A prehistoric "Ulu" - the Eskimo Woman Knife of the Arctic

All dimensions in mm *handle/slate blade. Length 94*/103, Breite 17,5*/40, breadth 26*/4 mm.
ULU shown originated from Alaska, ST. LAWRENCE ISLAND. It would have to be assigned to the late Prehistoric, 1200-1900, or the Punuk Culture, 500-1200, B.C. It is from the estate of an old american collection and was found before 1920 when it came in 1995 to Germany.
What is a ULU (ULO)?

A ULU is a crescent-shaped knife. It is a womans knife of the today's eskimos still using it and who impressed the expression ULU. It is needed for slaughtering fish and other animals.


How the find distribution on the American continent and the adjacent arctic states points out, ULU `s has been in use from approximately 2.500 B.C. until our time at many natives of the USA and the eskimos, in which the basic shape has not changed over the millenniums.
The prehistoric places ULU`s being found, are mainly in the area of large rivers and river deltas rich in fish and therefore are scattered mainly over the whole north American continent.


Due to ethnographic observations at different eskimo and Indian groups of North America the ULU `s were produced by men, but exclusively used by women. Unless for slaughtering fish, ULU `s were used in the dress processing using seal skin. Where required the ULU was also used as scraper, these were found on prehistoric sites with broken ULU`s which have been reworked for further use into scraper.


The typical crescent-shaped ULU woman knives are made of a piece of slate, 3-5 mm thick, with hand protection/handle made of wood, which often has been preserved in the permafrost of the arctic regions of Alaska.

Other materials for the stone blade consist of fine-grained Sandstone, Quarzit and different kinds of Flint (Silex, Horn Stone), in which the the latterly was not polished.

Mainly there are 2 fundamental ULU types, ULU`s with hand protection/handle on the stone blade, existing of wood, bone or walrus ivory

furthermore monolithic ULU`s manufactured in one piece which are a little bit thicker with a protruding hand protection/handle range.


Today true original prehistoric ULU knifes at collectors are very popular, but hard to aquire, since the most owner will not part of these unique artifacts.


The handling with prehistoric artefacts surely should be very careful in respect of storage and storage conditions, because the value of an artifact doesn't only consist in the artifact itself, but mainly in the history as, when found, where found, who found and more. This datails should be reported carefully for further generations.

He-Artefakte, Ernst-Dieter Henze

This article was puplished in the professional journal "The American Indian`s Spirit",
No.7/IV-1999-8/I-2000, page 18.
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