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Abbe : Research : Collections : Curator's Features : Whale Bone Spear Point

This large spear point is made from a piece of whale bone.

Whalebone Spear Point

Whale Bone Spear Point

• Tranquility Farm Point, Frenchman Bay

• 11.8 cm long x 7 cm wide

 

This large spear point is made from a piece of whale bone. Based on its size and thickness, we think it was made from a rib bone, but it lacks any diagnostic features to be able to say for sure. Nor can we say what species of whale it is. There are at least four large species of whale in the Gulf of Maine today – finback, humpback, right whale and minke.

 

Native people on the Maine coast probably did not hunt large whales, as Inuit people still do in the Arctic. They did spear swordfish and probably porpoises and seals. Whalebones are occasionally found in sites, but in low numbers, suggesting that an occasional beached whale carcass was scavenged for raw material.

 

Historically, porpoises were very important to the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik, on the shore of Passamaquoddy Bay, Washington County, Maine. Hunters shot them from open birchbark canoes and then the carcasses were rendered for oil and the meat dried for food. Today, the Passamaquoddy Tribe continues to assert their sovereign right to hunt sea mammals.

 

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