As part of the Bear Island Project, Sébastien Perrot-Minnot undertook a mission to Alaska last September. On that occasion, he met with the project’s partners, did some documentary research, examined and photographed the stone artifacts from Bear Island kept at the Pratt Museum, and visited SEL-00036 with Janet Klein. During that visit, a survey of the area and a first photographic recording of the decorated rock wall were performed. Thanks to Alaska USGS Geologists Frederic Wilson and Sue Karl, the rock which was painted could be characterized as silicified siltstone.
After his return from mission, Sébastien Perrot-Minnot enhanced the pictures of the decorated rock wall with the DStretch plugin for the ImageJ program, which allowed him to see already known pictographs more clearly, and to identify a number of new pictographs, including the above-mentioned polychrome motif (polychromy is exceptional in Southcentral Alaska rock art). Moreover, for the first time, all the pictographs were located on an image of the decorated rock wall, in order to have an overview of the rupestrian manifestations and to think about their distribution, which shows intriguing aspects. The comparative study of the iconography has already revealed significant analogies with other Southcentral Alaska rock art sites, located on Kachemak Bay, Cook Inlet but also Prince William Sound and Kodiak Island.
Current research evidence suggests that the Bear Island paintings are expressions of the Kachemak Tradition, which appears in Kodiak around 1500 BC and on the Kenai Peninsula about 5 centuries later, to disappear between 600 and 1000 AD. This cultural entity has been attributed to the Alutiiq or “Pacific Eskimo”. So, the Bear Island Project could make it possible to define, on a regional scale, a “rock art identity” of Kachemak Tradition’s Alutiiq. For the rest, the rupestrian iconography and ethnographic evidence leads one to think that the Bear Island rock paintings related to hunting rituals.