Giant skull reveals the secret of the Inuit - Is the legend true?
Inuvialuit, or the people of Canada's Arctic region, migrated from Alaska and are well versed in hunting polar bears and other Arctic beasts. As a people, they have several traditions and legends, but one discovery may reveal the truth behind one amazing legend.
The Inuit may have been aware of the subspecies for generations.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Inuvialuit hunters have passed the knowledge of how to track and hunt polar bears from one generation to the next. It is not strange for such a valuable tradition to come with a legend or two.
The nanuq, normal polar bears, are valuable for their fur and the meat they provide but the tiriarnaq or tigiaqpak, meaning "weasel bear", is a legendary polar bear with a narrow body that moves as quickly as a demon.
The tigiaqpak is much larger than the traditional polar bear and the oral tradition of storytelling explains the tigiaqpak is more of a "weasel" and is known as the "King" of bears.
Archaeologists digging near Utqiaǵvik, discovered one of the biggest polar bear skulls ever discovered - and its structure appears to more of a tigiaqpak than your average bear.
"It looks different from your average polar bear," Anne Jensen, an Utqiaǵvik-based archaeologist and leader of the excavation and research program, stated.
Is this the "King Bear" described in Inuit accounts?
Radiocarbon dating revealed the bear was alive between 670 and 800 A.D.
"It could have been a member of a subspecies or a member of a different 'race' in genetic terms - similar to the varying breeds that are found among dogs - or possibly something else entirely," Jensen explained.
The skull is the fourth largest ever to be discovered and may be from the species the Inuit believed was the King of Bears. Scientists are calling it "The Old One" and noted how the face was significantly longer than that of a modern polar bear.
"The Old One."
"We don't know the exact size [of the entire animal], but we do know it was a huge bear," Jensen described.
While the skull continues to draw speculation, Jensen revealed there will be a full panel of tests conducted to learn more about the animal and how close it really is to the modern polar bear.
The massive skull was certainly the focus of the site but there were other discoveries as well. Four mummified seals, preserved in an old ice cellar, were also recovered.
Jensen stated: "The excavated seal was much more modern than the polar-bear skull, dating back to only the mid-1940s. Still, it and the other seals amounted to a startling find: They are the only mummified seals ever discovered outside of Antarctica's Dry Valley."
The discovery of the animals has hit the archaeological community hard, with many questioning what else can be discovered at the previously "dry" site.
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