Circum-Polar Kayak Types: An Illustration of What is (and was)Where.
by Harvey Golden, 2007

I've long been fascinated by the diversity of Arctic kayak forms, and with the challenges, issues, and concepts regarding the creation of a general typology of these forms. Other researchers have offered up typologies of kayaks before, so this is building on previous
works. I have added occasional new types based on my own museum studies and readings, and have chosen to present the typology with illustrations keyed to a map. This typology is not broken down into sub-types, nor is it meant to stratify levels of development or suggest trends of influence; it is not a family tree. The naming of the various forms brings up challenges as well: I have tried to steer away from specific local names in cases where the form extends well beyond that location.

This typology conveys a general 'what and where,' but I am also interested in temporal aspects: the question of 'when.' This third
angle complicates the goal, but it also allows for the consideration of prehistoric and/or extinct varieties of kayaks. Inevitably, having a broad temporal scope allows for enormous gaps where such information is lacking. The dates given in the notes below are very general: They sometimes offer a range (if known), and sometimes just a segment of time during which one might have seen a particular kayak. In no way are they meant to categorically narrow down the presence of a kayak type.

The kayaks in this typology represent three cultures in Siberia: The Koryak, the Chukchi, and the Yuit (related to Alaskan Yupik,
a sub-group of Inuit/Eskimo). In North America, the kayaks of two main cultures are represented: The Aleuts (Unangan), and the Inuit/Eskimo. The latter group can be sub-divided into Yupik and Inupiaq/Inuit, sub-groups often referred to as Western Inuit and Eastern Inuit. Several pre-historic kayak types are also depicted (based on models excavated at archaeological sites.) Please note general references at the bottom of the page: See Bibliography for full notes. This is very much a work in progress, and I suspect the information here will be modified over time with regards to consistency, accuracy, and practicality.

Note:Clicking on images of kayaks below will send you to a representative replica of each (if built).
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1. Koryak Kayak; Sea of Okhotsk and shores of Kamchatka. ~1910
2.
Siberian Yuit. ~1910
3.
Inland Chukchi; Anadyr Basin. ~1880
4.
Maritime Chukchi; Anadyr Gulf. ~1880
5.
Okvik/Old Bering Sea; N. Chukchi Penin. ~0 c.e.
6.
Punuk Phase; St. Lawrence Island. ~1000 c.e.
7.
Unangan (Aleut). ~1800s *
8.
Sugpiaq-Alutiiq; Kodiak Is. to Prince William Sound. ~1800s *
(commonly referred to as 'Kodiak kayak')
9.
Bristol Bay/Aglurmiut. ~1800s
10.
Bering Sea Yupik; Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. ~1800s
11.
Unaligmiut (Norton Sound Yupik). ~1800s
12.
Norton Sound/South Seward Peninsula. ~1800s
13.
Bering Straits/King Island Inupiaq. ~1800s *
14.
Bering Straits/North Seward Peninsula. ~1800s
15.
Kotzebue Sound-North Alaska Inupiaq. ~1800s **
16.
Point Barrow Inupiaq (Possible Inland variation). ~1800s **
17.
MacKenzie River Delta Inuit. ~1800s
18.
Copper Inuit; Coronation Gulf/inland. ~1900
19.
Nattilingmiut; King Wm. Isl./Boothia Pen. vicin. ~1900
20.
Caribou Inuit. Baker Lake-Kazan Riv. & W. Hudson Bay. ~early 1900s
21.
Aivilingmiut/Iglulik (Open Water kayak). ~1900
22.
Aivilingmiut/Iglulik (Inland kayak). ~pre 1870s
23.
East Hudson Bay/Belcher Islands. ~1900s *
24.
North Baffin Is./Modern Iglulik. ~1900s **
25.
Hudson Straits, South Baffin, Labrador. ~1900
26.
Polar Greenland (Inuhuit). 1860s-~1900
27.
Polar Greenland (Inuhuit). ~1900+-1950s
28.
Polar Greenland (Inuhuit). 1950s to present
29.
Thule Culture (Punuk Influence); Upernavik. ~1200s-1300s c.e.
30.
Thule Culture (Birnirk Influence); Polar Greenland. ~1000-1300 c.e.
31.
West Greenland; Northwest. ~1600s-1900s
32.
West Greenland; Central Coast(?) ~1600s
33.
West Greenland; Northwest. ~1900s
34.
West Greenland; Entire West Coast(?) ~late 1700s-1900
35.
West Greenland; Central Coast. ~1600s
36.
West Greenland; South West Coast. ~1850s-1950s
37.
West Greenland; Entire Coast. "Rolling Kayak" ~1990s-present
38.
South Greenland. ~1800s-1900s
39.
East Greenland. Ammassalik vicin. ~1800s-1900.
40.
East Greenland. Ammassalik vicin. ~1900-1980s. **
*= Multi-cockpit versions represented in Museum Collections
**= Shorter 'retrieval'/ice-floe hunting versions represented in museums.
(C) Harvey Golden, 2007

MAIN REFERENCES: (go to Bibliography to see full entries).
Arima, 1975, 1987; Boas, 1901-07; Golden, 2006; Heath 1975, 1978; Nelson, 1899; Zimmerly, 2000.

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