|Aleutian Mummies |
|Location||A cave in the Aleutian Islands|
The Aleut people live in the Aleutian Islands, in Alaska. They named themselves ‘Unangan’ before the Russians came in 1740’s and called them Aleut instead. They spoke three dialects, an eastern, central and western dialect which are all a member of the Eskaleut language family. Their diet consisted of mainly sea lions, sea otters, octopus and seals. In the mid-1800s, Russian explorers discovered the Aleutian mummies in caves found on the island.
The Aleut people put quite a great deal of effort to preserve their dead. The mummification process tends to be different from group to group, but they all had some similarity. The bodies were first disemboweled, the organs removed and the central cavity filled with dried grass. Afterwards, they placed the body into running water, an action which they thought could remove the body fat, leaving only muscle and skin behind. Next, the body was laid bare in the open air to dry for a long period of time. Fire may also be used to speed up the drying process. Then, fur, mats and bird skin were put to use to wrap the body and after this is done, they will move it to a cave or any rock shelter, where the body is put to rest on a wooden shelf-like stand.
An ethnographic data can be used to find out the reason for this mummification process and the beliefs that come with it. According to the Aleut people, mummification served as an act of sealing in spirit to a family member’s body. The living used the mummies for different reasons, including for advice, for aid in hunting and for protection from their enemies. Sometimes parts of the mummies were removed, like a finger, to be taken on hunts to provide safety and success.
The Aleutian Islands and the Atacama Desert. (2010). Chinchorro Mummies. Retrieved 17 November 2017, from https://chinchorromummies.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/the-aleutian-islands-and-the-atacama-desert/
Unangan (Native Americans of the Arctic). What-when-how.com. Retrieved 17 November 2017, from http://what-when-how.com/native-americans/unangan-native-americans-of-the-arctic/