Friday, January 07, 2005

Bering Sea Cultures

The movement of southern peoples into Arctic areas like the Bering Sea possibly did not start with the Nusantao. There is a leading theory that the Jomon originated in the south and eventually migrated into the Siberia region.

The Sundadont dental pattern is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia, probably specifically Sundaland. The Jomon were strongly Sundadont. They had other anthropological and cultural traits pointing to the south. Some cultures in contemporary southern coastal China and Vietnam had similarities to Jomon culture.

At least 17,000 years ago, the Jomon had reached Japan. Despite their probable southern origins they were able to proceed further northward into the cold expanse of Siberia. The Jomon were a maritime culture and practiced shellfish gathering and sea/aquatic mammal hunting. In other words, they were very similar to the Nusantao who followed them.

Hunting sea mammals provided skins and blubber that were important in surviving in the Arctic. The Nusantao practice of building on mounds eventually led to semi-subterranean structures, according to Russian researchers, that also helped in adapting to extreme cold weather environments. The Arctic maritime people built both semi-subterranean homes and plank-built longhouses.

Shellfish were available everywhere even in places where agriculture was impossible as long as the sea or a river was available and this was yet another advantage in migrating northward.

The early Bering Sea and Eskimo/Inuit cultures appear to have been influenced by the Nusantao in the same way as the Shandong and Yayoi cultures.

We find shell middens with net sinkers, fish hooks, toggling harpoons, projectile points and other implements similar to those used further south. There are similar designs on paddle-stamped pottery. This type of pottery was also found in Neolithic Southeast Asia.

Old Bering Sea paddle-stamped pottery with "lizard man" and sun designs

Jade and nephrite was was used, and some of this likely came from the Yangtze delta, the major source for eastern Asia. A peculiar motif that occurs in the Lianzhu culture of the Yangtze Delta known as the taotie is of particular interest. The taotie is a stylized "face" with circle dot eyes (a sun symbol).

Taotie face with circle dot eyes from Liangzhu culture, Yangtze delta, Neolithic

Lapita pottery

Bronze age axe from Roti, Indonesia

Tunghat "winged" design on Old Bering Sea harpoon

The winged design of the Tunghat above has been compared to the bicephalous Sisiutl motif of the maritime Northwest coast Kwakwaka'wakw Indians. The winged and bicephalous designs are similar to those found on lingling-o and the bicephalous pendants of the Sa-Huynh-Kalanay culture of Southeast Asia, which we have noted was a middle period Nusantao derivative.

Sisiutl of Kwakwaka'wakw Nation

Bicephalous lingling-o

"Winged" and other Lingling-o (

The movement to the north also appears to have brought the bifid ship construction used by Arctic and sub-Arctic maritime cultures. This particular technology together with lashed-lug construction appears even much further away in Scandinavia, something we will deal with later in this blog.

Als boat from Denmark (

Paul Kekai Manansala