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

Introduction: The Boat People Second Branch - 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

This map, with colour added on top of a map of archeological investigation in the paper by Kozlowski J, and Bandi H-G 1984 shows in blue the manner in which the "Kunda" culture which had seagoing experience, expanded not just to the Urals via the Dvina, and perhaps via the Voga, but also expanded north to the White Sea. The other cultures may have had a more direct contribution from the "Maglemose" culture. Since material culture is changed only by environmental circumstances, it is likely that in terms of soft culture (world-view, folklore, and language) the "Maglemose" culture of the south Baltic and the "Kunda" culture in the north were probably the same since all the boat peoples covered vast territories and that kept a uniformity in the soft culture..

    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. The Komsa Culture was the intermediate step between people at Lake Onega who travelled to the arctic only for the summer and then returned in winter, and becoming permanent residents of the arctic, staying there through the dark winter. This step was marked by changing the material for skin boats from moose hide to walrus hide.

Figure 2

A sequence of maps, offered earlier, showing (1) how originally there were European tundra reindeer peoples travelling north south hunting reindeer.
The second map shows the expansion of boat peoples (3) and and eventually reindeer peoples (2) migrating into northern Finland. These reindeer people were not the original European reindeer people but reindeer people with mongoloid traits from Asia. The third map shows continued northward expansion of boat peoples into the north to pursue the bountiful waterlife in the waters of arctic Norway. The map below summarizes the continued expansion of the seagoing boat people who should be speaking the "Kunda" language

  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 Hanti dugouts of today, 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, as suggested by the blue overlay in Figure 1.
    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 going from the bounty of sea life towards thge west from where the Gulf Stream (North Atlantic Drift) came. 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 Fosna Culture of the lower Norwegian coast may have had two origins - the Maglemose culture in southern Norway which was glacier free already about 12,000 years ago, and of course the skin boat peoples spreading south from the Norwegian arctic.
   The story of the reindeer and reindeer people is still unclear. On the one hand it is not clear if any European reindeer people continued a reindeer-oriented way of life, instead of converting to the Kunda culture when the tundras disappeared. It is possible that small reindeer hunting groups in southern Norway may have survived until the glaciers had melted. It is also possible that some of the reindeer-hunting ancestors of the Kunda culture managed to remain with some reindeer - IF the arctic Scandinavian coast was ice-free in time to recieve some reindeer herds from northern FInland. Otherwise, we are dealing with Asian reindeer peoples arriving from the east carrying the N1c1 haplogroup and mongoloid characteristics.
    Obviously the arrival of boat peoples in the arctic waters  required the disappearance of glaciers in the seas around the White Sea.  As shown on the maps depicting about 10,000 years ago, glaciers prevented entry into the White Sea area at that time, while it was possible to travel to the Urals. Therefore, the expansion of the Kunda Culture to the White Sea and continuation to the arctic ocean of Norway, occurred later, possibly reaching arctic Norway only around 7,000 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.
    The modern Inuit language offers some remarkable coincidenced with the modern Finnish and Estonian languages, which suggests there is a connection between the expansion of Inuit skin boat culture, and origins in the branch of the "Kunda" culture that expanded to the White Sea.
"Maglemose" to "Kunda" Culture: From Marshes to Seas

    Archeologists 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. It 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 than the original single-man small dugouts for rivers and marshes.  The Kunda culture people had to look for the largest trees they could find - giant trees  a meter or more in diameter, for their large dugouts.  In Estonia in the last centuries, large oaks were 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 such a tree already many generations ahead of time. Later in history, as the world turned towards making boats with planks, the purpose of reverence for trees destined for large dugouts was forgotten. An interesting sidenote: in recent centuries, large oaks in the Estonian landscape had names, as if they were people.
    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 lee of islands, when they crossed waters roughened by the forces of the prevailing wind, the going was rough. At the same time crashing waves  produced barren rock islands out in the sea which could become resting places of herds of seals.
     The "Kunda" seagoing dugout of about 10,000BC, was a successful one, and its users 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, then 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 too, which shows that the large seagoing dugout developed elsewhere that the sea offered food opportunities. 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 everywhere.  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. Besides archeological finds showing sets of seven oars, 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 (the lands were lower too, 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 Hanti or Khanti of the Ob River today. 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 had taken a moose carcass, slit it open along its back, and 'hollowed' it To retain its shape, they have simply have 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 they used 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.
    This introduced the principle of a boat made of a frame over which a skin of some kind was placed
    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 most of 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 thus started with 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.  These larger boats retained the head of the animal from which the skins came, on the prow. See examples of rock carving images below. The moose head on the prow indicated that these people still wintered in the interior where the moose were located.

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 coasts. They would have found whales congregating at Greenland, and travelling up and down the east coast of North America. Did they travel south along the European coast? Did the Basque whalers of the 18th century have deep roots in these aboriginal whalers.
   If these whaling 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? 
    How do we know that that some of these moosehead skin boat peoples, of Lake Onega origins, mastered whaling? It would be difficult to argue, were it not for an amazing rock carving at the White 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


White Sea whale hunting
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)  The image would show the entire tribe, an entire clan per large canoe. It suggests a tribe of 5 clans, on their annual gathering for carrying out this collective effort.

    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 - according to North American Inuit information - 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. (Otherwise its spirit would haunt the tribe and bring bad luck - such making peace with spirits endured also in inland peoples too. The Algonquian boat peoples of Canada were careful to make peace wih spirits of deer, moose, bears, etc in hunting activity. The same idea was found recently in the Hanti (Khanti, Ostyaks) of the Ob RIver of northwest Siberia. For bears, they went so far as to celebrate the bear in a wake lasting 4-5 days of celebrations.)
     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 depicting Greenland whaling..

    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. We see three more large skin boats in the background, as well as activity on a rocky island. The artist sought to show everything in one image. There are a total of four boats, again suggesting a tribe comprised of four clans.  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. While often nomadic boat people gathered just for social reasons, the gathering could also be associated with practical purposes which required teamwork involving all clans pursuing a large collective purpose. This probably began with reindeer hunting, where the reindeer moved too fast for humans to follow them, and how all clans had to gather at a pre-determined place and time to ambush migrating reindeer as they were migrating north or south.
    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. The end can be identified at the time when a portion of the people with moosehead prows did not return south to Lake Onega but began remaining in the north (the Komsa Culture), The skins of the boats in the illustration, I would guess, were made from  whale skins and whales offered no head to celebrate. (Interestingly when whaling peoples returned to dugout boats on the Pacific coast, they painted whale eyes on the prow.)
     The type of skin boats shown above show removable skins. The skin appears to be laced onto a frame. A removable skin then allows it to be used also as a cover for a shelter.

  Figure 9

My own idea of how two boat coverng skins could be combined to create quite a large longhouse. For more on my investigation of this, go to  EXPLAINING LONGHOUSE "FOUNDATIONS" ON LABRADOR COAST 

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? To hunt animals that migrate north-south, it was not wise to be situated at either the north and south, but rather in a good middle location, so that whaling activity could take place twice a year - once when migrating north, and once when migrating south. The aboriginal whaling people, ultimately originating from Ice Age reindeer hunters, already had the wisdom present in their culture. Beside reindeer and whales, another migrating animal were Atlantic eels. I suspect there may have been boat peoples who observed regular migrations of Atlantic eels that travelled long distances and appeared in high concentrations in channels like between Denmark and Swedish, or the Strait of Gibraltar, or even the English channel.
    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 acquired when no tradition or wisdom yet exists - but by the appearance of words that have remarkable parallels in Finnic languages (today in the regions originally occupied by the "Kunda" culture.).  For example, I found the word for 'harpoon' to be represented in languages of arctic North America, the northeast Pacific coast of North America, and in northern Europe (such as in FInnic) We will explore this in additional supplementary articles with links presented at the bottom. Compariing words is a highly debated matter, that is less secure than the hard reality unearthed by archeology. Actual remnants of the past is always more secure than backward projection of modern languages.
     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" which became today's Finland. 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 Finns could ultimately be descended from the "Kunda" culture, with some additional mongoloid genes from Asian reindeer peoples who came from the east - as discussed elsewhere. In my thinking, Finnic languages like Finnish and Estonian, are descended from the "Kunda" archeological culture, and that there was no new language from the east. I believe this because of my ability to find numerous word-coincidences between Finnic and  seagoing boat peoples, especially whalers.

 Expansions of the Seagoing Skin-Boat People into the North Atlantic


        The rock carvings found at Alta Norway  tell a story about people who were 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. As I mentioned above, the peoples of the moosehead skin boats originally made annual journeys all the way from Lake Onega where rock carvings there show images of such boats. Originally visitors to the warmed arctic seas would have headed south in fall, to avoid the dark winter. The Lake Onega rock carvings show images of moose, but none showing them with antlers. Males grow their antlers in summer and lose them in fall, thus these people were away when the moose had antlers.
     But the journey was a long one, taling several weeks, and eventually a tribe stayed through the dark winter. Archeology has found such a winter settlement, and called it the "Komsa" archeological culture at the top of Norway at the mouth of the Teno River.
 The Alta carvings also suggest  there were people there too, perhaps later, who stayed, because of the many images of boats with reindeer heads on the prows, not moose heads.
    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.
    Studying the geography of the North Atlantic, we can logically predict that seagoing boat people could have formed three tribes, one for each possible circuit of moving with currents..See the map of  Figure 9.. While certainly these people could have improvised sails to catch the wind, they travelled mostly by paddling with currents.
    The map below, shows the currents of the North Atlantic and how we are able to identify three 'territories' - A, B, C. 

Figure 17

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.
    How can we detect such long distance oceaning migrations of boat peoples ultimately originating in the archeologically defined "Kunda" (or "Maglemose"?) culture? One way would be to look at language, to see if it shows a trail of the same words. For example, can we find the same word for 'harpoon' or 'water' or 'sea' words that are likely to continue to be used up to the modern day?  But the easiest detected indication of the migration of a northern European seagoing boat people culture is the 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'. Can we trace the 'dragon boat' of the Norse back to the moosehead skin boat? Probably yes, since the Norse included the native cultures of the Norwegian coast.  Can we trace the 'dragon boat' to the ancestors of the Ainu native peoples of Japan? That is more difficult; however the word Ainu resonates with "Inuit" and other arctic aboriginal peoples. The modern Ainu, however show considerable historic mixing, so it is impossible to come to any conclusion. It however is certainly possible that if the whaling people reached the North American arctic and Pacific coast, they could have also migrated south along the Asian coast.
      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 a deeper story of a long tradition of honouring the spirit of the animal from which the skin came.  They may have arrived in skin boats made of whale skin, with the whale head represented by painting its eyes at the front. Because of the giant cedar trees of the Pacific coast, whaling peoples arriving there were able to return to the creation of seagoing dugouts. Converting to the cedar dugout, they 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!!


Since this webpage has been constantly updated - edited and changed - many 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.

Clark, G, 1967 World Prehistory, Cambridge A celebrated text that summarized the accumulated archeological discoveries up to that time. Since then the ideas have simply been refined.

Jaanits, L. et al, 1982, Eesti Esiakalugu, Eesti Raamat, Tallinn In Estonian, the product of Estonian archeological work during the Soviet period, where the authors were able to access the work of other archeology within the Soviet Union, not as accessible in the west.

Kozlowski J, and Bandi H-G 1984 The Paleohistory of Circumpolar Arctic Colonizationm, Arctic 37 (4): 359-372 Article in English, where the investigation of the northeast Europe and the Urals was only one section. I chose to use it for reference because of this focus, and because it was a summary.  

 Rootsi,S., et al. 2006, A counterclockwise northern route of the Y-chromosome haplogroup N from Southeast Asia towards Europe”  European Journal of Human Genetics 15 (2): 204-11  Comment: This is regarded as the authorative study suggesting the N1c1 haplogroup migrated up the Ural Mountains and then continued west along the arctic coast of northeast Europe to the northern Finland area, and then diffused into the Finno-Ugric speakers from the locations of the reindeer peoples.  .


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


2013 (c) A. Pääbo.