18. Indigenous Sailing in the Arctic
Evguenia V. Anichtchenko
University of Southampton and Alaska State Office of History and Archaeology
For thousands of years sails propelled the history of many civilizations. While it is commonly accepted that the invention of sails as a general technological concept was a global event that occurred in different places at different times, and was not necessarily a result of diffusion, the origin of this technology in indigenous Arctic and subarctic regions remains an open question. Yet, as a technology that greatly facilitates travel, the sail implies the possibility of long-distance voyaging and as such can theoretically be a factor in large-scale movements of peoples, commodities and ideas across the Arctic. The goal of this article is to review historical, ethnographic and archaeological data in order to clarify the state of current knowledge about indigenous Arctic sailing technology, and to encourage further interest and research. This review is specifically focused on the Arctic and subarctic zones of North America.