Dr. Jon Erlandson, Professor of Anthropology, University of Oregon, talks about barbed projectile points he found in redwood boxes on San Nicolas Island in 2009.
In one of the boxes we found a ground slate blade and a bone harpoon, barbed on one side, with a line hole. I had worked in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest for many years and instantly recognized these as artifacts made by native peoples from the Oregon Coast up to the Aleutian Islands.
We also found a bone toggling harpoon with a copper blade still set in the tip. That was the clincher—this was a classic Aleut/Koniag [Alaska Native] artifact dating to the early historic period.
The harpoons are smaller than Alaska Natives used for hunting seals and sea lions, which leads me to believe they were for hunting sea otters. In the early 1800s, we know Russian fur traders brought Koniag hunters to San Nicolas Island, where they clashed with Juana María’s Nicoleño people.