• The legacy of shamans? Structural and cognitive perspectives of prehistoric symbolism in the Bering Strait region

      Qu, Feng; 曲, 枫; Potter, Ben; Schweitzer, Peter; Plattet, Patrick; Koester, David (2013-08)
      This research explores the meanings of prehistoric artistic artifacts discovered in the Bering Strait region. The research focuses on the prehistoric period between AD 100 and 1700, including Okvik culture, Old Bering Sea culture, Punuk Culture, Birnirk Culture, Thule culture, and Ipiutak Culture. My archaeological data in this research were collected from the archaeological collections of the Okvik site on Punuk Islands, the Kukulik site on St. Lawrence Island, and the Nukleet site at Cape Denbigh at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Based on abundant ethnographic records from the Bering Strait region, this research relies on ethnographic analysis as methodology to approach prehistoric symbolism. Applying ethnographic analysis results in diverse interpretations of the archaeological artifacts, which bear potential spiritual or secular meanings. Theoretically, the research provides an assessment of contemporary archaeological theories such as cognitive archaeology, structural archaeology, and shamanism theory (general shamanism theory and the neuropsychological model) in order to examine the reliability of these theories in the study of prehistoric art. Due to the problems of cognitive, structural, and shamanism theories, the conclusion of this research builds on practice theory and animist ontology to interpret the variants of art productivity, cosmological structures, and relationship between humans and materials.