Inuit Pipe and Bowl: Curiosity can arise from the miniscule
- Post Date: 07/16/2018
- Author: Suzie Ayers, Registration student
- Reading Time: 2 minute read
While working in the Registration Section, I came across one surprising artifact: a small Inuit pipe made of carved Walrus ivory with a fascinating design. Atop this small curved pipe are the carvings of 8 creatures: a hare, 3 individual seals, a crouching man, 2 walruses, and, of all things, a spider. On the side are drawings of what appear to be men either constructing boats or walking on wooden planks. This pipe is unusual to me and here is why.
This pipe incites a lot of questions. Firstly, unlike other hand-carved animals I have seen elsewhere, these figures leave little to the imagination. With the walruses being the best example as the 2 are painted, these figures are quite detailed. In addition to the shape, they include eyes, noses, paws, and the imprint of their fur. This reflects a culture that was not only familiar with the animals its members chose to carve, but also one that has the time and devotion to create something so intricate and realistic.
Secondly, I must ask about the spider. Why is there a spider on an Inuit pipe and why with these creatures? Are bugs more common in Alaska than I imagined? Could there be a symbolic reason for why it gets to be next to the bowl? Is there an old tale symbolized here that I am missing?
Lastly, the figures draw on the side seem out of place to what I understand of Inuit culture. While, the use of boats is necessary for their hunting practices, isn’t wood scarce in the region? Shouldn’t they be constructing boats out of animal skins and bones? Is there a story here too? As one can see, this pipe has stimulated my curiosity of Inuit culture which is a great thing. To me the definition of a good artifact or exhibit is one that encourages visitors to think and seek to learn more about the world outside their door.