Circum-Polar Kayak Types: An Illustration of What is (and Was)Where.
by Harvey Golden, 2021
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 the Russian Far East: The Koryak, the Chukchi, and the Yuit. In North America, the kayaks of two main cultures are represented: The Aleuts (Unangan), and the broader Inuit-Yup'ik cultural sphere. 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. 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).
|1.||Koryak Kayak; Sea of Okhotsk and shores of Kamchatka. ~1910|
Siberian Yuit. ~1910
Inland Chukchi; Anadyr Basin. ~1880
Maritime Chukchi; Anadyr Gulf. ~1880
Okvik/Old Bering Sea; N. Chukchi Penin. ~0 c.e.
Punuk Phase; St. Lawrence Island. ~1000 c.e.
Unangan (Aleutian) ~1800s *
Sugpiaq; Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak Is. & Prince William Sound. ~1800s *
Bristol Bay/Aglurmiut. ~1800s
Bering Sea Yup'ik; Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, and Nunivak Island Cup'ik ~1800s
Norton Sound Unaligmiut (Yup'ik) ~1800s
Norton Sound/South Seward Peninsula Yup'ik ~1800s
Bering Straits/King Island Inupiaq ~1800s *
Bering Straits/North Seward Peninsula Inupiaq ~1800s
Kotzebue Sound-North Alaska Inupiaq. ~1800s **
Point Barrow Inupiaq (Possible Inland variation). ~1800s **
MacKenzie River Delta Inuit (Siglit). ~1800s
Copper Inuit; Coronation Gulf/inland. ~1900
Nattilingmiut; King William. Is./Boothia Pen. vicin. ~1900
Caribou Inuit; W. Hudson Bay. ~early 1900s
Aivilingmiut/Iglulik (maritime kayak). ~1900
Aivilingmiut/Iglulik (inland kayak). ~pre 1870s
East Hudson Bay Inuit/Belcher Islands. ~1900s *
North Baffin Is. Iglulingmiut. ~1900s **
Hudson Straits, South Baffin, Labrador Inuit. ~1900
Polar Greenland (Inuhuit). 1860s-~1900
Polar Greenland (Inuhuit). ~1900+-1950s
Polar Greenland (Inuhuit). 1950s to present
Thule Culture (Punuk Influence); Upernavik. ~1200s-1300s c.e.
Thule Culture (Birnirk Influence); Polar Greenland. ~1000-1300 c.e.
West Greenland; Northwest. ~1600s-1900s
West Greenland; Central Coast(?) ~1600s
West Greenland; Northwest. ~1900s
West Greenland; Entire West Coast(?) ~late 1700s-1900
West Greenland; Central Coast. ~1600s
West Greenland; South West Coast. ~1850s-1950s
West Greenland; Entire Coast. "Rolling Kayak" ~1990s-present
South Greenland. ~1800s-1900s
East Greenland. Ammassalik vicin. ~1800s-1900.
East Greenland. Ammassalik vicin. ~1900-1980s. **
Eugene Arima, 1975: A Contextual Study of the Caribou Eskimo Kayak
Eugene Arima, 1987: Inuit Kayaks in Canada
Franz Boas, 1901-07: The Eskimo of Baffin Land and Hudson Bay
Howard Chapelle, 1964: The Bark Canoes and Skinboats of North America
Harvey Golden, 2006: Kayaks of Greenland
Harvey Golden, 2015: Kayaks of Alaska
John Heath, 1978: Some Comparative Notes on Kayak Form and Construction
John Murdoch, 1888: The Point Barrow Eskimo
Edward Nelson, 1899: The Eskimo About Bering Straits
H. C. Petersen, 1986: Skinboats of Greenland
David Zimmerly, 2000: Qayaq: Kayaks of Alaska and Siberia