The livelihood and well being of many of the Eskimo tribes was based on their prowess as fishermen.

Carved ivory hook with trade iron barbs
H.1.75 in. Mid-18th Century

The Arctic is an inhospitable area, notably poor in natural resources. Stone knives and scrapers were the only durable tools. Metal for sculpting and cutting was largely unknown and only a few carvable media for toolmaking existed.Despite this, the area was a rich migration grounds for many species of fish and aquatic mammals.

Fish Hook
Nunivak Island, Alaska, 1880's.
Carved Walrus ivory, wood, twine and iron. L. 8.2 in.

A large Walrus population was constant and the huge mammals, along with seal, reindeer and the occasional Polar Bear, comprised a large part of the Eskimo diet. Because of its comparative abundance and durability, Walrus ivory became the principal medium for toolmaking in the Bering Sea Eskimo cultures.

Harpoon Head
Old Bering Sea Style.
. Carved, inscribed and drilled Walrus ivory. L.3.78 in.

Harpoon Head
Carved, incised and drilled Walrus ivory. L. 4 in.

Harpoon Head
Old Bering Sea Style.
Carved, incised and drilled Walrus ivory. L.2.78 in.

Harpoon handle in the form of a seal.
Carved and incised Walrus ivory with inset
trade glass bead eyes. L. 5.25 in.

Fish Hook
Old Bering Sea Style

Carved and drilled Walrus ivory with inset trade metal hook. L.3 in.

Fish Hooks
Carved wood and ivory Various dates, collected,
mid-1980's. Largest 2.5" length.

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All Images and Text Copyright 2002, NorthwestCoast