Bowhead Whale (<i>Balaena Mysticetus</i>) Length Estimations Based on Scapula Measurements

  • Craig Gerlach
  • John C. George
  • Robert Suydam
Keywords: Animal anatomy, Artifacts, Bones, Bowhead whales, Culture (Anthropology), Food, Inuit, Thule culture, Whaling, Alaska, Northern, Alaskan Beaufort Sea, Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea


This study presents data and a method for reliably predicting bowhead (Balaena mysticetus) length using one length and one width measurement of the scapula. The bowhead scapula preserves well and is common in coastal arctic archaeological sites. The length measurement is taken as the maximum straight-line measurement along the axis, excluding the scapular cartilage. The width measurement is recorded as a maximum transverse measurement of the ossified portion only. Using a least squares linear regression analysis to evaluate the scapula and whale length relationship, a strong correlation between the width and length measurement and whale length is demonstrated. This technique is useful because estimates of live whale length from complete or near complete scapula can be made to less than one metre.

Key words: bowhead whale, Thule, zooarchaeology, taphonomy, arctic archaeology, aboriginal whaling