Holocene - Bones dating after 1742
The majority of the skeletal materials are remains of the butchering during the years 1742-1768. Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld reported 1879 that the bones were excavated on a flat terrace near shore 2 to 4 meters above sea level. They were buried under a 50 cm thick layer of sand and peat, and were searched for by poking about with iron rods.
Let us trace the ways of these remains into the museums.
In the 19th century the aristocratic cabinets of curiosities (also called wonder-rooms) evolved into the natural history museums as we know them now, and became important bourgeois educational institutions. Now animals, plants and minerals were systematically collected and described.
At the same time the major museums competed for the possession of the most spectacular and rare items. Many museums desired a specimen of Stellerís sea cow, and some were prepared to pay large sums.
On the 25th April 1899 appeared in the "Priamurskie Wedomostim"
, the weekly paper for the Amur region, an article by Nikolai Sergeyevich Vaksmut, which listed in detail the history of the skeletons found on Bering Island between 1875 and 1899. Vaksmut was from 1890 to 1893 assistant to Nikolai Alexandrovich Grebnitzki, Governor of the Commander Islands. I believe that this article did never appear outside Russia, here is a brief translated abstract. The article was presumably written from memory, and there are a number of uncertainties*)marked with asterix and note
, still it gives a fair idea of the situation:
Then in the year 1875 alëut inhabitants of Bering Island discovered a considerable number of skeletons and skulls.
Of those Governor Grebnitzky sent 1877 one skeleton with missing vertebrae and nine skulls to the Imperial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg.
In the following year 1879 two skulls and a nearly complete spinal column were sent to the Imperial Geographical Society in Irkutsk.
In the same year the Swedish discoverer Nordenskiöld, during the Vega expedition, spent some weeks*)5 days
on the island and collected bones, which were later assembled in Stockholm.
1880 a number of bones were sent to the "Moscow Society of the Friends of the Natural Sciences" [?].
1897 two composite skeletons were sold: one to the English Naturalist Barret-Hamilton for Cambridge [UK.?], a second to the Russian Consul in San Francisco, as far as I [Vaksmut] know, for the museum in Lyon, France. In the same year the Governor General of the Amur Region, Dukhowski, requested that I should send a composite skeleton to the museum Khabarovsk.
not many bones are found any more."
These are the information, which I was able to obtain through personal interviews, from the island archives and small literature on the subject.