The Hidden Past

As told by Marvin Norman

to Diane Malchoff

 Marvin Norman has a collection of artifacts which he has found and owns. An artifact is an object produced or shaped by human workmanship; a simple tool of archaeological interest. Marvin has the largest collection of local artifacts in Port Graham. I interviewed Marvin at his home where he showed me his collection, told me about each object and allowed me to photograph them. I learned a lot about artifacts, their possible uses and appreciative the time Marvin donated in helping me discover the “hidden past”.

It was before the 1964 earthquake that Marvin found his first artifact. Then after the earthquake shifted the ground, he found many more artifacts. The earthquake seems to have altered or moved the ground so that objects which were hidden or buried for years were revealed.

You may browse through the scrapbook of photos and click on any photo for an enlarged view.

Photo 1

These carvings were made of bone. They show two sea otters and a seal. They are very life-like and beautifully carved.

Photo 2

These arrow heads are made of slate also. Some of them may have been fitted onto wooden or bone points on the front end of harpoons. The largest one (shown in photo 3) was found by Dorothy Norman, Marvin’s wife. She found it only three or four years ago. Dorothy’s arrowhead is especially sharp.

Photo 4

These are ulus. They are probably made of slate, a hard black rock found around Port Graham. They were used for cutting meat and other things. Sharpening them was probably done by rubbing or striking the ulu against another rock until the ulu was sharp.

Photo 5

Pictured here are lamps, sometimes called hunter’s lamps. They are made from rocks which have had the inside carved out to hold seal oil. A piece of cotton or a wick can be placed in the oil and lit. Marvin has actually used one of his lamps and he says it works pretty well!

Photo 6 & 7

These hooks and barbs had many uses, probably for fishing and seal hunting. They are made of bone, and some have a hole in one end, used to tie on a piece of seal skin line. Then the other end of the line might have tied onto a harpoon.

Photo 8 & 9


The harpoon points or tips shown here are made of bone. The slot in the top of them is used to slip in the arrow or harpoon head.


Photo 10


Sinkers or “braining stones” are shown here. They are made from a rock with grooves in it going both ways. Rope, leather or other material was probably tied around the rock to form the groove. They also may have been put in a sling and used for hitting something or someone.


Photo 11


This perfectly round rock has an X carved on each side of it. It’s hard to guess what it was used for, but it could have been a Shaman’s stone.


Photo 12


The awls shown here are very polished tools, probably used for punching holes for sewing. They are made of bone, and are very sharp!


Photo 13


Bird points, as these are called, may have been used on the end of a spear. They were probably used in groups of three as shown here, or alone. They are made of bone, carved to a point.


Photo 14


This may have been a fishing tool of some sort. Marvin remembers the old timers talking about them, but even the archeologists aren’t sure what they were used for. This drawing (photo 15) is how I think it might have been used. A hook on each side may be used for jigging, like for halibut.


Photo 16


These axe heads were attached to sticks by tying strips of leather around the stick and around the axe head. They are made of rock and have indentations in them to show how they were laced to a piece of wood. Some of them may have been double headed with a different use for each; cutting, pounding or splitting


Photo 17


The are some kind of decorative carvings. They have holes in them and grooves around the outside.


Photo 18


Scarpers, as these are called, were probably used for scraping animal hides. They are very sharp and smooth on the sides; and are made of stone, probably slate. They were used by holding them in one’s hand


Photo 19


Marvin found this needle case complete with two “blanks” in it. The blanks are unfinished needles. The case, which is made of carved bone, is very beautiful.


Photo 20


This carving is similar to those found up North. It may have been a carving of a person, and is made of bone.


Photo 21


Marvin’s complete collection is shown here. It is really a collection he can be proud of! It is quite impressive when pictured all together.




Copyright 1981,  Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.  All rights reserved

Volume 2