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قراءة كتاب Throwing-sticks in the National Museum Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1883-'84, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1890, pages 279-289

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Throwing-sticks in the National Museum
Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1883-'84, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1890, pages 279-289

Throwing-sticks in the National Museum Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1883-'84, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1890, pages 279-289

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 4

seal-harpoon darts. Mr. Dall collected a large number of two-pegged sticks from Nunivak Island and four three-pegged sticks labeled the same. Mr. Nelson also collected four three-pegged sticks, but labels them Kushunuk; Cape Vancouver, on the mainland opposite Nunivak (Fig. 17). In these three-pegged sticks the ring-finger and the little finger are inclosed together. This should be compared with Mr. Turner's Saint Michael specimen, in which the last three fingers are inclosed together (Fig. 14). It remains to be seen and is worthy of investigation whether crossing a narrow channel would add a peg to the throwing-stick. One of these Nunivak specimens is left-handed.


The throwing-stick from Bristol Bay resembles in general characteristics those from Nunivak Island and Cape Vancouver. In outline it has the shape of the broadsword. Its cross-section is bayonet-shaped. It has no distinct handle beyond a slight projection from the end. The thumb-groove is shallow and chamfered on the lower side to fit exactly. There is a long, continuous notch for the four fingers, in which the index finger and the middle finger are set off by pegs. There is a depression, more or less profound, to receive the tips of the fingers. The groove for the harpoon or spear-shaft is at the lower extremity and runs out entirely near the index finger. The ivory plug at its lower extremity is beveled to receive a notch in the end of the spear or harpoon shaft (Figs. 18-19).

A freshly-made implement, looking as if cut out by machinery, resembling closely those just described, is labeled Kadiak. The constant traffic between Bristol Bay and Kadiak, across the Alaskan peninsula, may account for the great similarity of these implements. Furthermore, since the natives in this region and southward have been engaged for more than a century in fur-sealing for the whites, there is not the slightest doubt that implements made by whites have been introduced and slightly modified by the wearer to fit his hand.


In the National Museum are four throwing-sticks, one of them left-handed, exactly alike—two of them marked Kadiak and two Unalashka (Figs. 20-22). They return to the more primitive type of the area from Kotzebue Sound to Greenland, indicating that the implement culminated in Norton Sound. In outline this southern form is thin and straight-sided, and those in possession are all of hard wood. The back is carved in ridges to fit the palm of the hand and muscles of the thumb. There is no thumb-groove, the eccentric index-finger hole of the Northern and Eastern Eskimo is present in place of the central cavity of the area from Kotzebue Sound to Cape Vancouver, and there is a slight groove for the middle finger. Marks 5 and 6 are wanting. The shaft-groove is very slight, even at its lower extremity, and runs out in a few inches toward the handle. The hook for the end of the weapon resembles that of Nunivak, but is more rounded at the point. Of the Eskimo of Prince William Sound, the extreme southern area of the Eskimo on the Pacific, Captain Cook says, in the narrative of his last voyage: "Their longer darts are thrown by means of a piece of wood about a foot long, with a small groove in the middle which receives the dart. At the bottom is a hole for the reception of one finger, which enables them to grasp the piece of wood much firmer and to throw with greater force." Captain Cook's implement corresponds exactly to the specimens just described and renders it probable that this thin, parallel-sided, shallow-grooved throwing-stick, with index-finger hole placed at one side of the spear-shaft groove, extended all along the southern border of Eskimoland as far as the Aleuts of Unalashka and Attoo. In addition to the information furnished by the specimens in hand, Dr. Stejneger describes a similar stick in use in the island of Attoo. On the contrary, Mr. Elliott assures me that Aleutian fur-sealers of Pribylov Island use throwing-sticks precisely similar to those of Norton Sound and Nunivak.

This list might be extended further by reference to authorities, but that is from the purpose of this article and the series of ethnological papers commenced in this volume. The most perfect throwing-stick of all is that of the Mahlemut, in Norton Sound, in which are present the handle, thumb-groove, finger-grooves, and pegs, cavities for the finger-tips, index finger cavity, shaft-groove, and hook for the harpoon. In short, all the characteristics present on the rest are combined here.

Classifications of these implements may be varied according to the organ selected. As to the hook for the attachment of the weapon, in Greenland this is on the shaft, in all other parts of the world it is on the throwing-stick. As to the index finger, there is for its reception, from Point Barrow to Greenland, an eccentric hole quite through which the finger passes. From Kotzebue Sound to Norton Sound there is a central pocket on the back of the weapon, directly under the groove, for the shaft of the weapon to receive the index finger. From Cape Vancouver to Bristol Bay an ivory or wooden peg serves this purpose. At Kadiak and Unalashka the eccentric index-finger hole returns.

It is more than probable that further investigation will destroy some of the types herein enumerated or merge two more of them into one; but it will not destroy the fact that in changing from one environment to another the hyperboreans were driven to modify their throwing-stick.

A still more interesting inquiry is that concerning the origin of the implement. It is hardly to be supposed that the simplest type, that of Anderson River, was invented at once in its present form, for the Australian form is ruder still, having neither hole for the index finger nor groove for the weapon shaft. When we recall that the chief benefit conferred by the throwing-stick is the ability to grasp firmly and launch truly a greasy weapon from a cold hand, we naturally ask, have the Eskimo any other device for the same purpose? They have. On the shaft of the light-seal harpoon, thrown without the stick, and on the heavy, ivory-weighted walrus-harpoon-shaft an ivory hand-rest is lashed just behind the center of gravity. This little object is often beautifully carved and prevents effectually the hand from slipping on the shaft, even with the greatest lunge of the hunter. From this object to the throwing-stick the way may be long and crooked, or there may be no way at all. So far as the National Museum is concerned there is nothing to guide us over this waste of ignorance.


No. Locality. Collector.


Norton's Sound, Alaska

E.W. Nelson.
30013 Cumberland Gulf W.A. Mintzner, U.S.N.
33942 Norton's Sound, Alaska E.W. Nelson.
33897 do. Do.
33960 do. Do.
24336 Saint Michael's Sound, Alaska Lucien M. Turner.
24337 do. Do.