Apr 1, 2012

Alutiiq bows

I have recently been working intensively with Alutiiq bows and archery tackle. I have so far made two replicas of  the TAV13 Aluutiq bow in the Furuhjelm collection. I have also made a replica of a painted bow, the original was collected by Hermann von Friederici from Kodiak between 1803-1806 and is in the collections of the Ajaloo Museum in Tallinn, Estonia. These apparently different types of bows have been attributed to the Alutiiq, and in some cases, Russian scholars have claimed that the painted bows are of Unangan (Aleut) origin. 

1. Detail on the original bow collected by von Friederici in the Ajaloo museum. 
These bows represent two different types. The larger painted bow, which can be referred as the "Katmai"  type, requires more carving than the Alutiiq bow which is rounded and has less surface-area than the first type.

2. The replica and 30 meters of twisted sinew string.
The original Ajaloo bow is 146cm in long, the replica is slightly longer, it measures 150 cm. The replica is made out of larch, which is the only native hardwood in Alaska. The cable backing is made up by 30 meters of twined sinew string which goes from one end to the other.

3. The TAV13 bow and the Douglas Pine replica.
The TAV13 bow was collected in the late 1850s by Hjalmar Furuhjelm. The bow originated from Nutchek village in Prince William Sound. The replicas are made of Douglas Pine and Ash. Ash was however never used as a bow wood by Alutiiq but I decided to make a compromise in order to have a practical test version of the bow. 

Both replicas and the original bow are 132 cm long. The backing is made up by 16 strands of plaited sinew, about 20 meters in all.  Moose leg-sinews have been used to make the cables on all three replicas

4. Both bows strung,

The design of the bows is very different, however both bows store a chocking amount of energy. The Alutiiq bow stacks quickly and reaches 60 pounds at a 24 inch draw. The Katmai bow is very stiff and I have been careful not to strain the limbs to much before the wood has had time to set. Currently the bow exceeds the 60 pound marker at 20 inches and it has not yet been drawn beyond that point.
5. Handle sections.
This process has yielded much new information about the Alutiiq bow making process and these discoveries will be in detail discussed in the ”Alutiiq bowery” - article I plan to publish in 2013.

6. Side by side view of the bow bellies.

I still have to make some plaited sinew string for these three replicas before they can be considered as ready.

7. Detail of the sinew binding at the ends of the bows.



Beyond Bering. The Russian Colonies in the North Pacific 1741-1867. From the Estonian History Museum in collaboration with the Staatliches Museum für Volkerkunde Munich.
Jean-Loup Rousselot, Veronica Grahammer. Fondazione Galleria Gottardo 2004, 263 pp, ill [In Italian, Germany and English]

Photo credits:
1-7 Marcus Lepola 2012.

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