenacity, and although all the tangible heathen monuments perished, far more of the discarded cult was preserved than is generally realized. Paganism itself continued to flourish unabated in much of the country till well into the twelfth century; it even survived into the nineteenth century here and there in the remoter regions of the land, and besides many pre-Christian forms and symbols were preserved until the revolution, in the shape of the toys the peasants made for their children. Most popular among these toys were wooden chariots and horses, which were in fact exact replicas, complete with solar symbols, of those which, in pagan times, had been thought to draw the sun daily across the firmament....
It was during the fifth century A.D. that the people living in the south of Russia began to worship the sun. As a result the horse and cock, both of them solar symbols, became prominent in their art. The symbolic importance of the horse became even greater in the following century, when stables were built close to the solar temples to house the animals considered holy. Horses endowed with magical powers now found a place in the people's sagas, and were soon joined by the fire-bird and by cocks. The latter took the firmest hold on the people's imagination, the form surviving longer in Slav art than any of the other ancient motifs, retaining its prominence throughout the Slav world right down to modern times, even if its meaning had been forgotten.....The Russian Slavs gradually combined the solar cult with that of the Great Goddess, adding solar symbols to those which had long been hers. They venerated her with no less devotion than the Scythians....In Yugoslavia in particular, many of the costumes still being worn today retain details which can be traced back to Scythian dress, even though the majority have lost their original shapes. In some cases the patterns have become distorted simply as a result of the passage of time, representational forms having been transformed into geometric ones; in other instances change seems to have been intentional, ideograms having been substituted for pagan symbolism at a time when the latter was being fiercely eradicated by the Christian clergy....
The (Scythian) influence is reflected in Scandinavian art from a very early date. It can be discerned in the late-Celtic period of its history, in objects dating from about the first to the second centuries A.D. It appears for example in an imported vessel, the magnificently omamented great silver cauldron from Gundestrup in Jutland, measuring twenty-eight inches across. Some of the animal motifs which decorate it are very close to Scythian work, and the inclusion of imaginary beasts and elephants points unquestionably to definite eastern connections....
The commerce between Scandinavia and south Russia was interrupted in the fourth century when the Huns advanced towards the Black Sea from the east, evicting the Goths and isolating the area. Nevertheless, the Scytho-Sarmatians probably continued to influence the decorations produced in Scandinavia between about A.D. 450 and 600.... The Scytho-Sarmatian elements which survived in the art of the Slavs once again regained their hold on Scandinavian artists when contacts with the south of Russia were intensified by the Vikings, who established themselves there in the ninth century. They even settled in the region of the Volga and the Caspian, where Scythian art forms continued to flourish in an even purer form. Small-scale objects, such as the bronze plaques from Borre in Norway, show this very clearly both as regards the repertoire of the animals that appear upon them--stags, griffins and imaginary creatures--and in the style. Even the muscle markings which are included are clearly derived from the Scythian dot and comma convention. The same influence is also evident in large-scale work, notably the animal figureheads on the Viking ships, such as those from Oseberg and Gökstadt, placed there to ward off the evil eye. The Gökstadt horse fits into the Scythian frame particularly well. It is in the same style as the Borre plaques, thus differing slightly from the more ornate and florid Oseberg manner. Its ancestry can be traced back to a bronze horse from Kerch of mid-Scythian date....
Somewhat similar Scytho-Sarmatian trends even penetrated as far as Britain. The style was on the one hand carried to her shores by the Vikings and came on the other by the more circuitous route across Germany. Once again southern Russia served as the starting point, for when the Goths fled from the Pontus to attack and overran much of south-western Europe, they carried with them their polychrome jewellery and metalwork, disseminating it, together with the Scytho-Sarmatian elements on which it was based, throughout many outlying regions. In this way the animal style was revived first in Romania, then in Austria, then in the Rhineland, whence it traveled, along with other elements, to England...Nowhere can the interrelationship which binds them be more dearly perceived than in the recurrence throughout the entire area of the large beaked bird motif. Even a cursory glance at its distribution reveals its astonishing persistence and penetration.... The Goths' fondness for birds of prey played its part in preserving this large beaked, round-eyed Scythian bird motif, the creature remaining popular throughout much of western Europe during many centuries. Thus a very early Scythian version in bone from Kelermes reappears in the Frankish world many years later almost unaltered, regardless of whether it is produced in heavy bronze or in delicate enamel. One of the latest, and possibly most exquisite large beaked birds comes from far-distant England, on the purse lid from the treasure of Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. The treasure is dated to AD. 655-656, and the bird, which is about to pounce on a duck, already shows slight touches of the elongation which was later to become characteristic of English painting and sculpture. Yet it adheres remarkably closely to the Frankish versions, and through them to the Scythian originals....The Norse character is perhaps rather more to the fore in some of the other enamel ornaments attached to the purse, but the Celto-Scythian element is indisputably the most important in the bird. The disk affixed to the boss of the Sutton Hoo shield represents a two-headed creature which has much in sympathy with works of the mid-Scythian period and the BassvYutz jug handle. One of its extremities is a forcefully stylized version of the large beaked bird, but by means of a somewhat clumsy and simplified zoomorphic juncture, its back turns into a dragon's head, which can to some extent be paralleled by a carving from Mound 2 at Pazirik....
These (Scythian) resemblances could be multiplied time and time again, but the likeness appears at its most striking in a group of eleventh century Saxon stone slabs. One of these, original St. Paul's churchyard and now in the Guildhall Museum London, shows a stag of wholly Scythian character. Its pose had not greatly altered in the fifteen hundred years which had elapsed since the Scythians first made the motif their own. Its muscle markings, which date back to Alaça Hyk, two thousand five hundred years earlier, are still in place somewhat altered in shape, but even more important is the similarity in feeling. The man who carved this stone must have felt the wind blowing westward from southern Russia across Scandinavia, wafting a last flicker of imagination from a long-dead Scythian source. (Tamara Talbot Rice, THE SCYTHIANS, Thames and Hudson, London 1957:178-192, emphases supplied)
1. The Spiral (single or multiple)
2. The Serpent and Dragon, perhaps two-headed
3. The Bird of Prey and/or Raven
4. Thor's Hammer and/or Thor
Fig 1. Viking and Related Symbols
Fig 2. Viking Heads and Thor's Hammer
One of four semi-naturalistic carved men's heads that form the terminals of the cradle that held the Oseberg wagon-body. Three-dimensional carving and human representation were both rare in Viking art. Though fearsome in aspect, the man's mask-like face, with its staring eyes, is shown with a sweeping moustache and well-trimmed beard, while a close fitting cap covers his hair. A distinctive artistic personality can be seen at work in the creation of these four heads, each of which is different. Their significance, however, is lost to us today.The puzzle remains, but true loss notwithstanding it is nevertheless fortunate that we can find a similar form of representation in an Eastern Arctic petroglyph, namely the retention of the moustache, the cap line, and not least of all the beard - the latter being a rarity among the Inuit - at the lower entrance to the Northwest Passage near Wakeham Bay in northern Quebec. It is tempting to also equate the open mouth ("O" shaped or otherwise) with Thor's Hammer or Thor himself, although the bulging eyes are not in evidence here, merely the eyebrows. But this too is a feature of the stylized versions of Thor's Hammer and perhaps that would have been enough, especially this close to Greenland, i.e., just across Davis Strait.
Fig 3. An Additional Viking Form and Pacific Northwest Petroglyphs
Distribution of the petroglyphs on the coast varies greatly from region to region, from one Indian territory to another. On the whole, they appear to increase in numbers as one travels southward, though there are vast stretches of the coast on which no petroglyphs have been reported. Doubtless there will be more discoveries as the years go by, when population and travel increases, particularly in the north. On the Brooks Range in Northern Alaska there is only one recognized site, some incised boulders in a Kadigi, or men's house, in a deserted village. Far to the south, on Kodiak Island, are two sites, one on a rock cliff and one on beach boulders. These petroglyphs depict human, non-outlined faces, whales, animals and pecked dots. The non-outlined faces are similar to those found in the Strait of Georgia area, particularly to a non-outlined face found at Cape Mudge on Quadra Island. As has already been noted, the mask-like face is typical of the whole range of coast petroglyphs. (Edward Meade, INDIAN ROCK CARVINGS of the Pacific Northwest, Gray's Publishing, Sidney 1971:14-15)So perhaps the marking out began with relatively innocuous outlined "faces" with or without beards such as those found at Wakeham Bay. Once through the Northwest Passage the simple, easily identified non-outlined variants such has those left at Cape Alitak on Kodiak Island in Alaska and more elaborately on the Queen Charlotte Islands could also have been used. It is important to note here that although these variants occur in the Pacific Northwest they are nevertheless readily understood to be Norse. Indeed, as Canadian historian Tryggi J.Oleson pointed out in Chapter 10 (The Material Culture of the Thule Eskimos) in his 1963 publication Early Voyages and Northern Approaches 1000-1632:
It is perhaps significant that the initial arctic petroglyphs discussed here are relatively simple and thus examples that could have been completed without expending a great deal of time or trouble. Interestingly enough, and perhaps significant in their own right, there are a few petroglyphs found on the Queen Charlotte Islands ["Markland"] where elements of simplicity are again apparent:
Before leaving this subject, it should be stated that in the ruins of the Thule culture the most common inscriptions on articles were two runes. Most frequently found is the symbol of the hammer of Thor, T, but as is well known, Thor was the most popular god in the Icelandic pantheon. The other rune found on many articles across the Canadian Arctic was the so-called man rune, represented usually as Y, but with variants. To suggest as (Therkel) Mathiassen does that this represents a tree, verges on the ludicrous. Both runes attest the heavy intermixture of the Icelanders and the Skraelings to form the Thule Culture.” (Tryggi J. Oleson, Early Voyages and Northern Approaches 1000-1632. McClelland & Stewart, 1963:68-69; emphases supplied).
Until recently, there has been very little generally known about petroglyphs on the Queen Charlotte Islands. As late as 1971, Edward Meade, who has written one of the few books on petroglyphs in B.C. had to write, “On the Queen Charlotte Islands, in Haida territory, there is only one petroglyph... The carving is shallow pecked, showing human heads and mask faces.” 1 [Meade, 1971:14] This information was based on an account by Dr. C.F. Newcombe of Victoria who travelled the coast extensively in the early 1900's. Even so, Meade could not illustrate the petroglyph because apparently no one had seen it since Dr. Newcombe's day.
In the summer of 1972, A L Porter of Queen Charlotte City took a number of Museum Society people on an outing to Lina Island in Skidegate lnlet. Some twenty years ago, Art Husband had told him that petroglyphs were there, and it was Betty Unsworth who found them that day. I surveyed the site later that year and made drawings, rubbings, and photographs. The petroglyphs were two faces and a number of circles. One face was quite unique. It was carved on the corner of a boulder with an eye on each side, and the nose jutting out. Most petroglyphs are carved on relatively flat surfaces and do not make use of the natural contours of the rock to such an extent. In the summer of 1973, Josiah Brown, formerly of Haida, told us to look for petroglyphs near the site of Kiusta where we were conducting archaeological investigations. In addition to faces, he said we should find a number of small carvings on rocks you could fit into your hand. After nearly two months of walking among them, Trisha Gessler spotted two, then more until we had located 20 altogether. Four of the petroglyphs at Kiusta were faces and most were concentric circles.
These faces and concentric circles are similar in style to petroglyphs on Vancouver Island, as far north as Alaska, and as far south as Washington State. The antiquity of these petroglyphs is not known. We did ascertain through experimentation, however, that only a few hours of work might be required to make one. The majority of the petroglyphs on the islands were found carved on small sandstone boulders, which are covered at high tide. (Nick Gessler, with drawings by Trisha Gessler, “Petroglyphs on the Queen Charlotte Islands,” THE CHARLOTTES: A Journal of the Queen Charlotte Islands (Vol.3), The Queen Charlotte Islands Museum, Massett, 1973:17; emphases supplied. For Kiusta see also the "Latitude sailing" route shown on Maps 4g and 6d below)
Fig 4. Viking head, Arctic and Pacific Northwest Petroglyphs: Outlined and Non-outlined FacesThus the initial set from the Eastern and Western Arctic -- Fig. 4.2 from Wakeham Bay and Fig. 4.3 from Cape Alitak -- may now be expanded to include those further south on the Queen Charlotte Islands ["Markland"], with the last example (Fig. 4.4; drawn by T. Gessler 1973:17) also perhaps illustrating the relationship between "Thor's "Hammer" ("T") and the "Y" man-rune.
Map 4c. Eastern Arctic, Western Arctic, and Pacific Northwest "Spirit" or "Thor" petroglyphsWhy the shift from outlined to non-outlined? It is difficult to say, of course, but time may have been a factor, especially coming in from the Northwest as winter approaches since these symbols would have been the simplest and quickest to peck out. Then again perhaps overkill and a shift away from "masks" per se, with a few variants supplied in case there were any doubts as to their significance. Lastly, perhaps it was also a matter of priorities, since it is here that the first spiral and other geometrical figures are encountered. However, it also should not be forgotten that there is an alternate route after transiting the Northwest Passage, or perhaps better stated, an additional one that also incorporates the spiral form along the way, as perhaps suggested by the following summary:
Thor Heyerdahl and other archaeologists, and very recently, the Russian A. P. Okladnikov ("The Petroglyphs of Siberia", Scientific American, August, 1969) have noted that there exists a similarity between petroglyph carvings of the Northwest Coast and those of Far Eastern Siberia, particularly the Amur River region, and again, with certain carvings in the South Pacific Islands. So far as is known, these similarities lie mainly in the mask-like faces common to all three areas, though it must be noted that in the Amur River and the South Pacific masks, a spiraled ornamentation is dominant, whereas this is usually absent in the Northwest Coast. The similarities in areas are not particularly strange, however, for it is known that anciently the tribes of all three regions used masks in religious initiation rites into secret male societies. As has already been mentioned, the Canadian archaeologist Harlan I. Smith made note of such rites in connection with petroglyphs at Bella Coola.Further west to Asia by way of the Aleutians and Siberia? Why not? After all, the Northwest Passage was the main stumbling block, and if it had indeed been conquered, then all manner of possibilities and routes remain open - both to the west and also to the immediate south. At which point we may now turn to Pacific Northwest petroglyphs and the insights that they might provide.
Further studies of the petroglyphs of the three areas may reveal still other affinities. In the Amur River region, for instance there are said to be carved and painted mythological monsters, fantastic creatures and grotesque versions of the human face apparently of very great antiquity. On the Canadian Coast Nanaimo, Sproat Lake, at Bella Coola and on Wrangell Island, Alaska, monsters and fantastic sea creatures are numerous. Denman Island, at Cape Mudge and at Bella Coola there several grotesque representations of the human face. It further been noted that the Amur River basin contains drawings "of a human face with rays going from it in all directions.' At Cape Mudge there are two such representations of a sunburst enclosing a human face, both very ancient, very eroded. (Edward Meade, INDIAN ROCK CARVINGS of the Pacific Northwest, Gray's Publishing, Sidney 1971:12)
Allthough the initial indicators are slim, the two major Arctic petroglyph Sites - Wakeham Bay in the East and Cape Alitak in the West - effectively complete the Northwest Passage and the final stages of the route to the Pacific Northwest. Moreover, with the further addition of Button Point both the upper and the lower entrances to the Northwest Passage in the eastern arctic are also covered. It is worth stressing here that Button Point, Wakeham Bay and Cape Alitak were not selected from a large list to fit the present hypothesis, they are in fact the list itself. Precise locations for the Brooks Range sites are unavailable, but whatever their positions there is still a natural progression suggested along the North Slope of Alaska. Continuing south past the Seward Peninsula and then west again to Uminak Pass in the Aleutians, the coastal route around Alaska would turn eastwards again until the first major island was encountered, i.e., Kodiak Island. This is where the first spiral petroglyph is encountered in the Pacific Northwest, an encouraging indicator and one not necessarily to be expected this early or so far north. According to Campbell Grant's commentary on arctic petroglyphs:
This forbidding region stretches along the northern edges of the continent from Prince William Sound in Alaska to Labrador in eastern Canada. With the exception of the coniferous forests of the Kodiak Island-Prince William Sound region, it is a land of tundra-wastelands of moss and lichen; a land of bitter cold-short summers and long winters. The Eskimos and the Aleuts sharing a common Eskimo culture live on the coasts of this vast region, seldom venturing far inland. Modern Eskimos have a rather highly developed art in the form of carved ivory and stone but few of their rock drawings have been recorded. The northernmost site on the continent was found in 1950 by a party of geologists in the foothills of the Brooks Range in northern Alaska. Designs resembling corncobs and deeply incised lines arranged in a rather haphazard manner suggesting tool sharpening occurred on a single sandstone slab. It is quite possible this is doodling by an Eskimo hunting party waiting for game. Another site in the Brooks Range occurs in a now-empty village that was occupied until the late 19th century, where there are incised boulders in the kadigi or men's house. On the Peninsula there are some crude paintings in red and black of human figures. These three sites are the only ones known in northern Alaska. The next rock drawings are found far to the south on the southwest tip of Kodiak Island-two sites on cliffs and granite boulders at Cape Alitak. The petroglyphs are made by pecking and are from a quarter to three-quarters of an inch in depth. The subjects are human faces of which only the features are drawn, and whales, land animals, and some simple nonrepresentational figures, like spirals and lines of dots. The nonoutlined faces are not unlike those found in the Puget Sound-Strait of Georgia region. Eskimos on Kodiak Island and nearby Afognak Island have reported numerous paintings in red on these islands similar those on the mainland to the east. According to the Eskimos, the picture were made for hunting magic and to record game killed. Frederica de Laguna has recorded many Eskimo paintings in the Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound, northeast of Kodiak Island again are nonoutlined faces, human figures, game animals, particularly whales and canoes. Eskimo informants said that these pictures were associated with whaling rituals and hunting magic. The nonoutlined face is first encountered on Kodiak Island is a widespread design throughout the Northwest Coast, perhaps the most characteristic area. These Alaskan drawings are all rather crudely conceived and executed: Those from southern Alaska show a strong influence from the Northwest Coast. The only other Eskimo rock-art site is on the other side of continent, in northern Quebec. It is located in an old steatite quarry island near Wakeham Bay. Saladin d'Anglure, carrying out a anthropology study in 1961 was taken to the site by Eskimos while making the trip to get steatite for their carvings. The designs, numbering over 50, were all of masks, some human, others animal. They made extensive use of masks, which, among the Chugach and are supposed to represent the familiar spirits of shamans. Such masks, worn during ceremonies and are often found with mummies in caves. The Eskimo rock drawings appear to be chiefly game and ceremonial masks. The masks may represent a cultural trait from the Northwest Coast Indians, who wore elaborate masks to represent supernatural beings. The age of the Eskimo designs are unknown but there are a few clues; they do not appear to have been by living Indians and there are no articles portrayed of white manufacture. On the other hand, there is no evidence that they are not. It is possible that most of them are late prehistoric. (Campbell Grant, ROCK ART OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN, Crowell, New York 1967:81-82, emphases supplied).Needless to say, the above does not include the possibility of a Viking presence in the Pacific Northwest, nor indeed at the time of writing would there have been any reason to do so. The same observation can also be made with respect to James Keyser's approach to the petroglyphs on the Columbia Plateau, for although a few spirals are apparent the naturalistic style nevertheless predominates over the abstract in this particular region. In fact from the distribution of the rock art styles shown in Map 4d there appears to be a clearly discernable gap after British Columbia down the coastal regions of Washington and Oregon before the more abstract and stylized forms of petroglyphs re-occur in California and the Southwestern States.
The navigation of the Norsemen was in all probability, like that of Christopher Columbus during the voyage of 1492-3, a skilful combination of dead reckoning and latitude-sailing. By the crude observation of celestial bodies they were able, not merely to 'distinguish the airts' (deila vettit) but also to determine their northing or southing with sufficient precision to keep on their proper track; and if they should be set too far to the northward or southward, through stress of weather or the action of surface currents, only by thus determining their position would they be able to recover it again. Though they could no more than guess at their longitude, they could at least be tolerably sure of their latitude. They could cling to the parallel of their destination, as it were, and follow it across the ocean till they reached their objective. This at least would seem to be the only possible explanation of their safe arrival at their journey's end, on so many occasions, after prolonged periods of drifting and halvilla.If so, then in the present Pacfic Northwest context, because of the "spirit faces" on Kodiak Island (Cape Alitak), on Graham Island (Kiuska), and petroglyphs near Sitka and Wrangell, the following approximate "latitude sailing" routes may be proposed:
Judging by the testimony of Hauk Erlendsson in his recension of the Landnámabók, the lodestone must have come into general use on the northern sea-routes at some date before 1300. There is no reference to it in the earlier versions of the Landnámabók; nor is there in the thirteenth-century Icelandic sagas, or in the contemporary Konungs Skuggsjá.
With the advent of the magnetic compass in northern waters, about the middle of the thirteenth century, the risk of failing into the state of halfvilla was of course considerably diminished. Henceforward the mariner was independent of celestial bodies for knowing at least his direction. Despite fog and overcast skies he could steer confidently across the open sea and put his trust in a device which, as experience had taught him, was a guide as sure and constant as the North Star. It is significant that from this time on no mention is made in contemporary sources, like the Laurentius saga, of any case of halfvilla. This may reasonably be attributed to the introduction of the compass. At the same time, it must be emphasized, there is no reason to suppose that the Norsemen abandoned the traditional methods of ocean navigation; but rather the contrary. As had already been said, the sailing directions for the Greenland passage quoted in the fourteenth century Hauksbók appear to have been based on knowledge of relative latitudes rather than on compass courses.
It cannot be too strongly emphasized that latitude sailing was the underlying principle of all ocean navigation down to the invention of the chronometer. Already in the Middle Ages it was practised by Arab pilots sailing to and fro across the Indian Ocean. It was practised by Christopher Columbus on his voyage of 1492-3. It was practised by Vasco da Gama and his successors sailing to the East. The greatest of the Elizabethan navigators, John Davis, returning from his voyage to the North-West in 1587, sailed to the latitude of the Channel, and then shaped an easterly course until he arrived off his home port, Dartmouth. The Earl of Cumberland, bound for the Azores in 1589, first sailed down to lat. 39° N (which was the latitude of his destination), and then steered west for the Azores. Many other cases might be quoted from this and the following century.
Precisely how far back the Norsemen may have practised latitude-sailing it is of course impossible to say with certainty. But judging from the range and volume of the traffic which was constantly carried on between Norway and her overseas settlements at the beginning of the eleventh century, there is no reason to suppose that the holding to an approximate latitude presented any more difficulty to the contemporaries of Leif Eirlksson and Thorfinn Karlsefni than it did in the era of Sturlubók and Konungs Skuggsjá. In particular it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the calculation of their northing or southing by comparison of the sun's height had long been familiar to the Norsemen. (G.J. Marcus, The Conquest of the North Atlantic, Oxford University Press, New York 1981:118; emphases supplied).
Most permanent but least intelligible of all of the earlier works of the Tlingit are the petroglyphs which are of frequent occurrence on the shore in the vicinity of old living sites, throughout the inland waters of southeastern Alaska. The present generation, even the oldest natives, have no knowledge of their origin or use, and even deny that they are the work of their ancestors, attributing them to a stranger people who preceded them and left such signs to mark their movements or to guide others who might follow. (Frederica de Laguna; G. T. Emmons' The Tlingit Indians, 1991:178, emphases supplied)The latter statement, of course, reinforces the present hypothesis and as such is most welcome. But as is often the case, matters are never quite that simple. On the other hand, even when it is pointed out that there is an obvious and natural relationship between some petroglyph locations and favoured fishing sites, this can still work both ways. Prime fishing spots would have had the same value for the Vikings, if not more so since it would take time to become acquainted with them, especially during initial exploratory voyages. Then again, there would be slack times between tides or after fish preparation that could be applied by the locals or the Viking alike to render the required petroglyphs. Here one is tempted to speculate that to the locals the Vikings might well have merited the title the "Salmon-Eaters" - another Pacific Northwest theme, or similarly further south, those who came "out of the mist" (or Dall Island just over the northern horizon from the Queen Charlotte Islands). But if so there is another factor to be considered. How long were such sites used by the Vikings (if at all), and to what degree (if any) might the petroglyphs represent a mixture of Viking and local handiwork? Did they at any time work together? Such questions might be partly answered by the specific types of symbols used, but even here there is the possibility that the diffusive elements may have already disappeared. No doubt many Pacific Northwest petroglyphs can indeed be explained in terms of shamanistic practices, hunting and fishing "magic" or totemic and kinship elements as others have pointed out. Thus it is not claimed here that a Viking presence or the Vikings themselves were responsible for the majority of the petroglyphs abounding in this region or indeed elsewhere. Perhaps a relatively small percentage could ever be attributed to this source. As for the rest, there are the usual problems arising from changing local boundaries, the ebb and flow of migration patterns, benign diffusion and co-operative efforts, or long-lost hopes perpetuated by a "Cargo-Cult" mentality, etc.
To completely document the ageless mythology of the aboriginal Northwest Coast Indians, even briefly, would require a shelf of volumes. Consequently it is imperative that any accounting of the genesis mythology relating to the Deity or supernaturals of this region be confined to the most widespread traditions. (Joseph H. Wherry, The Totem Pole Indians, Funk & Wagnalls, New York 1964:64)Nevertheless, it seems likely that if the Vikings had indeed passed through the Pacific Northwest the impact of Viking ships might well have left an indelible impression. How would they have been perceived? Remember, in addition to less ornate ships constructed after the style of the Gokstad there were also Viking "Dragon Ships" with imposing dragon or serpentine figureheads, often on prow and stern; easily misunderstood at a distance as two-headed sea-monsters by the uninformed. Then there would also be the effect of the oars on either side of the ship - a distinct departure from local canoe paddling arrangements, with a predominantly horizontal motion rather than a vertical one, thus almost "crab-like" in shallow waters. Furthermore, Vikings coming ashore in a potentially hostile situation might well have used time-tested procedures - no "slack" marines here (not if they wanted to get back on the boat, that is). In other words, they would most likely have come ashore behind their shields with speed and efficiency or pay the price.
Of all the odd supernaturals, Giant Clam, Rock Oyster, and a huge Crab would seem the most out of place. We know the first of these creatures does exist in the warm waters of the South Seas, but Northwest Coast waters are cold. Yet the Koryak of Siberia have myths of the monstrous crabs and, accepting the generally held view of prehistoric migrations of Mongol races from Asia across the Bering Sea, there is a possible legendary link. The Totemland aborigines almost certainly met Kanaka seamen from Polynesia in late prehistoric or early historic times and the tradition could have started at such a meeting. Embellishments incident to retellings are to be expected.The clam, of course, is best known in the context of the "The First Man" legend of the Haida (Sourcebooks - Raven and the First Men - The Legend), which perhaps by coincidence also involves Rose Point (to the east of Naden) on the northern tip of the Queen Charlottes (the suggested route south from Helluland to Markland; see below). At this point it is not out of place to return to the Viking ships discussed in the Introduction, notably the Oseberg and Gokstad burial ships and the light that the design of these earlier vessels sheds on the inverted hull/roof scenario. Inverting canoes for cover on shore, etc., has origins that probably extend back to the earliest forms of river transportation, but when applied to larger craft, size, weight and construction also enter into the equation, as does the size of the crew. In the case of the Tune, Oseberg and Gokstad ships, however, there were no fixed rowing benches.The usual and most probable explanation given for this is that the crew used their own sea-chests--a theory supported by the fact that sea-chests found in the Oseberg ship were exactly the right height for this purpose. There are undoubtedly distinct advantages in not having fixed rowing benches incorporated into the design, not least of all the saving in total weight and the flexibility afforded by removal of chests when such ships are to be brought ashore or maneuvered on land. But more importantly in our present context, if the practice of inverting hulls is also a design consideration, then valuable head-room would also be gained by eliminating built-in benches altogether. This, of course, brings us back to the stone longhouses in the Arctic Regions, where adequate quarters and shelter from the elements would have been of paramount importance for the Greenland Vikings hoping to survive the long arctic winters. But it would also be useful for short stays on beaches above the shoreline. In other words, a quick and temporary shelter against the elements (i.e., overnight) could be provided by simply inverting Viking ships and placing them on portable foundations provided by the dual (now triple) purpose sea-chests aligned on both sides, or one side only, which either way might indeed give the impression of a "Giant Clam" when viewed from a distance.
Thus the supernatural Crab, so large no other living creature of sea or land could prevail against him, caught on with the Naden River Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands. A legendary Chief Rock had such a Crab servant. His waterfront was never assaulted by any foe until a boy with Halibut's skin overcame it by spirit power after swimming around the world. Jules Verne was a piker compared to these mythmakers...
Serpent, the harbinger of evil, is still all over the southern half of the totem area and in many varieties, some with two heads. A maker of lightning and able to shed its scales when attacked, the Hai-et-lik of the Nootka has only one head. On the Olympic Peninsula this creature once was on many poles. The Quinault (a Salish tribe) and the independent Qufiliute probably obtained the myth from the Makah Nootka at Cape Flattery. Great whalers, the Nootka believed the scales of the great snake gave them supernatural power in the hunt for the leviathans of the deep.
The Sisiutl, the two-headed serpent of the Kwakiutl, was a supernatural creature said, in the lore of the British Columbia coast and Vancouver Island, to be four feet in diameter and up to twenty feet long. At times it was in league with Thunderbird and made thunder and lightning. Its 'house" was either on land or in water. The body had an identical head at each end, with a human face, implying soul power, midway between. Almost always causing death when encountered, it was all the more dangerous because it could shrink itself to a tiny fraction of its true length.
Another two-headed serpent, Tsi-aøkish, was so large it swallowed canoes. One myth tells how a folk hero encountered one so large that when he sang a certain song, it burst open and an entire tribe came forth in something of a multiple Jonah release. (Joseph H. Wherry, The Totem Pole Indians, Funk & Wagnalls, New York 1964:75-76, emphases supplied)
As for possible Viking contact both immediate and long-term, all one might suggest here that it was not unknown for Vikings to settle and mingle: "where they found land and opportunity" (Brent 1975:148) and that if this did indeed take place in the Pacific Northwest from time to time it would not be entirely unexpected. Nor would there be any reason to suppose that it was not a harmonious and mutual arrangement, or one that overly influenced the social structures and customs already in place. Nevertheless, commencing from the lands of the Alaskan Tlingit, movement south as far as the coast of Washington necessarily also involves the lands of the Tsimshian, the Haida (primarily the Queen Charlotte Islands), the Northern and Southern Kwakiutl, the Nookta (Vancouver Island), and the Coast Salish of both Vancouver Island and the lower mainland of British Columbia.
Map 6. Pacific Northwest Coastal First Nations (after Ashwell 1978)
and The Western Viking Lands
When Europeans arrived, the Indians of this region were living a more bountiful life than any other Amerinds of the discovery era.Similarly, Edward L. Keithahn's (Monuments in Cedar, 1971) records that:
By the time European culture had fully embraced them, their numbers had been tragically decreased from an estimated sixty thousand to less than half that number by the white man's firewater, his penchant for centralized authority, and most of all by his diseases. There was less warfare between whites and the Indians of Totemland titan elsewhere principally because these Indians had nowhere to go: the Pacific Ocean prevented any retreat.
The region - which I like to call Totemland - sprawls northwestward from Grays Harbor in Washington to the Malaspina Glacier in southeast Alaska, about 200 miles, as the raven flies, northwest of Juneau. This narrow strip west of the Cascade Mountains comprises the Olympic Peninsula, the area immediately around Puget Sound, southwestern British Columbia including Vancouver Island, and the Alaskan panhandle. Heavily timbered, and roughly 1050 miles long, Totemland is rarely as much as 100 miles wide on the mainland.
Totemland Indians' height averages nearly 5 feet, 9 inches in the north, with many as tall as 6 feet among the Tlingit. The height of the Haida and Tsimsyan is only slightly less. Stature decreases proportionately toward the south: the Salish tribes of coastal British Columbia average only about 5 feet, 3 inches, but the Olympic Peninsula Salish are slightly taller. The Nootka including their Makah tribesmen around Cape Flattery, Washington's northwesternmost tip, are between the above two extremes in average height, as are the Kwakiutl and Bella Coola. Their most outstanding physiological characteristic - and this took the early European explorers by surprise - is the profusion of facial hair among the males. Mustaches and beards were commonly noted in the earliest records, in marked contrast to Indians everywhere outside this geographical region. The frequently wavy hair emphasizes the physical contrast with Indians elsewhere. Rather than the jet-black color popularly believed to be universal among Indians, a very dark brown prevails. The skin color varies from as light as southern Europeans, in the northern nations, to a somewhat darker hue toward the Puget Sound area. Nowhere in Totemland, however, does the skin coloring of the natives conform to the "redskin" concept so ingrained into American folklore. As a matter of fact, the first European to explore the Bella Coola country, famed Alexander Mackenzie, whose name is legend in Canada, discovered that these ethnic relatives of the Coast Salish and Kwakiutl often had hair of a rich brown shade and comparatively light-colored eyes. Investigating anthropologists and ethnologists, during the past century, disclosed no definitely established reasons for this provocative variation. (Joseph H. Wherry, The Totem Pole Indians, Funk & Wagnalls, New York 1964:5-7, emphases supplied)
When the Northwest Coast was first visited by white men some two hundred years ago it was sparsely inhabited, and still is, by five major linguistic groups or tribes, all of whom at some time or other, have carved totem poles or allied monuments of sculptured cedar commonly called totem poles. The northernmost of these people were the Tlingit, known to the Russians in Alaska as Kolosh. They occupied all of the coastal region, islands as well as mainland, from Yakutat and Klukwan on the north to Cape Fox, south of the present town of Ketchikan, with the exception of the southern half of Prince of Wales Island and Dall Island. These areas had been occupied by invading Haidas some three hundred years ago. Their main seat was the Queen Charlotte Islands off the British Columbia mainland just across Dixon Entrance from Alaska. The Alaskan Haidas were formerly referred to as Kaigani from the name of their first settlement in Alaska near the southern tip of Dall Island.By and large it has generally been supposed that if maritime contact in the Pacific Northwest took place it was either from Asia or (perhaps less likely) even from the South Pacific. If it is granted that the Vikings did indeed enter the North Pacific by way of the Northwest Passage, then a quite different scenario can be proposed. It is after all far easier to see Viking ships proceeding south rather than smaller, less suited ships moving north - a suggestion that may reinforce Thor Heyerdal's view that north-to-south movement may indeed have taken place from time to time.
Opposite the Haida, on the mainland between the Nass and the Skeena Rivers and occupying both river valleys, lived the Tsimshian. The Nass branch was known as the Niska and those living far inland on the Skeena were called the Gitksan. South of the Tsimshian dwelt the Kwakiutl who occupied both the mainland and the northeastern part of Vancouver Island. Totem poles of the Kwakiutl may still be seen in situ at Alert Bay, a picturesque village on the steamer route to Alaska. A branch of the numerous Salish tribe is located on the Bella Coola river and these people are often referred to as Bella Coolas. While associated linguistically with the southern Salish of Washington and Southern British Columbia, these Indians had adopted the culture traits of their Northwest Coast neighbors and had become totem pole carvers.
Out on the west coast of Vancouver Island were the Nootkas who also were wood carvers, and across the straits of Juan de Fuca at Cape Flattery were the Makah, a branch of the Nootka of Wakashan stock. They did not carve and erect tall totem poles but did carve grave figures in the human form and employed carved houseposts in their dwellings.
While the inhabitants of the Totempolar region spoke a half-dozen mutually unintelligible languages, physically they diverged but slightly except in individuals. With the exception of a few Haidas and some others on Vancouver Island who had red hair, all had coarse, straight black hair, black or brown eyes, and a complexion only slightly darker than Europeans. Their stature was somewhat under that of Europeans although they were well-muscled. Legs and arms were relatively short, and feet and hands were small...
In describing the inhabitants of Yakutat in 1787, George Dixon said in part: "they, in general, are about middle size, their limbs straight and wellshaped, but like the rest of the inhabitants we have seen on the coast, are particularly fond of painting their faces with a variety of colors so that it is no easy matter to discover their real complexion; however, we prevailed on one woman, by persuasion, and a trifling present, to wash her face and hands, and the alternation it made in her appearance absolutely surprised us; her countenance had all the cheerful glow of an English milk-maid; and the healthy red which flushed her cheek, was even beautifully contrasted with the whiteness of her neck; her eyes were black and sparkling; her eyebrows the same colour, and most beautifully arched; her forehead so remarkably clear, that the translucent veins were seen meandering even in their minutest branches-in short, she was what would be reckoned handsome even in England....
Camille de Roquefeuil, a French navigator who visited the Northwest Coast in 1817 with the object of reviving French trade which had been almost annihilated by the Revolution, made many interesting observations of the people he saw there. Speaking of the inhabitants of "Nitinat" described as a village on Berkeley Sound several leagues south of Nootka, he said, "We saw several men and a greater number of women, whose complexion differed from white only by a tinge of pale yellow. Some young people, of both sexes, had a colour, and many children would have been thought pretty in Europe. The greater number of the Indians have black hair, the remainder a light red, all wear the hair long, and the women comb it carefully, and divide it over the middle of the forehead. Both sexes dress the same as at Nootka, with this difference, that the women wear under their other garments a kind of apron of bark, not woven, but only fastened to a girdle...
The tradition of "red-headed natives in hula skirts" on the Northwest Coast has generally been attributed to the Haidas, among whom there has always been a fair percentage of red-heads but Roquefeuil places them several hundred miles farther south on Vancouver Island rather than in the Queen Charlottes. Red hair is still quite common among the Kaigani Haidas now centering in Alaska at Hydaburg.
Captain George Dixon visited the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1787 and described the Haidas as follows: "The people in general are about the middle size, their limbs straight, and tolerable well shaped; many of the older people are rather lean, but I never saw one person who could be called corpulent amongst them; both sexes are remarkably distinguished by high prominent cheek bones and small eyes .... In regard to their complexion, it is no easy matter to determine what cast that is; but if I may judge from the few people I saw ... these Indians are very little darker than the Europeans in general. He remarked that the hair of both sexes was long and black, that the young men pluck out their beards but that in advanced years men had beards all over the chin and some had moustaches.
Marchand also described the Haidas of Queen Charlotte Islands whom he visited in 1791. He found them not differing materially in stature from Europeans, better proportioned and better formed than the Sitkans and without the gloomy and wild look of the latter. Their color he found did not differ from that of Frenchmen, and several were less swarthy "than the inhabitants of our country places' (Edward L. Keithahn, MONUMENTS IN CEDAR: The Authentic Story of the Totem Pole, Bonanza books, New York 1971:19-23, emphases supplied)
Plate 356-Sailing-Q'agyutl, 1914-Plate owned by THE CURTIS COLLECTION-The canoe in the foreground, fifty-five feet in length over all, is probably the largest native craft now in existence in the North Pacific Coast, and it is doubtful if any canoe of greater size was ever made in this region.Given the above date (the second decade of the last century) and the geographical restriction cited, it seems likely that Edward S. Curtis (or the commentator) were unfamiliar with the larger canoes built by other coastal First Nations of British Columbia. For example, the 60-foot canoe from Nitinat Lake on Vancouver Island shown below--likely a Nookta canoe, or one similar in size to those used by Nookta whalers--is in fact larger than Skuldelev 5, a Norse longship with 26 oarsmen and total crew of 30.
60-Foot Nookta Canoe, Nitinat Lake, southwestern Vancouver Island
(Raincoast Chronicles First Five, Ed.Howard White, Harbour Publishing 1996)
Interestingly enough, even as early as the 1790's it was reported that Nookta chief Maquinna and sub-chief Tlupananulg were not interested in baubles and beads, but already preferred more useful and functional items -- sails included -- as their early Spanish visitors noted:
When all carving and fitting was finished, the hull was singed with a torch flame to remove tiny slivers and sanded with dogfish skin. A final finish of seal oil and red ochre was baked on with torches. Narrow with straight gunwales, long prow and square stern, the Nootka whaling design greatly impressed early white shipmen with its speed and, according to some scholars, inspired the famous "clipper bow" so popular in the mid-19th century.
The canoe was carried to the water on fir poles padded with cedar bark. It was never dragged or touched on the ground. The Nootka standards of craftsmanship were such that the largest 60-foot dugout, brought through such involved labours by purely instinctive judgement, was expected to float in perfect balance. There were no excuses and no ballast.
(Jon Van Arsdell, “B.C. Whaling: the Indians” The Raincoast Chronicles First Five: Stories & History of the British Columbia Coast, Ed. Howard White, Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, 1996:23.
Although shown in Plate 356 above, the routine use of sails by the coastal peoples of the Pacific Northwest still does not appear to be fully appreciated. Their use by the Haida, however, certainly seems to have had a lasting effect on the first Methodist missionary to visit the Queen Charlotte Islands, the Rev. W. H. Collison, who wrote about his initial encounter with the sea-going Haida as follows:
‘Mocuina [Maquinna] no longer values anything except glass for windows, firearms and blue cloth, ... Tlupananulg desires nothing besides gunpowder, canvas sails and hemp line for the use of his canoes.’
[Finally, after a rewarding visit] ..."Tlupananulg, making use of his newly acquired sail, and ‘showing some evidence of capability in its management,’ set out for his village near the end of Tlupana Arm.”
(Donald C. Cutter, Malaspina & Galiano: Spanish Voyages to the Northwest Coast 1791 & 1792. Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver, 1991:94-95.)
Here it was obviously not the canoes alone that impressed Collison, but also the size, stature and language of the Haida peoples themselves, along with the unexpected, yet not entirely inappropriate reference to the early Vikings. Indeed, the largest canoe reported -- the size is unfortunately uncorroborated -- also appears to have belonged to the Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands. The details concerning the canoe (or canoes) in question were provided in Cyrenius Mulkey's “Excerpts from ‘Eighty-One Years of Pioneer Life", in which he claimed:
Whilst engaged in acquiring the language of the Tsimshian and afterwards initiating and evangelizing among them, I became deeply interested in the Haida, who inhabit the Queen Charlotte Islands and Prince of Wales Island on the southeastern coast of Alaska. This interest was intensified by the stories related to me of the depredations and deeds of blood wrought by these fierce islanders at the various camps which we visited. It reminded me of the records of the deeds of the Vikings and sea rovers in northern Europe. So fearful were those Indians who accompanied me, that they often hastened to reduce the campfire when darkness set in, lest it might attract an attacking party during the night.
In June 1874, I witnessed for the first time a Haida fleet approaching the shores of the mainland from the ocean. It left an impression on my mind not yet effaced. The fleet consisted of some forty large canoes, each with two snow-white sails spread, one on either side of each canoe, which caused them to appear like immense birds or butterflies, with white wings outspread, flying shorewards. Before a fresh westerly breeze they glided swiftly onward over the rolling waves, which appeared to chase each other in sport as they reflected the gleams of the summer's sun. These were the Masset Haida, who were famed for their fine war canoes. They have always been the canoe builders of the northern coast. As they neared the shore the sails were furled, and as soon as the canoes touched the beach the young men sprang out, and amid a babel of voices hastened to carry up their freight and effects above the high tide mark. These then were the fierce Haida whose name had been the terror of all the surrounding tribes. And truly their appearance tended to justify the report. Many of the men were of fine physique, being six feet in stature; while those whose faces were not painted were much fairer in complexion than the Indians of the mainland. Some of their women wore nose-rings, and not a few of them were adorned also with anklets. All of the women wore silver bracelets; those of rank having several pairs, all carved with the peculiar devices of their respective crests. In their language there was no similarity whatever to the Tsimshian, with which I was now familiar, and which sounded softer and more musical than the Haida. (William Henry Collison, In the Wake of the War Canoe, Ed. Charles Lilliard, SONO NIS PRESS, Victoria, 1981:53-54)
At 83 feet, such a canoe would have been larger than either the Godstad (71.9 feet) or the Oseberg (76.5 feet) Viking ships, which brings us back to the priceless collection of photographs taken by Edward S. Curtis and the possibility of lingering Norse indicators in the Pacific Northwest. Thus:
' I have measured canoes that were 83 feet keel, 8 1/2 feet beam and 4 1/2 feet deep' ...' The main body of the canoe was all one stick of timber. The bow and stern was a splice of other timber and stood up out of the water ten or twelve feet high.' (Cyrenius Mulkey, “Excerpts from ‘Eighty-One Years of Pioneer Life," in Philip Mulkey Hunt, “The Lost Mine”, THE CHARLOTTES: A Journal of the Queen Charlotte Islands, Vol. 4. The Queen Charlotte Islands Museum Society, Skidgate, 1976:22; emphases supplied)
The representation of the "Sisuitl" on the 55-foot Kwakiutl canoe is, of course, relevant to our present thread; i.e., a mythical "sea-monster" that has been variously defined, e.g., as a Sea-Wolf: (Source: defunct link: http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Cavern/7270/wasgo.html).
Plate 352-Rounding into Port-Q'agyutl, 1914-Plate owned by THE CURTIS COLLECTION-The primitive Kwakiutl sail for canoes was as sheet of cedar bark matting, and on catamarans a large, square section of thin boards was propped up against the wind. Canvas is now used. The painting on the canoe at the left represents sisiutl, the mythical, double headed serpent. The carved figure heads of the middle canoe and the one at the right are respectively an eagle and a bear. The bear canoe is further embellished with highly conventionalized paintings of the head, flipper, and tail of a whale. (The Curtis Collection, Volume 10)
The Kwakiutl tribe, who lived on the British Columbian coast north of the present city of Bella Coola specified that sisiutl was an animal that was "of the earth", not one of the mythical creatures of the sea; this distinctly shows that the Pacific Northwest tribes were convinced of the animal's existence. As far north as Alaska, the Inuit (Eskimos) spoke of the tirichik, mauraa, nikaseenithulooyee, or palraiyuk, a creature which seems analogous with the Sea-Wolf of further south, if not for its six legs...As a final note, depictions of what may be the same animal as the Sea-Wolf have been found as far south as the Nazca Plain, in Peru. One of the famous "Nazca lines" depicts a whale-like sea monster, complete with two forelimbs, crocodilian snout, and large eyes.For more on this subject see: The Wasgo or Sisiutl: A Cryptozoological Sea-Animal of the Pacific Northwest Coast of the Americas. by Michael D. Swords.
Fig. 7-1. Sisiutls from Petroglyph Park, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island
The petroglyph art of the Northwest Coast is dominated by eyes. Keithahn tell us that spirits could be portrayed as eyes alone. What is the meaning of the faces where the left and right eyes are different? Gutorm Gjessing finds this motif widely distributed throughout Europe, Siberia, the Pacific area, the West Indies and the northeast coast of South America. He looks at the ancient idea of the power associated with one-eyed gods in mythology. Odin gave one of his eyes in exchange for wisdom and a knowledge of things to come. In an interesting parallel, a spirit with one eye named Lqwalus, in a spirit canoe ceremony in the Puget Sound area, says, " Now look at me! I have one only eye and with it I can see everything!" (Beth Hill, Guide to Indian Rock Carvings of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Hancock house, Saanichton, 1975:33, emphases supplied)Irrespective of the difficulties involved, one may still theorize that something fundamental was understood here, and also that it was deliberately fostered and passed on. But exactly what may be impossible to pin down, even confined to the latest period, i.e., the last thousand years or so. Nevertheless, there are a few indicators that suggest what it might have been, at least in part. As reported earlier, there is the mention of the "spirit people" in this context, and as we have already seen, there is also the information recorded by Frederica de Laguna concerning the Tlingit, namely that the petroglyphs were attributed to:
"a stranger people who preceded them and left such signs to mark their movements or to guide others who might follow."Such statements deal more with origins that later activities, but there is one other piece of information that may provide a further link. Joseph Wherry (1964:92) mentions a memorial totem pole erected in 1900 by the Kiksadi:
"a Tlingit clan of Raven phratry... in memory of a high chief called Kilteen by the whites...
This pole shows (from top down): the little-known spirit Person-of-the-Glacier; Frog;a Raven
child between vertically positioned wings-a uniquely rendered Raven clan crest of the Kiksadi."
Here all the references are to the Tlingit, the most northerly Pacific Northwest Indians - so far north, in fact that their territories are those where it was suggested that the "Western Settlement", i.e., a place in "the mountains below the glaciers" may have been located (perhaps near Icy Bay, or the Lynn Canal, or Lituya Bay). But what might the "spirit people" have passed on, if anything? Hardly Christianity, or indeed anything based on the written word - far more likely the oral tradition augmented by symbolism in keeping with the inate understanding of those who live close to the land. And "spirit" in such contexts? Here again the information is sparse, yet certain elements nonetheless seem indicated. But first, as Joseph Wherry points out:
The evolution of the natural philosophy on the North Pacific Coast cannot be firmly established because of its isolation and a complete absence of any written language. The Chinook jargon, a late prehistoric synthesis of very limited vocabulary, was the principal vehicle by which the picturesquely thoughtful creation stories of the northern nations filtered into the southern part of the region. The latter's mythology was largely adapted from that of the northerners who were the most artfully skilled and widely traveled. Consequently the myths already examined are, in the main, of northern origination. Conversely the intricacies of the guardian spirit tradition were more pronounced among the Kwakiutl, Bella Coola, Coast Salish, and Nootka than among their northern neighbors.Included below are a few relevant guiding spirits from among the many described by Joseph Wherry, the emphasis here naturally enough concentrates on " Birds " and the SUN:
EAGLE endows the favored person with skill as a hunter of all kinds of game both feathered and furred, with penetrating eyesight, and with exceptional hearing... A northern spirit and a family as wall as clan crest, he favors those who live near mountains. In the southern nations his attributes are ascribed, generally, to Thunderbird. His beak always curves downward.
RAVEN was the most popular crest figure in the north. In the south he was valued as a guardian spirit but less often seen on poles... he was the great "arranger."
His symbol has a short, straight beak and, in the north, he often appears holding the light box and with a circle, representing Sun, around his head.
THUNDERBIRD, as a guardian spirit evolved from a parallel concept with Raven of ancient mythology, is known throughout Siberia and half of North America... Regionalized on the North Pacific Coast, he is, to the Coast Salish chief of all guardian spirits by order and creation of Khaals. He has many characteristics of the eagle; he sometimes resembles certain hawks; and he occasionally looks like some large water birds. Tatooch, or Tsoona, is the instrument of "He who dwells above" and carries out the creative will, including creating other spirits, the elements, and so forth... As a totem crest the position of the wings conveys the crest owner's feeling as to Thunderbird power in his life... The protector of good Indians, he is, to southern tribes, the most important of all spirits.
MINK was another of Raven's companions when the world was dark. In fact, Raven at times borrowed this creature's skin. The more southern Indians believed the Creator told Mink that he would confer power on recipients to "catch fish easily by night or day." There is believed to be a relationship between Mink and Kingfisher, and Mink is also a helper and protector of Salmon. Mink is an "arranger".
STAR proteges are able to find the "lost vitalities" or souls of ailing Indians because stars survey the entire world. This, then, is a Medicine Spirit to be invoked to heal the sick of body and mind.
SUN, source of life and suspended in the sky because Raven put it there, is the spirit of the center of the solar system and gives recipients songs and chants to use when engaged in warfare; makes them strong and brave warriors. A protégé, however, must be just and fair or he will lose his power, be shamed, and die.The link between the above and petroglyphs may appear minimal, but although interpretations of petroglyphs are exceedingly rare, there remains a complex multiple representation described by Emmons (Emmons/de laguna 1991:79) as: "Petroglyphs on a boulder at the mouth of a stream in Nakwasina Sound, four miles north of Sitka, Baranof Island, illustrating a Raven myth: "(a) Raven carrying fire in his bill (?). (b) "where the sun comes from" (the Box of Daylight?). (c) The Earth, (d) The North Wind. (e) Ga'nukw ("Petrel"). guardian of fresh water, in the form of a wolf (the moiety crest)." Here item b is a spiral. The same source also supplies an illustrated list of Tlingit petroglyph types according to George Emmons (Emmons/de Laguna 1991:80) . Among this illustrated list petroglyph types n, o, p and q are respectively three concentric circles, two concentric circles with a central dot, a "sunburst" circle with central dot - all said to represent the Sun - followed by the last petroglyph (q), which is a tight spiral.
As a totem symbol Sun is generally shown with Raven, and the stories told of them are the Indian's genesis.
(Joseph Wherry, The Totem Pole Indians, Funk & Wagnalls, New York 1964:87, emphases supplied).
There is much that could be said here concerning
such occurrences and the three areas on the human body that incorporate
the spiral form,
e.g., the hand, (more precisely spiral finger and thumb prints),
the middle ear and also the intestine. Although the latter is rarely
represented, it clearly occurs on a Tsimshian totem pole above a large
opening on the pole in question. Moreover, it seems that Tsimshian wall
paintings were equally complex and also quite extensive;
one example from the Tsimshian village of Port Simpson, British
Columbia (ca. 1840) was 12 metres wide by 5 metres tall - see: "Indian
Art Comes to Light," by Margaret Munroe, Canadian Geographic
Magazine, August/September 1988:66-70. As the latter observed: "The
only known photograph of a Tsimshian housefront in place at Port
Simpson was taken in 1879. The entrance - always an essential part of
the design -
is a round mouth..."
Then again there is the following description of a more modern totem pole:
0f comparatively recent origin is this Haida memorial pole carved about 1925 by one of the few active native carvers of the time, Robert Ridley of Masset in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Now standing in Thunderbird Park in Victoria, British Columbia, this totem is less boldly executed than the ancient poles. The symbols (from the top down) are: Eagle with wings folded, meaning peace, holding small face figure meaning the soul; Indian medicine man wearing headdress and holding a medicine or soul-catching device in each hand; Beaver (without usual horizontal stick in forepaws) with soul symbol between hind legs; Bear Mother with cub child; Frog with head down; and Eagle. (Joseph Wherry, The Totem Pole Indians, Funk & Wagnalls, New York 1964:90, emphases supplied)Thus Pacific Northwest symbolism is not only incorporated in petroglyphs and totem poles (see again the Sisiutl in this context and also wall paintings, e.g., on a cedar House Screen by Tlingit Chief Shakes). For an interesting aside concerning the latter, see The Mysterious Tahltan Chieftainess by Jerod Rosman, though not confined to these three forms. Complex symbolism also appears to embrace Masks, Coppers, Clothing, Ornamental Rattles and ceremonial Staffs - often in a style that is unique to the Pacific Northwest yet still vaguely familiar. It has been noted earlier that although spiral petroglyphs are found in the region they do not occur in profusion. However, where the spiral does occur, e.g., at Wrangell (Figure 2a) as mentioned above, it nevertheless seems to have additional importance. It might just be that Edward Keithahn was correct in surmising that petroglyphs preceded totemic representation, in other words, essentially a shift away from markings on natural rock formations to the more mobile and flexible format available though wood carving and other art forms. All of which further complicates an already complex matter.
Returning to the unexplained stone cairns in the Pacific Northwest, Frederica de Laguna (1971:82) in her amplified edition of George Thornton Emmons' The Tlingit Indians: provides the following details:
More baffling than petroglyphs and stone carvings are cairns of piled stones to be found on the mountains well above timberline, both on the mainland and on offshore islands. They have no relation to the Russian occupation, and are not boundary marks. They are away from any trails or lines of travel, at altitudes of from two to three thousand feet, located on clear stretches, generally on mountain tops. The oldest natives can give no explanation of them, beyond the story that when the great Flood covered the earth, those who survived in canoes floated up and moored their craft here with great bark ropes, the decayed ends of which it is claimed can still be seen. [Cairns like these were said by the Tlingit of Angoon and Yakutat to be "nests" or forts made by survivors of the Flood to protect themselves from the bears that were driven to the summits of mountains by the rising waters (de Laguna and McClellan, field notes, 1950, 1952). Stone piles have been noted by some members of the U.S. Geological Survey, who offered no explanation for them. My archaeological party of 1935 explored a pile of stones on a high ridge above the middle Yukon River, between Nulato and Holy Cross; this "cairn" was due to frost action, according to our geologist, Jack Eardley. But this explanation may not apply to all such piles.] The following locations of such cairns are known, others may still be discovered: On a mountain 2,500 feet high, above Union Bay and Ernest Sound, on Cleveland Peninsula, there are four or five pyramidal or circular piles of stones. Watson, half-breed, knows about this. On a mountain on Etolin Island is a cairn of boulders. At Gambler Bay, on Admiralty Island, on a mountain about 2,000 feet high, there are five piled stone monuments, three to four feet high: one is about eight feet long, one somewhat in the shape of a J, two are pyramidal, and one is oblong. Cook of Juneau, a prospector, knows about two piles of stone, J-shaped and pyramidal, on a mountain about 2,500 feet high, above Pybus Bay, Admiralty Island. [These may possibly be some of those reported back of Gambler Bay.] On the mountains on the eastern shore of Lynn Canal, some thirty miles from tidewater, following the valley of the "Katzheen river" [Katzehin River, "Tabooed River"], and overlooking the glacier from which the river flows, are two pyramidal cairns, carefully constructed of slate, for the most part. This was evidently for durability, since the rock in the immediate vicinity is softer sandstone. These cairns are some four hundred feet apart, bearing north and south from each other. They are respectively 3 ½ and 4 ½ feet high, and 3 ½ feet wide at the base, and taper to a point. While these cairns are known to the Chilkat, the latter have no knowledge of their origin or use, except that they are similar to others found on islands to the southward which certainly had no connection with the Russian occupation. These cairns above Lynn Canal might be considered as boundary monuments to define the inland limit of Russian territory, since they are thirty miles inland, which marked the extent of the coastal strip of southeastern Alaska claimed by the Russians. On the Chilkat divide, near the summit of the coastal mountains, overlooking Rainy Hollow, and about ten marine leagues [about forty-four statute miles on a direct line] from tidewater, is what the natives term, "Stone House." This is just beyond the summit, on a level, moss-covered plain, free from any obstructions, and visible for all directions. It originally consisted of three great slabs of granite placed on end, and inclined toward one another to form a pyramid. One of these in time has disintegrated, as is attested by the broken pieces at the base. The two remaining stones still support each other. They are 5 feet high, 4 inches thick, and respectively 4 and 6 ½ feet wide at the base. Such unwieldy stones must have been transported at great labor from an old streambed several hundred feet distant. This must have been the work of a party of Russians who visited the Chilkat in 1838 and placed such a monument to mark the boundary of southeastern Alaska ["Russian America"], preparatory to leasing the littoral to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1840. This is the belief of the Chilkat people, as attested by the affidavits of some eighteen of the older Tlingit of Klukwan which I took in 1902 when acting as Boundary Commissioner under the Secretary of State. From the character of this monument it does not seem to be related in any way to the piled rock cairns found at other places. [Just what Emmons found, or did not find, is a puzzle. No "boundary marker" or "stone house" was mentioned in the testimony published by the Boundary Tribunal. What Emmons described may have been an emergency shelter built by natives (or white prospectors?) for anyone caught in a storm on the pass. Shelters in the cracks of "a loose mass of huge boulders piled over each other" on the Chilkoot Pass were called by the Tlingit "stone houses," but Schwatka (1893:81) did not indicate whether these were man-made or natural piles. Also not mentioned in the testimony to the Boundary Tribunal, as well as in Emmons's notebook, were the half-dozen postlike stones, about three feet high (?), set in a line (or lines)--an arrangement that would suggest "boundary markers." Were they set by the Tlingit to define the "boundary" beyond which Athabaskan traders might not come? Or were they "scarecrows," built in connection with a caribou fence? (The Tlingit Indians, by George Thornton Emmons. Edited by Frederica de Laguna with additions and a biography by Jean Low, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver 1991:82; emphases supplied)
Map 6d. Unexplained Pacific Northwest Cairns; Outer, Inner routes to Helluland and Markland
To quote from the "Kings Mirror", the people have often attempted in various places to scale the highest rocks to obtain an extensive view, and see whether they could find a place free from ice and suitable for habitation. Such a region, however, could not be discovered, except those parts already built up which stretched a long distance along the coast. They found both mountain ridges and valleys coated with ice". The daring Greenlanders not confining their attention to the interior showed a remarkable acquaintance with the ice-bound ocean and the peculiarities of the coast. According to the "King's Mirror" the ice of the sea is eight to ten feet thick, and is as flat as if it were frozen in that very place. As the ice extends a journey of four or five days from land, and farther toward the east and northeast than south or southwest, anyone wishing to reach land must sail toward the west and southwest, until he has passed all places where there is a possibility of finding ice, and then set sail landward. From the smooth ice rise icebergs "like a high cliff from the sea", not joined to the rest of the ice, but separate. (Joseph Fischer: Pre-Columbian Discovery of America, transcribed by Michael Donahue)Although the above apparently pertains to Greenland alone, it is nevertheless of additional interest in view of the details and the directions provided. Sea ice eight to ten feet thick is truly polar ice, moreover, ice on lakes in the central arctic near the southern coast of Victoria Island can certainly reach seven or eight feet in thickness - which means (having tried it) that in the absence of power tools etc., one needs to chip and dig a fairly substantial trench before reaching water. But even more interesting are the instructions to sail "west and southwest" then "landward" - equally applicable to Baffin Bay in the east and rounding the north slope of Alaska in the west after leaving the limit of permanent ice behind. As for Viking practices per se:
There are hints, however, that contacts with Europe continued through most of the fifteenth century. Archaeological excavations in the frozen cemetery at Herjolfsness, in extreme southwestern Greenland, recovered skeletons dressed in clothing of styles which were popular in Europe during the late 1400s. Several vague accounts refer to a Danish or German skipper named Didrik Pining and a companion named Pothorst, who were said to have established a beacon on a rock named Hvitsark to the west of Iceland in the 1470s. Hvitsark ("White Shirt") seems to be a traditional Icelandic name for a large glacier on the southwestern coast of Greenland. (Robert McGhee, Northern Approaches, Part 9, emphases supplied)To which may be added the following from Helge Ingstad:
The Icelandic Landndmabdk (Book of Land-taking), which is supposed to have been written down in the eleventh century but exists in later versions, tells about Ari Marsson who was driven by wind and weather to Hvitmannaland, called by some people Ireland the Great. 'It lies west in the ocean near Vinland the Good. To sail thither takes six days.' The Norwegian historian Gustav Storm has decisively shown that this is a purely legendary account that has nothing to do with Vinland, but this quotation is of some interest because it is the first time that the phrase ' Vinland the Good ' is used. (Helge Ingstad, WESTWARD TO VINLAND: The Discovery of Pre-Columbian Norse House-sites in North America, by Helge Ingstad (trans from Norwegian by Erik J. Friis) Macmillan of Canada, Toronto, 1969:29)Perhaps Gustav Storm was correct here, but nevertheless our understanding of the Sagas and the places mentioned in them may still have become distorted and obscured by time, the oral tradition, and not least of all the absence of contemporary maps. But be that is it may, it is also worth dwelling on the implications of the "Greenland Duality" already mentioned in Part III. Thus with all due respect to Gustav Storm's analysis - which may be correct in terms of the eastern component of the matter, from the western viewpoint six days from the southwestern coast of Alaska to Vinland might be a reasonable estimate based on the intervals provided in the Sagas -" two days" to Helluland, "two days" to Markland, and "two days" more to Vinland. Or perhaps six days direct to Vinland with a strong north wind. It would of course help if the location of a "Western Settlement" in the Pacific Northwest were known. Here once again there is surfeit over scarcity, for even if one remains with standard "Greenland" features - a narrow strip of land at the foot of a glacier with mountain view, etc. there is still the same problem of narrowing down the choice from all the available options. On the other hand, such a settlement would likely have been east of Kodiak Island and its immediate environs when one thinks about it, in order that sailing south would result in an early landfall, not an empty ocean. How far east of Kodiak Island? Here again it can only be hypothesized, but unexplained Stone Cairns are also present on Admiralty Island. Although hardly justified by this alone, one could nevertheless theoretically backtrack two days sailing from the northern tip of the latter and suggest that the departure point was a little west of the Alaska-Yukon Border; somewhere around Icy Bay, perhaps. Or alternatively, to conform with the generally North-to-South progress in the Sagas and the distribution of the cairns, simply an area near the first, i.e., around the Lynn Canal or west of there at Lituya Bay on the coast - included here because of its significance in the Copper Trade with the Tlingit Indians (Frederica de Laguna, 1991:179). Lastly, while on the subject of "coppers" there is also the report of a further indicator, i.e., the
object left behind on the Tana River in the Copper River drainage; it took six men to fetch it to Yakutat, when the Area immigrants wished to buy the Humpback Salmon Stream. This object, which Keithahn thinks was a nugget, is described in the story as very long, with eyes and with hands that pointed in the direction in which its owners had gone, The latter cut it in two down the middle (suggesting that it was thin). It was worth ten slaves (Frederica de Laguna, 1991:179, emphases supplied)Either way, reasons for erecting stone cairns at such vantage points in the Pacific Northwest are not that hard to understand, although the image of the blundering, plundering Viking perhaps intrudes once more, this time obscuring the obvious. The Vikings were necessarily competent seafarers and explorers, and as such they must surely have developed procedures to record their progress if only to find their way home. Markers both mental and physical might well be needed to indicate where the going was easy, where it was hard, what was to be avoided, where food and fresh water were to be had, where hostilities or help might be expected, salient features and key points along the way, sailing directions, duration between points etc. There are a host of necessary factors that come into play one way or another. From such considerations and the attested existence of cairns such as these it is natural to wonder whether the Vikings initially, eventually produced maps of one kind or another.
The application of this discipline can be traced back to the 5th Century BCE and China; it may well be older and its use may also have been more widespread. The topic is introduced by Robert Temple in his 1986 publication The Genius of China as follows:
The Chinese were the first people to notice and use the connection between the types of vegetation which grow in certain areas and the minerals to be found underground at the same localities. The use of botanical observation in this way to find minerals is known as geobotanical prospecting.Even without factoring in more obvious finds associated with placer mining in the Pacific Northwest the possibility that mineral-rich areas could have been detected by geobotanical techniques can hardly be ruled out in the present context. But perhaps it is copper rather than gold that assumes greater importance. Here the complexities of the Copper Trade intrude on an already controversial hypothesis, yet there can be little doubt about the antiquity of the subject, or its extension into the Pacific Northwest. It is perhaps not that well known just how pure some of the copper deposits from certain areas of North America were - so pure in fact that they could be directly hammered into sheets. As for the Northern Regions, names such as Coppermine in the Central Arctic and the Copper River in southwest Alaska are common-place, while the Canadian Shield is again recognized for both its variety and its mineral richness - not merely copper, but Gold, Silver, Tin, Lead and Zinc. Here access could feasibly have been via Hudson Bay rivers (e.g., the Churchill, Nelson, Severn and Winisk) and/or the Great Lakes to the south, where further complexities concerning diffusion and the Copper Trade arise.
In modern times insufficient attention has been paid to this practice, and many of the ancient Chinese findings have not been investigated. There are, however, some widely recognized examples of plants which grow in soil too rich in certain minerals to be tolerated by other plants. There is, for instance, a wild pansy (Viola calarninaria) which is zinc-loving, one per cent of its ash constituting zinc. Even more zinc-loving is the pennycress (Thlaspi), 16 per cent of whose ash can constitute zinc. The tragacanth (source of gum tragacanth, once widely used in pharmacy) is quite insensitive to selenium in the soil, which poisons other plants. A particular type of alyssum (Alyssum bertoloni) is highly tolerant to nickel, and is a classic indicator of that metal's presence. A particular type of grass (Panicurn crusgalli) indicates lead in the soil. There are several plants which indicate copper, and so on.
The oldest traces of this knowledge in China would seem to go back several centuries Be; but it is first found, substantiated by texts, in the third century m;. A curious ancient book called The Classic of Mountains and Rivers, made up of material from between 600 BC and 100 BC, mentions that the plant hui-t'ang grows near gold ore. This plant cannot be identified with certainty; it could be a type of orchid, basil, hawthorn, or wild pear or plum, all of which have names somewhat similar to this archaic one.
The origins of geobotanical prospecting in China go back to the preoccupation with the nature of different types of soil and their suitability for crops. By at least the fifth century m:, geobotany was in lull swing, as testified by the treatise 'The Tribute of Yu' of that date. This text describes the natures of the soils in the different regions of China in terms which Needham has recently been able to demonstrate are technical to a degree not previously appreciated. It is therefore safe to assume that, although the primary interest was agricultural, geobotany was beginning by that time to be used for prospecting as well. However, for the whole of Chinese history we are short of texts actually giving accounts of prospecting by these methods. Possibly the reason was secrecy. But it is also probable that such accounts as do survive still await discovery and are to be found in the thousands of old regional histories and gazetteers which have not [p.160] yet been studied with any thoroughness by either Western or Chinese scholars.
The Book of Master Wen, compiled about 380 AD but containing material of the third century BC, says that in areas where jade is found, tree branches tend to droop. It is clear that the Chinese noticed not merely the occurrences of certain plants, but their physiological condition, with relation to mineral deposits. In the first half of the sixth century AD there were at least three manuals devoted entirely to systematic accounts of geobotanical mineral prospecting, and listing the varieties of plants and their associated minerals. One of these, Illustrated Mirror of the Earth, says: 'If the stalk of [a certain] plant is yellow and elegant, copper will be found below.' It also says: 'If the leaves of [a certain] plant are green, and the stalks red, much lead will be found below.'
The early scientist and poet Chang Hua noted about 290 AD. that 'where the smartweed grows abundantly, there must be plenty of haematite [ferric oxide] below.' And about 800 AD Tuan Ch'eng-Shih in his Miscellany of the Yu-Yang Mountain Cave, wrote: 'When in the mountains there is a ciboule onion, then below silver will be found. When in the mountains there is the hsiai plant [a kind of shallot], then below gold will be found. When in the mountains there is the ginger plant, then below copper and tin will be found.'
None of the above signs has ever been tested in modern times, and there is scope for research in this field. Definite awareness that mineral trace elements actually occurred in and could be extracted from certain plants is seen in the year 1421 in a book called Precious Secrets of the Realm of the Keng and Hsin (symbols of metals and minerals). There we are told quite specifically that gold occurs in the rape turnip, silver in a type of weeping willow, lead and tin in mugwort, chestnut, barley, and wheat, and copper in the Indian sorrel (Oxalis corniculata). (Robert Temple, The Genius of China, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1986:159)
Part V: The Copper Canoe
Part 1. Viking Press and Viking Ships
Part 2. West by Northwest
Part 3. Three Steps Back
Part 4. Symbols and Markers [ Present Page ]
Part 5. The Copper Canoe
Part 6. The Warp and the Weave
Part 7. Helluland, Markland and Vinland
Maps: Partial Map Listing for the Last Viking
Postscript 1: A Fir Tree of the Mind (pdf)
Postscript 2: RongoRongo and the Raven's Tail
OTHER: Easter Island Stone Structures
Copyright © 1999. John N. Harris, M.A. Last
Updated July 4, 2004. Links updated March 24, 2009.