Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Harpoon Head

Date:
4th–5th century
Geography:
United States, Alaska
Culture:
Old Bering Sea
Medium:
Ivory (walrus)
Dimensions:
L. 5 15/16 in. (15.1 cm)
Classification:
Bone/Ivory-Implements
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1981
Accession Number:
1981.358.1
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 356
In the last two millennia before the Common Era, the peoples who established themselves along the rim of the North Pacific Ocean between Asia and America were dependent for their livelihood to a great extent on the resources of the sea. Walrus, seal, and whale were significant to subsistence, and all were hunted. On the American side, the Bering Sea Eskimo were careful to decorate the ivory and wood tools with which they hunted. The beautifully balanced and elegantly incised objects were functional tools that were incised with spirit images and designs that honored the animals the hunters sought. Harpoon heads and foreshafts, and the socket pieces known as winged objects are salient examples. Also carved of walrus ivory were human figures, most frequently female. The purpose to which the enigmatic but equally elegant figures were put is unclear. Some authorities call them dolls-originally, they may have been dressed-while others call them ceremonial objects.
Kenneth Pushkin, Albuquerque, NM, until 1981

Related Objects

Harpoon Head

Artist: Date: 4th–5th century
Accession Number: 1981.358.1
Date: 4th–5th century Medium: Ivory (walrus) Accession: 1981.358.1 On view in:Gallery 356

Sea Otter Amulet

Artist: Date: 19th–20th century
Accession Number: 1979.206.890
Date: 19th–20th century Medium: Ivory Accession: 1979.206.890 On view in:Not on view

Pig Mask

Artist: Date: 20th century
Accession Number: 1978.412.228
Date: 20th century Medium: Wood, ivory, leather thong Accession: 1978.412.228 On view in:Not on view

Amulet

Artist: Date: 19th century
Accession Number: 1979.206.1104
Date: 19th century Medium: Ivory Accession: 1979.206.1104 On view in:Not on view

Winged Object

Artist: Date: 2nd–3rd century
Accession Number: 1975.311
Date: 2nd–3rd century Medium: Ivory (walrus) Accession: 1975.311 On view in:Not on view