I agree with Chris.  Bowhead baleen is **usually** pretty dark brown/black
when fresh or it’s been preserved in stabile permafrost.  However, that
brown color is very typical for bowhead baleen that has been weathered a
bit.  I’ve seen many pieces that on size alone can be identified as bowhead
(they have much longer baleen than any other whale) that are that color.
FYI, bowheads can also have very light grey/white streaks in the baleen of
several plates, or even a white plate or two.  Biologists don’t know why.
Northern rights also are supposed to have dark baleen like bowheads, and
could have been encountered in your area.  A couple of the rorquals also
have dark baleen.  Grey whales have what I’d call white or ivory baleen,
and I doubt it would get this dark.

*Anne M. Jensen, PhD, RPA***

PI, Nuvuk Archaeology Project

General Manager/Senior Scientist

UIC Science, LLC

Box 577

Barrow, AK

907-852-0924 (office and messages), 907-852-0931 (Nuvuk Lab), 907-852-5763
(fax), 907-230-8228 (cell), ajatnuvuk (Skype)

Replies to:  [log in to unmask]

*From:* Analysis of animal remains from archaeological sites [mailto:
[log in to unmask]] *On Behalf Of *Christyann Darwent
*Sent:* Thursday, May 03, 2012 8:55 AM
*To:* [log in to unmask]
*Subject:* Re: Whale baleen

Dear Albina,

This is definitely baleen -- it looks just like the artifacts from our
excavations in NW Greenland. Bowhead whale tends to be very black as
opposed to grey whale which tends to be more of a tan color. However,
taphonomic processes will alter the color and for bowhead it also depends
how the baleen was split (it's lighter colored in the interior).

Just based on analysis of baleen artifacts from both Alaska and Greenland
and the visual appearance of the artifact, I would suggest this was bowhead
baleen. We are currently trying to DNA sequence baleen fragments from
western Alaska to see if we can determine species since we have already
discovered at least three difference species of whale based on bone DNA.

Very best wishes,


On Thu, May 3, 2012 at 9:44 AM, Albína Hulda Pálsdóttir <[log in to unmask]>

Dear Zooarch members

This artefact was found at the National Museum of Iceland in a box only
marked with the word bowwhale. It is uncertain if the artefact is from an
archaeological context. I have not handled the artefact myself but think it
is a piece of baleen and so does the museum, see the pictures below.

I have two questions:

Does this look like baleen?

If it does, is it possible to identify baleen to species with any
certainty, especially with a smaller fragment like this?

Kind regards,

Albína Hulda Pálsdóttir


Christyann Darwent, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Editor, *Arctic Anthropology**
*Department of Anthropology
University of California, Davis, CA 95616-8522

ph: 530-574-5827; fax: 530-752-8885

"There may be more than one way to skin a cat, but you only get one try per