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The boat peoples that emerged in the lands released from the grip of the glaciers did not expand just to the east to the Ural Mountains and  beyond to the Ob River basin, but also towards the north. The land was so water-filled that it was possible to travel easily by boat to the White Sea. The peoples who did so were obviously descended from the archeological "Kunda Culture" originally established up the east coast of the swollen Baltic Sea, which extended up into Finland. The artifacts from the Kunda Culture offered not just stone adzes for making dugouts, but also large harpoons suggesting these people had learned how to go out into the sea and hunt sea mammals like seals. Naturally such people, being accustomed now to hunting in the open seas, would be more interested in expanding into further open sea, than returning to marshes and lakes. This produced a branch of the Kunda Culture that reached the White Sea and from there continued west to the bountiful waters of arctic Norway, warmed by the Gulf Stream reaching there. And from there the seagoing boat culture spread around the arctic ocean and south along the ocean coasts, possibly following whale migrations

The Kunda Culture Branching North to the Arctic Ocean


    The Kunda Culture, already discussed earlier, along with the Maglemose Culture, not only expanded east as far as the Urals, but also branched northward. In this article we will present the quite amazing story of expansion from the prehistoric Baltic Sea to Lake Onega, then White Sea, then arctic Norway facilitated by the invention of the skin boat because trees large enough for seagoing dugouts were not available.
    The following archeological map of cultures was presented earlier. It shows how archeologists have categorized the artifacts they have unearthed and the locations they were found.

Figure 1

    Note that archeology names material cultures according to ways in which people adapted to new environments. It did not mean the people or culture changed significantly.         Note first the 'official' Kunda Culture shown in vertical hatching. Note they have identified the same artifacts at the end of the Dvina River overlapping the Kama cross-hatched area. Given that there were boat peoples, that means in fact, the entire Divna contained the Kunda Culture. Furthermore the Volga, and Kama cultures would have been descended from it - unless they are more directly connected to the Maglemose culture of the south Baltic, not shown. But then how different was the Maglemose and Kunda Cultures from each other. They overlap at the southeast Baltic.
    In terms of the story of the expansion of the Kunda Culture into the arctic, the relevant culture is the one at the top of Norway, the Komsa Culture. As we will see below, they must have arisen from the practice of the Kunda Culture descendants at Lake Onega from making annual journeys to the White Sea and further, to harvest the waters of arctic Norway, warmed by the Gulf Stream (or "North Atlantic Drift") As we will see, rock carvings show the same skin boat with moose-head prow at the Norwegian arctic coast as in rock carvings at the White Sea and at Lake Onega south of the White Sea.
  Rock carvings found at the Norwegian island of Sørøya, show images of a light dugout, too small for ocean waves, but also a high-prowed vessel with a moose-head prow  These people obviousy also had dugouts, but, like the Khanti dugouts, were too small to navigate in open seas. Possibly the Inuit kayak , which enclosed the top to allow waves to break over the top, was in effect an adaptation of the tiny one-person northern dugout, to deal with high waves and these could be built without need for any tree.
    These details practically prove their utlimate Kunda Culture origins.for the peoples who visited arctic Norway,
    Thus to be correct, the map should show the Kunda Culture extending north from Lake Onega to the White Sea and then west to arctic Norway.
    While some archeologists have suggested the Komsa people and others who left rock carvings on arctic islands, came up the Norwegian coasts,  why would they travel north in ocean waves along a forbidding shore with glaciers. It is possible but unlikely. Origins from the east, from the White Sea, is proven from the locations of the rock carvings showing the moosehead prow skin boats. Furthermore, along the entire way, seahunters will be invited to continue from the bounty of sea life. If one came up the Norwegian coast, there would not be much that is exciting until they got north of the Lofotens, where the regions were affected by the warmed waters,
     The following Figure 2, presents a map intended to depict this expansion into the arctic seas: It presents a fourth step in the expansion of boat peoples depicted on maps in Figure 2 of the last chapter (2. ORIGINS AND EXPANSION) which focuses on the expansion eastward to the Urals through rivers. 
  It is because of the glaciers and glacier meltwaters along the arctic coast, that the story of the expansion into the arctic occurs a little later than the expansion to the Urals and beyond. 
    This map assumes tha the reindeer and reindeer people have arrived in the north as well. The story of the reindeer and reindeer people is still unclear, since the movement of reindeer to arctic Scandinavia was dependent on the shriking of the glaciers, to expose tundra along the arctic coast along which the reindeer could travel. For a time since 10,000 years ago the world climate was warmer than today and glaciers were still only half-melted, and the tundra may have been swamped with glacial meltwater.

. Figure 2

   It is unclear if European reindeer herds migrated north through the mountains, because for a long time the glaciers covered the mountains. Reindeer can survive in mountains but have to be able to paw through snow to get at lichens. As long as there were thick glacial fields reindeer could not survive. But recently, the science of population genetics has discovered the N-halogroup carried by men, generation after generation, and since it shifted north since the Ice Age, and today is most common in peoples descended from reindeer people, the N-haplogroup frequencies are a trail of the migration and diffusion of men with ancestry in Asian reindeer people.
   The migration of reindeer westward from the polar Urals along with the reindeer people carrying the Y-DNA N1c1-haplogroup suggests reindeer migrations westward from the vicinity of the polar section of the Ural Mountains. The reindeer people with this N1c1-haplogroup would have followed. (The entry of this haplogroup into men of Finno-Ugric cultures would have occurred from some of these reindeer people converting to the boat people way of life, and becoming a part of it, diffising their genetics both east-to-west from the Urals and north-south from northern Finland. Language change too would have occurred from this, contrary to the traditional explanations.)
    This westward migration of the reindeer and Asian reindeer peoples could not have occurred until both the glaciers and the glacial lakes were gone, since although reindeer can move over ice in winter, for food, they need to be able to paw through the snow to find lichens. Marshy lands do not have lichens. More carelul study of the withdrawal of the glaciers and glacial lakes and their timing, can in future provide more clarity to when the reindeer hunters arrived in arctic Scandinavia.
    Obviously the arrival of boat peoples in the arctic waters also required the disappearance of glaciers in the seas around the White Sea.  Because waters warmed by the Gulf Stream arriving in arctic Scandinavia tempered the climate, the glaciers would have disappeared there first. That is the reason we date the expansion to the arctic beginning about 6,000 years ago.
   As I said above, eventually some of the Lake Onega sea-hunters stopped returning south in Fall and remained permanently in the north. They would have changed to making boats out of reindeer hide (boats seen in Alta carvings), or walrus hide. Walrus hide skin boats were used in recent history by the Inuit, therefore, at some point walrus skins were used, and the Inuit culture may have arisen from it. (We explore this in the next chapter.)  
"Maglemose" to "Kunda" Culture: From Marshes to Seas

    Archeologist Richard Indreko discovered in the early 1900's on a hill (that was originally an island) at Kunda in northeast Estonia, evidence of a campsite of boat peoples who were obviously venturing out into the open sea.  We know they were dugout users, because archeologists found large adzes. But their large harpoons clearly suggested they were hunting large sea animals like seals or small whales.Kunda tools

Figure 3

From the "Kunda"archeological finds, the image at right shows a large harpoon and an adze head -used for hollowing a log for a dugout with the help of fire. I suggests the Kunda Culture hunted seals and whales and would have needed large dugouts like the ones unearthed later, which held six men and a helmsmen

    To hunt seals and larger sea animals required venturing out into the waves of the sea, and that required larger dugouts with high prows.  These people had to look for the largest trees they could find - giant trees  a meter or more in diameter.  In Estonia in the last centuries, large oaks are celebrated.  I think the tradition of celebrating oaks began millenia ago, when a tribe would identify oaks that looked like they had potential of becoming very large, and suitable for making into a large dugout. Since such a tree takes a many generations to grow to the appropriate size, it was necessary for a tribe to designate a tree for making into a dugout already many generations ahead of time. As the world turned towards making boats with planks, the purpose of reverence for trees destined for large dugouts was forgotten.
    But why did the "Maglemose" culture become seagoing when it expanded up the east Baltic coast. I think it is because of the prevailing winds.  The winds came from the northwest, and large waves were always crashing onto the east Baltic coasts. While boats could find calm in the less of islands, when they crossed waters roughened by the forces of the prevailing wind, the going was rough. It was natural for the people to make larger and larger dugouts. At the same time crashing waves tended to produce barren rock islands out in the sea which could have been the resting places of herds of seals. Perhaps there were beluga whales as well.
     The "Kunda" seagoing dugout of about 10,000BC, was a successful one, and its users no doubt expanded into Lake Lagoda and Lake Onega too. The land was still depressed from the former weight of the glaciers, and  it was probably possible to ride a boat from the Baltic Sea area to the White Sea.
    It is easy to imagine that once the large dugouts had developed, with population growth, the "Kunda" culture tribe broke apart from time to time, with a portion leaving the parental territories in search of new territories of a similar nature in the sea environment.
    Archeology has found the remains of a large dugout in the Jutland Penisula area. This dugout had a place for a torch and is thought to have been used to harvest eels at night. We cannot tell if the eel hunters came from the "Kunda" culture, or developed independently out of the "Maglemose" culture, similarly drawn out into the sea by opportunities.
    Eventually large dugouts were common in the Baltic Sea.  Archeological finds suggest that the standard large dugout of the east Baltic was large enough for three pairs of rowers and one helmsman, totalling seven men. If the boat had to carry cargo, the cargo was placed in the middle, and two rowers were removed, leaving five. It is interesting that Estonian and Finnish remembers this in their numerals. (Using the Estonian version) the word for 7 is seitse, but that resonates with  sõiduse 'of the riding, voyaging'  and 5 is viis, which resonates with viise 'of the carrying'. Because both Estonian and Finnish have it, this must be many millenia old.
    The breakaways from the "Kunda" culture had to travel to find new territories with the same sea animals.  The seas were higher than they are now (or rather the lands were lower, not having rebounded yet from the pressure of the Ice Age glaciers.) and the Gulf of Finland, Lake Lagoda, Lake Onega, and even White Sea were interconnected.
    We do not know where the sea-hunters went, as it is difficult to find the traces of highly mobile boat peoples in lands that were mostly islands in a flooded landscape.  The best evidence comes from carvings made on rocks at Lake Onega, the White Sea, and in places across arctic Scandinavia.
    These migrating tribes had no problem finding the sea animals. The real problem was in finding trees large enough for seagoing dugouts. The further north they went the smaller the trees were. Like today's Khanti. they could only make small single person dugouts. Either they had to make long journeys southward to find large trees to make new seagoing dugouts as the old ones degenerated, or they had to find a new way to make boats large enough to handle the waves of the open sea.
    I believe the solution was found in what I would call the "dugout moose".
    Moose are large animals that can cross large bodies of water, and will do so as long as they can see the opposite side. A swimming moose would seem like a very large moving log. I believe it inspired the idea of using a moose carcass to make a boat.
      The rock carvings of Lake Onega, north to the White Sea, and across the European arctic to the coasts of arctic Norway show a very interesting boat. The simplest and smallest one shows a moosehead on its prow, and it holds no more than three men. When comparing the scale of people versus the size of the head on the prow, it is clear that what they have done is in fact created a "dugout moose". They have taken a moose carcass, slit it open along its back, and 'hollowed' it To retain its shape, they have simply used the same principle as the moose itself has  to hold its shape - ribs. It is possible that the earliest and simplest "dugout moose" retained the moose's own ribcage. I can easily see them using the moose's own skeleton - adding wood pieces to give it an appropriate shape. Then using fire and smoke to dry and preserve the inside. The final result is a boat which is a dugout moose mummified and hardened by drying with fire.  The resulting boat offered a very high prow that could handle high waves.
    Figure 4
Theory by Andres Paabo
Khanti Skin Boat
Fig 4A:
The concept of the original boat did not involve frames and skins. All boats were dugout logs. The dugout is still made by the Khanti of the Ob (image at right is from a Lennart Meri film produced in Estonia in the 80's) However this dugout is small because at the northern edge of the forest zone, the trees are too small to make large seaworthy dugouts.

Fig 4B:
A small dugout like the one of the Khanti is seen in the top image in the rock carving from arctic Norway, dated to some 6000 years ago. But this small dugout was not adequate for dealing with the high waves of the ocean, The image below it show the skin boat made from moose hide, the moose head represented on the prow.

Boat people who wanted to harvest the arctic,  could not use the slim dugouts made from the small northern trees. They had to develop something new. My theory is that it began with someone's idea of trying to make a dugout from a dead moose carcass.

From Lake Onega Carvings
Fig 4C

The Lake Onega
rock carvings present several examples showing the small moose skin boat being used in sea-hunting.  Allowing for some variation by the artist, the scale of the moose head  is generally of natural size, when compared with the size of the two or three people inside.

Moose-European Elk
Fig 4D-E
All the skin-on-frame boats of the world owe their origins to this beginning, which I believe began with applying the concept of the dugout to a moose carcass. The idea may have begun with someone seeing a moose swimming and initially thinking it was a large floating log. Coming close they discover it is a moose; however the idea of making a large boat was already planted in their mind and they wondered if a boat could be made from it. In the beginning the idea of a skin on a frame did not exist. It was born when the concept of the moose's ribs was employed to hold the skin in shape.

moose-skin boat
Note that the moose has a massive body giving a great deal of skin that can be stretched to create a boat large enough to hold three men.
Since the moose (shown above) is a forest zone animal, the use of the moose meant that its users did not remain in the arctic, but migrated between the arctic coast and forested regions.  It is interesting that the Lake Onega carvings show no images of moose with antlers. Since males grow antlers in summer and shed them in fall, it follows that the Lake Onega people were in the Lake Onega area only in winter-spring. They then left for the arctic, perhaps going as far as Alta, and did not experience the moose with antlers. The Alta rock carvings also show boats with reindeer heads. It suggests that those people who DID stay in the arctic, and did not return south, used the reindeer as a substitute, sewing many skins together.

The next step was of course the enlarging of this boat, to hold many more people. The obvious way to enlarge it was to simply sew skins together and make it longer. The following images compares a rock carving of a large boat at Lake Onega, with a typical UMIAK of the Alaskan Inuit. The umiak shown was made of walrus skins, but it gives an idea of  size. Walrus skin was discovered to be a better skin than reindeer skim, for those peoples who stayed in the arctic and did not descend south in winter to the forested regions where moose were found.

Fig. 4F

Onega boat vs Umiak

   This, I believe, was the beginning of all the subsequent boats that have ever been built - up to the oceanliners of modern day - based on the principle of putting a skin on a frame. The greatest oceanliner on earth starts 10,000 years ago with a moose swimming across a lake and being initially mistakened for a floating log.
    The "dugout moose" was just the beginning. As the rock carvings also show, pieces of skin could be sewn together, and more frame added, in order to create a long boat capable of holding 20-50 people.  See the story of the development of the skin boat from dugout precedents in the below information box.

Rock Carvings Showing Whale Hunting in the White Sea as Early as 5000-6000 Years Ago


    The skin boat was designed to deal with the high waves of the open sea. By lengthening the boat it could hold more people, and a large boat with many people was needed to catch the ultimate of sea creatures - the whale.

Figure 5

Onega boat
The Lake Onega rock carvings large boat, obviously made of skins on a frame. The moose head, perhaps now carved of wood instead of a mummified real head is seen at the front. At the front of this image  we see what is pobably a seal.

     The arctic boat people who developed whale hunting, not only created large boats, but their quest for whales took them far into the sea, as they searched for whales. Only those sea people willing to take on whales would ride the open sea as boldly as the whales themselves.  These people would have travelled from the White Sea region, both eastward and westward along the arctic coasts.
    But whales voyage long distances, and peoples who had developed whaling skills, would have expanded into the large scale world of the whales. They would have followed whale migrations south along the Atlantic. They would have found whales congregating at Greenland, and travelling up and down the east coast of North America. There were whales, seals, and walrus as well to be found in arctic North America. If these people reached the Pacific, they would also have found whales, and come south along both Pacific coasts.
    Did  these people carry with them the language spoken in the original Kunda Culture regions, today surviving within Estonian and Finnish?  We will explore this question in a separate language to keep archeological and linguistic discussions separate.
    How do we know that that some of these moosehead skin boat peoples, of Lake Onega origins, mastered whaling? The proof is starkly evident in rock carvings found at the While Sea.   The most amazing rock picture is the one shown below (presented here intepreted in black and white, with the whale hunting event set appart from other elements around it for clarity.)

Figure 6-7

Whale hunting from moose-skin boats,  probably on the White Sea (in today's arctic Russia, north of Lake Onega).  (Light grey restores missing, worn, sections) This image is developed from the fuller rock carvings site shown below.


White Sea whale hunting

    The above illustration is very surprising, because it first of all proves that the large boat shown in the Lake Onega rock carvings in Figure 5, is not some kind of fantasy boat, as early archeologists said. It really existed. Note especially the small boats accompanyng the large one. Apparently when the whale was entrapped, an individual in a small boat would go to the eye of the whale, get into the water, and speak to it, gain its approval and willingness to give up its life.
     The White Sea illustration does not show anything imaginary. It shows the same activity as witnessed in the 18th century and recorded in the following illustration.

    Figure 8

Greenland Inuit Whale Hunting

Greenland 'Eskimo'  clans meeting to hunt whales
from Description de histoire naturelle du Groenland, by Hans Egede, tr. D.R.D.P. Copenhagen and Geneva, Frere Philibert (This image derived from  Canada's First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from earliest times by O. P. Dickason, Toronto, 1992)

   There is no question that the Greenland Inuit continued a practice that began some 5000-6000 years earlier,  at the White Sea with earlier precedents with smaller whales perhaps in the "Kunda" culture at Lake Onega and/or the prehistoric Baltic..
     The Illustration of the Greenland Inuit shows only one large boat in the foreground, but I think that is purely artistic liberty. The artist sought to show everything in one image. The important part of the illustration is that there are three large boats in the background, a total of four boats. Each boat probably represents a clan. A tribe consisted of several clans. For most of the year, each clan travelled by themselves in their own territories, but the clans came together once a year to carry out activities that were better done collectively. It happens that whales congregated off the shore of Greenland.
    The lack of a head on the prow of the skin boats in the more recent illustration means the use of moose skins had long ended since a portion of the the Lake Onega boat peoples remained in the north (the Komsa Culture), The skins of these boats may have been made from  whale skins (?). Secondly, I believe the skins were removed from the frames and used for shelters like we seem to find on the island to the left. (See EXPLAINING LONGHOUSE "FOUNDATIONS" ON LABRADOR COAST  for a more detailed discussion)

Sea Hunters of the North Atlantic

  As discussed earlier, aboriginal peoples, whether in the interior or on the seas, did not wander aimlessly, but established annual rounds, visiting the same campsites again and again every year, and each tribe established this round and the harvesting sites as their 'territory'. 
    We discussed earlier how interior boat peoples, settled on river systems, each extended family or clan, assuming one of the branches of the river as their territory, and then every year all the clans travelled down the river at an established time and place, to live for a time all clans together, all the clans of the river forming a tribe.
    Organizing according to rivers was not possible for seagoing peoples. Since the boats were mainly paddled and not dependent on wind, the annual rounds of seagoing clans, would have been defined by ocean currents.
cycle of sea peoples

    Whale hunting tribal territories would have developed according to the behaviour of whales and not just ocean currents (What point are currents if they don't take boats to the hunting/fishing places?). Whales migrated up and down Atlantic coasts, both on the European side and the American side.  Obviously tribes on one side would in the long run diverge from those on the other side, as a result of reduced contact. When the whale hunting culture reached the Pacific, it would also have descended down the Pacific coast, that also has whale migrations. They could have descended as far south as California, since whales did. If you are a whale hunter, would you not wonder where they went, and try to follow them?
    Evidence  that whale-hunting boat peoples associated with North America came ultimately from the White Sea culture, is proven by not just whale hunting traditions - which cannot be easily aquired - but by the appearance of words that also appear in Estonian and Finnish. But the linguistic evidence will be reserved for a companion article to keep the archeological and linguistic story separate.
     While whales and the search for large sea animals in general, like also seals and walrus, may have been the original reason for boldly venturing into the open sea (quite scarey until one is used to it), once there, the sea-going hunters also had access to new places to pursue walrus., seals, and fish, and that would have caused the culture to flourish and expand in some places, even without whales.
     What evidence can there be found for seagoing boat peoples that did not pursue whaling? 

Alta Norway, a Major Location that Was a Multi-tribe Meeting Place and Launching Place for Sea Voyages


    Alta, Norway is a location that must have been the  meeting place for many tribes - tribes who were indigenous and harvested the seas, tribes who arrived seasonally from the interior, and possibly visitors from farther away.  The nature practice of nomadic peoples gathering regularly at established congregating places was discussed earlier. Not just the gathering of clans that comprised a tribe, but in loctions accessible by neighbouring tribes, multitribe gathering sites became established everywhere among the boat peoples, both seagoing or interior boat peoples.
      Evidence that Alta Norway was a multi-tribe gathering site is evident from the wide variety of images found on its granite cliffs, not just in terms of subject matter but also artistic style.
    The visitors, finding granite hills engraved with carvings, would have added their own at every visit. Such places where many tribes congregate, to trade, exchange news,  socialize, and engage in common festivals are well known throughout the world of northern hunting peoples.
       The Lake Onega region was one such place where many tribes congregated. The region at the mouth of the Vistula another. It is  possible to predict such locations according to the organization of water systems. Such locations appear in archeological investigations as different archeological "cultures" overlapping in that area, suggesting they came together, camped near one another. It is in such locations that sites of religious/spiritual nature can be found.
    Figure 10


    The Alta area has  granite ridges, and because granite is hard, it has been determined that the carvings are between 6200-2000 years old. This means it was begun by the earliest skin boat peoples who visited the warmed waters off the coast - waters warmed by the North Altantic Drift that reached the arctic Norwegian coast. 
    But the Alta site continued to recieve tribes both from along the coast and from the interior, as suggested by the fact that carvings are as new as 2000 years ago with some examples as late as 500 years ago. One can argue that a site that starts a tradtion of rock carvings both attracts more carvings, and in general grows in importance as a congregating site.  The following information box shows some images from the site (images stolen from the internet)

Figure 11,12,13

    The congregating site was very important to nomadic hunting peoples because they moved around the environment as clans for most of the year, and needed to meet each other to share news, find mates, and carry out celedbrations.
    It is obvious from common sense that eventually some arctic seagoing people would no longer travel south in the winter, this is clear too from the fact that the Alta carvings show a large number of skin boats with reindeer, not moose, heads.
    But throughout its history the Alta site would have attracted peoples from the interior, from the Scandinavian interior, rather than for the Lake Onega area which was considerably further away. As the map shows Alta was located north of the mountain range and could be reached from rivers descendng into the interior. 

Figure 14

    Most of the carvings, from more recent times generally reflect the historic "Finn" culture in general, which originally was found in seagoing and forest peoples, and not just the reindeer herders that have survived into modern times. (The original word "Finn" became "Lapps" and as later as the early 20th century, there were "Forest Lapps" and "Fisher Lapps" as well as the "Reindeer Lapps". Today the word they prefer is "Saami")
    It is easy to see why. when the Germanic Norway was created, the regions to the interior was called "Finnmark". Towards the east there was "Finnlanda". It underscores the fact that the "Finns", were the indigenous peoples,  But there has been debate as to how they relate to the Finnish who cover the same landscape in the form of today's Finland. An obvious answer it that they are almost the same, since when Finland became a country there was no sharp distinction between the natives in the wilderness and the "Finns" in the more developed southern Finlands.,

The Further Expansions of the Seagoing Skin-Boat People


        The rock carvings found at Alta Norway   tell a story about people coming there to harvest the rich sea life off the arctic coast of Norway, where the warm waters of the Atlantic Drift (originating as the Gulf Steam on the American coast) ended up. Originally they would have travelled there seasonally, and then returned south in the dark and cold winter. But then some stayed. The "Komsa" archeological culture at the top of Norway, that camped all winter at the mouth of the Teno River, was one of the first cultures that remained all year, enduring the sunless winter months. The Alta carvings also suggest  there were people there too who stayed, because of the many images of boats with reindeer heads on the prows, not moose heads. The large moose-head skin boats, such as depicted in the White Sea rock carving of whale hunting, speak of returns south into Lake Onega, where winter was spent hunting moose on skiis (There is an image at Lake Onega of a man on skiis following a moose).
    While the many rock carvings of skin boats, and the hunting of seals and whales prove that the descendants of the Kunda culture were at the White Sea, islands of arctic Norway, and in the vicinity of Alta, Norway.
    While we can logically predict that there people could have followed currents and formed three tribes  according to the capability of having a circular seasonally migratory route in the Atlantic..See the map of  Figure 9. If these boat peoples expanded further, it would have been according to ocean currents.
    How can we detect such long distance oceaning migrations of boat peoples? One way would be to look at language, to see if it has strong suggestions of an ancient Finnic language. But the strongest indication of the migration of seagoing boat people culture is he skin boat, particularly if it  kept the tradition of the animal head on the prow. When the purpose of it was forgotten,. it may have become fantastic, and become the so called 'dragon boat'.
      The head on the prow of a vessel is a phenomenon that has endured down through time, and its last manifestation has been the hood ornament on the modern automobile or truck, particularly if the ornament represents an animal. In culture we do such things, and we do not know why; but some customs can have roots that are many thousands of years old.
          Whale-hunting traditions have endured on the Pacific coast, particularly in Native peoples of the region around Vancouver Island and to its south.(Peoples of the "Wakashan" languages) There, memories of whaling are still strong, and attempts are being made to recover the culture. If you look at the graphics painted on the large dugouts of the Pacific coast, you will see eyes painted on the front. If asked, the artist may say it is to help guide the way, but it may tell another story. Because of the giant cedar trees of the Pacific coast, whaling peoples arriving there were able to return to the creation of seagoing dugouts. They may have arrived in skin boats made of whale skin, with the whale head represented by painting its eyes at the front. Converting to the cedar dugout, the continued to paint the eyes at the front. It had to have occurred this way, because such a practice of representing the head of an animal at the front has never existed in the dugout boat tradition. The coincidence between Pacific coast seagoing dugouts having an eye painted on the front, and the whaling traditions cannot be assigned to random chance!!


  Thus, besides circumpolar expansion of the sea-going skin-boat peoples, there was venturing southward. The main inspiration for southward exploration would have been the north-south migration of some species of whales. Encountering whales at the south tip of Greenland, the whaling people could have followed them as they left, down the coast of Labrador. But already whaler peoples in arctic Norway could have followed whales too as they migrated back south along the coast of Europe.
       On the North American side, this southward venturing could have led to the birth of the Algonquian Native cultures,  whose languages at the time of European colonization (16th century) was found to cover the entire northeast quadrant of North America, in a manner consistent with boats making their way up all the rivers that drained to the coast. The Algonquian boats were dugouts everywhere except along the coast and where birch trees were plentiful. Along the coast there were skin boats (including those made of moosehide), and in the northern regions that had birch bark, skin boats were made of skins of birch bark sewn together. Obtaining birch bark was clearly easier than obtaining a moose hide. Besides, a moose hide had other uses.
    Purely from geography, currents and winds alone, it is almost certain that the Algonquian birch-bark canoe peoples descended from the north, not just along the Labrador coast in the same way the Norse came millenia later, but from Hudson Bay, The arctic was inhabited first by the arctic skin boat peoples of the White Sea spreading around the arctic coasts (which is not such an enormous distance - maps tend to stretch the arctic. And then the skin boat peoples were drawn southward by the warmth. The lands may have been flooded, but they had boats. One consideration is that the glaciers had to be significantly disppeared because fresh glacial meltwater has not yet acquired aquatic life. 
    Thus If we are looking for the survival of the older "Dorset" traditions, it would probably be in the Algonquian cultures. The Great Lakes Algonquian legends speak of origins in the east, at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence., but I don't believe the Cree around Hudson Bay, have such legends,
    Newfoundland had up to historic times a Native group called the Beothuks, whose culture first manifested there in the early centuries AD.  But we cannot dismiss the possibility that there have been many waves of  oceanic peoples first inhabiting the arctic in skin boats and then out of curiosity venturing southward along the Labrador coast, moving with the same winds and currents as the Norse around 1000AD.

Figure 17
Algonquian and arctic boat peoples

   On the European side there would have been southward migrations too. Archeology identifies seagoing peoples on the Atlantic coast of Europe as early as 4500BC, on account of the "megalithic" (made of enormous stones) constructions from southern Portugal to northern Britain, taking either the form of large burial chambers covered with mounds, or stone circles and alignments. The oldest megalithic stone alignments are found at Carnac, France, in southern Britanny. The famous "Stonehenge" was a relatively late development from the same general culture.  The oldest constructions were all found close to the sea, and widely distributed in southern Portugal, Brittany, coasts on either side of the Irish Sea, Orkney Islands, and even across to the north end of the Jutland Peninsula by 2000BC. It suggests a trading people that eventually promoted their culture inland up the rivers, eventually making eastern Europe generally a culture of this nature.

Figure 18

Nice image of European megalithic cultures from internet
source: internet. url not found
The above map is a good one showing the early and later cultures that build constructions with large stones. Do not be confused by the large coloured areas. In reality they should be dots. But it generally shows (orange) that there people travelled the Atlantic. They may have begun following whales or even eel migrations, but then became traders to interior less mobile peoples. In any event, there were boat peoples in the Atlantic about the same time as arctic skin boats spread around the arctic. Because the arctic peoples were familiar with camping on barren islands with only rocks to build with, it stands to reason that the megalithic structures were in fact their normal practical everyday structures constructed in a large glorifying manner. 

    Any thinking that these  megalith building boat peoples originated anywhere else but in the north begs us to wonder what environmental circumstances occurred elsewhere to force humans - land people - to go out into the frightening open sea. As we discussed earlier, the postglacial flooded lands of northern Europe provided no alternative but to develop the use of boats..
      These mysterious  megalith building people certainly knew how to travel in the open sea, and may have created more wealthy cultures towards the south, off Portugal, and been the source of the legends of Atlantis, first brought forward by Plato, which he claimed ultimately came from Egyptian priests. They may have crossed the Atlantic in the middle, leaping from island to island, with the Azores in the middle of the Atlantic being the half-way point. This would especially be true for people who began to harvest eel migrations coming through the Strait of Gibraltar and English Channel, because Atlantic Eels are born at the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda etc. A people who discovered this would have learned about North America and "Atlantis" would have been, in fact, North America, since originally the presense of a continent between Asia and Europe was unknown.
    But the southward-migrating  sea peoples, may have merged in their southward migrations with dugout-peoples, and the skin-on-frame approach of boat design, caused the evolution of the boat made of planks on a frame. The original dugout became  the keel, and ribs arising from it could then take boards, to initiate a new approach that combined the best features of both original designs.
    The most important principle in boat design was the displacement of water. The boat with a hull that displaced water with essentially air achieved greatest buoyancy with least weight. The frame with skin/hull was the way to create to greatest water displacing space with least materials.

Figure 19
These images from
the Alta carvings depict skin boats made of reindeer skins engaged in fishing with nets

    Regardless of how Atlantic seafarers evolved towards the south,  their northern cousins carried on generation after generation. The activity was not focussed entirely on large sea-mammals (whales, porpoises, seals, walrus, etc) but there was plenty fishing. Nets could bring in large quantities which could then be salted and smoked.
       If these seagoing skin boats were at Alta, they were also elsewhere in the sea too, down the Norwegian coast, and in the British northern isles.

The North Atlantic Appoaching Historic Times


    The sea-going peoples of the British northern isles obviously originated from the arctic skin boat peoples because they have always used skin boats. When walrus became extinct in the British northern isles, the people there, the "Picts", made skin boats from ox-hide. The Irish called them curraghs. The following illustration comes from an 18th century illustration. To my amazement, it appears to have an oxhead,  at the prow, adhering to the ancient tradition of the head of the animal whose skin was used being put at the prow.

Figure 20
18th century illustration shows 'wild Irish' in a 'curragh' - a skin boat of ox hides - note the head of the ox at the prow,. suggesting an origin in the arctic Norwegian skin boats

    Author Farley Mowat, has searched historical material for everything he could find about the skin-boat peoples of the northern British Isles, and established from historical quotes with great certainty of British islands and coast being inhabited by peoples who travelled everywhere even long sea voyages in skin boats.(Farfarers, Toronto, 1998) However he failed to make any connection between them and the skin boat traditions across the Scandinavian arctic.
     In whatever way  they evolved among the British Isles, it is clear they originated from the same culture as depicted in the rock carvings of Norway. Why did they become involved with the northern British islands? The answer lies in the North Atlantic Drift, a warm current that originated in the Gulf of Mexico and known as the Gulf Stream. The warm current was ricn with sea life. It proceeded northward to the west of the British Isles, on its way to the arctic coast of Norway. But a branch of it turned eastward through the British northern Isles. The Orkney Islands there, are believed to have once had great walrus herds. Walrus skins would have been the skins used by early "Pict" sea peoples of the outer islands and coasts.
       In the first century AD, the Romans had invaded the British Isles and were establishing armies in various locations, including in the North, to assert control everywhere. There is no question that if there were people of the open seas in the outer British Isles, they would have fled from the Romans, and  settled elsewhere. I find it not a strange coincidence that, according to archeology, the Beothuks of Newfoundland , according to archeological dating, appear about the same time as the Romans are asserting control over the British Isles. The word that "Beothuk" represents, has similarities with some variations on names applied to the Picts.  For example Anglo-Saxon "Peohtas". Norse hardened it to "Peti"
       When Greeks and Romans ventured north into the British Isles, they  heard of  an island in the North Atlantic called "Thule" which has been identified as Iceland. (Note: The name "Thule" for the North American archeological culture has no connection to the historical "Thule". Archeologists used that name based on the region, so named,  in northwestern Greenland where the archeological culture was first archeologically identified among the earlier "Dorset").


    There is no question that there once existed an "Atlantian" people.  They travelled the north Atlantic ocean, camping on islands, as we can see in the illustration of Greenland Inuit whale hunting. They were short people, and that is to be expected too, as an adaptation. People who travel extensively by boat need strong upper bodies, but can have short legs (Short legs on large torsos can be still seen among the Inuit - short legs are also good for reducing loss of body heat) 
    Author Farley Mowat (Farfarers, 1998), pictured a people he called "Albans" based in the British northern islands. He pictured them being most interested in walrus, and travelling as far as the Labrador coast to obtain walrus ivory to sell in Europe. In his book Farfarers, Mowat's view of the skin boat traditions of the northeast Atlantic was far too narrow, however. He made no mention of the rock paintings of skin boats in Norway, and made no connection between the Norwegian examples of skin boats and the skin boats of the British Isles, recorded in historical records and surviving through the centuries as the Irish "curragh".
       We can read with interest however when Farley Mowat reveals that in the traditions of the Shetland Islands in the north of the British Isles, sea-harvesting peoples called the "Finns" appeared.
    Existing Shetland traditions speak of a people called Finns who inhabited Fetlar and northwest Unst for some time after the Norse occupied Shetland. This name is identical with the one by which the Norse knew the aboriginals of northern Scandinavia. It is also the name given by Shetlanders (of Norse lineage) to a scattering of Inuit (sic). who, in kayaks, materialized amongst the Northern Isles during the eighteenth century.. (Mowat, Farfarers: Before the Norse, p 110, Toronto, 1998)
     But it did not occur to Mowat that these were the same people as the ones he was looking for, and not some other people.  He was looking for people closer to himself - settled people living on the coasts - and thus did not seriously consider "Finns" to have been identifiable with "Sea-Lapps" from the Norwegian coast, and that possibly they were less primitive than the Inuit/Eskimo he assumed they were.
  The difference between the Altantic seaharvesters that were called "Finns", and those who left a record of skin boat use in the British Northern Isles, may be simply that the latter became more localized by becoming more involved with the economies of the interior of Britain. There is indeed proof that skin boat peoples of the British Isles were  more localized than their migratory ancestors, and found everywhere on the coasts, at least on the west side. According to Mowat in Farfarers, the Roman poet Avienus, quoting fragments from a Carthaginian periplus (seaman's sailing directions) dating to the six century B.C. described a rendevous with native British in skin boats as follows.
To the Oestrimnides [Scilly Islands] come many enterprising people who occupy themselves with commerce and who navigate the monster-filled [ie walruses, seals, whales, propoises, etc] ocean far and wide in small ships. They do not understand how to build wooden ships in the usual way. Believe it or not, they make their boats by sewing hides together and carry out deep-sea voyages in them.  (quotes in Mowat, Farfarers)
      The people described in the above passage are clearly not the long ranging oceanic aboriginals, but still they are probably descended from them. Finding good conditions in the British Isles, and the ability to trade wares from the sea for other goods, they would have formed an intermediate culture.  They exploited land resources and trade, (such as keeping sheep and goats on various islands roaming wild,  to harvest from time to time when they stopped there).
   After the Roman Age, developments of boat peoples along the Norwegian coast lead to the continued use of the principle of the skin on the frame in boats covered with plantks. With the connection between the skin and the head on the prow gone, builders were free to make up their own wood carvings to put on the prow..  It gave  rise to the "dragon boat" concept.
    The presence of the "dragon-head" in Norse vessels demonstrates that the Germanic conquerors of the Norwegian coast (800-1000AD) became identifiable with seafarers purely from the Finnic natives starting to speak the Germanic language (Norse), and participating in the new Norse culture. The idea of Vikings originating from Germanic heritage is false. Vikings originated from the indigenous Finnic  boat peoples, and became speakers of Germanic Norse in much the same way that North American Native peoples have recently become English speakers..
  Another important historical reference presents us with another truth that ought to be obvious - that the skin boats of the British Isles crossed the waters to Norway as well. This comes from Pliny the Elder dated to 77 A.D. in which he writes about information from an earlier historian Timaeus whose original work has been lost.
    The historian Timaeus says that there is an island named Mictis lying inward six day's sail from Britain where tin is found and to which the Britons cross in boats of osier covered with stiched hides. (Pliny, NaturalHistories, IV, 14, 104.)
      Mowat suggests that this place called Mictis might have been Iceland. However if the skin-boat seafarers of the British Isles had an intimate relationship with any location it may have been the Lofoten Islands of Norway. We also note that since the Gulf Stream flowed past the British Isles and north towards the Lofotens, then the sailing was with the current.
        Thus we can accept that many of these oceanic skin-boat peoples, who ventured away from the Norwegian arctic waters where they began, and then became localized among the British Isles,  tended to sheep on land behind their huts, and traded with interior peoples; but at the same time the traditional way of life would have continued as well: there were also the long-range migrations of  traditional oceanic people, who made circuitous migrations from one sea harvest area to another. They would be the ones who would camp for a time on outer islands (like the Shetlands) to use as a home base for harvesting the surrounding seas. The "Finns" of Shetland traditions were not, I'm certain, accidental visitors of Inuit. I think they were people who deliberately migrated in a circuit which touched on Iceland, Faroes, Shetlands, and Norway.


The map below, shows the currents of the North Atlantic and how we are able to identify three 'territories' - A, B, C. 

Figure 21

Atlantic currents etc

Map shows ocean currents of the North Atlantic and some of the names mentioned in this text. The names in quotes represent archeological "cultures". ALTA and ONEGA name two major locations of rock carvings showing boats, dating to 6000 years ago. The letters A, B, C show areas where currents loop around. Since early boats were not particularly wind-driven, they would have been oriented to currents, and each of these loops could have defined a tribe undertaking migrations that may have lasted many years before returning to the same place.
   Looking at the map above, showing how the ocean currents circulate in the north Atlantic, it is likely that  the "Finns" who touched on the northern islands of the British Isles, can probably be identified with the "Fosna" archeological culture of Norway, or at least, that part of them who would have migrated in current circuit "B" (see map). These oceanic people would have had no interest in making their way into the dangerous surf close to the coasts. They appear to have preferred camping in the outer islands close to their fishing/hunting sites. Such people would have travelled, through a year (or possibly several years), between the Lofotens of Norway, Iceland, and then back via Faroes and Shetland, and then back to the Lofotens. They would time it to meet up with other clans at a common congregating site.  
    As mentioned earlier, these people of circuit "B" would also have stopped in the British outer islands (such as the Shetlands, mentioned by Mowat). But a breakaway tribe must have remained in the British Isles to become the peoples seen by visitors over a millenia ago travelling in skin boats (which Romans called curucae and Celts called curraghs) in the remote coasts of British Isles, mainly in the north and northwest.
   According to historical references after the arrival of Christianity Irish monks sought to get away from civilization to live a solitary meditative life. They headed north into the outer islands, and there they encountered short people who created dwellings that resembled igloos made of stone, that is, domes (or near domes with a small roof) created by piling rocks round and round, sealed on the outside with sod so that they were like underground houses. (Note that arctic Norwegian dwellings were similarly semi-buried and often using sod to seal the roof.)  These short "Peti" (As a Norwegian text called them) that the monks encountered, appeared also to have left   goats and/or sheep to run wild on grassy islands, so that when they returned to these islands they would be able to harvest them for meat to supplement their seafood diet. Obviously those "Picts" who became more settled, if any did, became more diligent breeders of these sheep and goats. Such islands would have been ideal for monks - there they would have solitude but also have familiar goats and sheep to survive on. We are speaking of early Christianity in Ireland, shortly after the collapse of the Roman Empire.
    Looking further in circuit "B", we can expect that the seagoing peoples of circuit "B" also visited the outer islands towards the east side of Iceland.  This is confirmed by history and archeology - which affirms there were aboriginal peoples,  Eskimo-like people who were inclined to camp on the outer island close to the areas they fished and hunted. Since these were seasonally migratory people, foreign observers would never observe them to be settled anywhere. They would never need to build any permanent dwellings anywhere.
    Thus the absence of any early permanent settlement on Iceland should not be construed as Iceland being unknown. It was known, alright - by aboriginal peoples. They were known by the "Picts" and "Finns" too insomuch as they themselves were aboriginal or semi-aboriginal.  Therein lies the problem in Mowat's Farfarers - he cannot accept that the people he envisions - the "Albans" (one group among the Pictish north of the British Isles) -  were more primitive, more like Greenland Eskimo, than he wants to admit.  Scholars have tended to want to relegate aboriginal peoples to the background, like wild animals and require that only peoples who did anything interesting qualify as being "civilized".
     The exception has been archeologists and anthropologists. They do not discriminate between civilized and uncivilized. For them it is perfectly acceptable to envision aboriginal seafarers who may have migrated throughout the arctic waters, and known all about Iceland, the North Atlantic, Labrador, etc. - already maybe 5000-6000 years ago. But there remains a racist perspective which implies "aboriginals do not count", and so there are endless debates as to whether the Norse landings around 1000AD were the "first" or  whether there were earlier landings on Labrador or Newfoundland coasts, by Irish monks; or some other group. Who cares? Aboriginals always knew, and European seagoing aboriginals from the Alta area, visited and perhaps stayed millenia ago. Archeology has found evidence of contact with Europe - primitive aboriginal Europe -dating long before the "Norse" visits to "Vinland".  

The  Basques as Southern Descendants of Sea Peoples

    I believe that all the Atlantic oceanic people originated from the same origins - the skin boat peoples who harvested the seas off the coast of arctic Norway.  That was their training ground. Once they had mastered their way of life and their populations grew, some wandered south, discovered the British Isles, and then with continued success, some continued further south.
   That brings us to the question of the Basques. The Basques in recent centuries have been well known as harvesters of the Atlantic, including whaling in the waters off the North American coast from as early as the 16th century. It is easy to believe that they are descended from the same world of oceanic seafarers as the Picts, Norwegian "Finns", and the Inuit. One does not learn to be at home on the waters of the Atlantic overnight. (Similarly the Portuguese have the same origin, except that the coastal Portuguese have lost their original language in much the same way as the original people of the Norwegian coast did.)
      The Basque language, is acknowledged to be pre-Indo-European. Some scholars assume that the Basques are descended from the original peoples of nearby regions dating back to the cave people who left art on cave walls. However, we have to recognize that there were two types of people during the pre-Indo-European civilization in Western Europe - the seagoing people and the interior people. The Basques display strong seafaring traditions, and therefore it is reasonable to propose that they are descended from the Atlantic seagoing peoples and not interior peoples. The Portuguese too would have roots in sea peoples, except they changed their language during the Roman Era.
    This connection to seafaring in turn implies that they are distantly related to Pictic, Finnic, and Inuit cultures, to the peoples of the expansion of boat-peoples. While it is possible the Basques learned whaling in the modern era, it is equally possible that the Basques have always known whaling, and have had an ancient connection with peoples like the Greenland Inuit whalers. We don't know very much about what the Basques did in ancient times.
    The whole story of the expansion of boat peoples of the Kunda Culture also to the oceans, starting with the White Sea, presupposes that all the peoples that followed carried elements of the original culture. Is it possible Basque culture offers such elements?
      Linguists have observed that the grammatical structure of Estonian and Basque are  similar.  There are also many similar words, although they could have come at a later time from the boat peoples language becoming the language of Atlantic long distance trade from about 5,000 years ago or so, since the Baltic Kunda culture developed into seafarers of the Baltic, and then into seatraders when the settled peoples of the interior of Europe developed a need for tin 'from the ends of the earth' as Herodotus wrote.
    So we cannot say how much of Basque comes over the top of Scandinavia in skin boats, and how much comes through the North and Baltic Seas in wooden boats.
    We will explore the linguistic evidence of the expansion of the seagoing boat peoples in a separate article, to keep the discussions of languages separate. However, something can be mentioned here:
    The most interesting word in Basque from the point of view of sea-peoples  is the Basque word for 'water' which is ur. This word exists, in my view, in the name "Uralic Mountains".  Perhaps we can  allow ur to be an abbreviation of UI-RA. The -RA is a widely used element of the ancient world, appearing in association with travel-ways. Furthermore, the Basque allative case ending (motion towards) is -ra. Combining this with the appearance of UI in the name Uitoriges, menioned in several ancient texts including Julius Caesar, suggests it is possible Basque ur is indeed an abbreviation of UI-RA, 'the way of the floating, swimming'. It obviously the ancestral language to Basque did not view 'water' originally as the liquid but as the sea over which the seafarer travelled, the water surface over which boats travelled..
     The Basque word for 'earth' appears to add an L to ur producing lur. But it is more likely from ALU-RA, 'land-territory path'. ALU (Estonian alu 'base, foundation, territory') is reflected in Basque ola meaning 'place (where something is done)'. Thus here once again the Estonian interpretation mirrors something in Basque, indicating too that Basque and Estonian were closer at an earlier time. The chances of the Basque lur being based on ALU is supported by the fact that in Roman times the stem ALU occurs several times, especially in the Roman name Albion but more clearly in the Greek Alouiones (read ALU-AVA-N). If the native British used ALU or ALO 'land-base', 'territory' as the stem for some geographic names, then we can expect that the ancestors of the Basques did too, since in seafaring terms both places were part of the same early Atlantic world.
    We continued discussions of languages in a separate article.


    The theory of an eastern north Atlantic aboriginal seafaring people who moved with the currents in a circuit that touched the coasts of Norway, Iceland, Faeroes, Shetlands, northern Britain and back to Norway is undeniable, and it gives us a framework for interpreting historical accounts about "Finns" in the ocean.
    But as we look southward, the millenia of involvement of civilization, has made it more difficult to interpret early events in the British Isles and southward along the Atlantic coast. It is easier to look westward, where aboriginal cultures endured, less mixed up with other peoples and their influences.
    The only clear whaling peoples in the east Altantic are the Basques. Basques are today modern people and it is difficult to find the evidence of the deep past. But there are two ways of doing so. First of all a people so dedicated to the Atlantic ocean, and to fishing and whaling, is likely to have had it a long time. Just like reindeer people, the way of life is so specialized, and intimately tied to the environment, that people who have it cannot easily switch. Whaling, like reindeer management, isn't only a recently acquired interest.


Since this webpage has been constantly updated - edited and changed - sources and references are acknowledged where possible in the text or beside the picture. If a statement is made or picture shown, without a source, that means the image is either fully original by the author (A.Paabo)or significantly modified artistically. One book that has special  signifiance to this project is: Eesti Esiajalugu, Jaanits et al, 1982, Tallinn. 

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author: A.Paabo, Box 478, Apsley, Ont., Canada


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