Two drill bows by Inupiak

These drill bows, made by the Inupiak people of northern Alaska, are decorated with scenes representing the hunting of land and sea creatures, a theme cherished by the Eskimos.

Details

Medium:
Argillite & wood
Dimensions:
Length: 42 cm
Acquired in:
1949
Vendor:
Mrs W O Oldman

One depicts geese flying and being netted and the other fantastic scenes of dancing caribou and monstrous beings performing around people's houses. They were primarily used to drill holes by a technique that is still in use today. A wooden shaft would be attached to a bit-like mouthpiece held between the user's teeth, freeing both hands. Attached horizontally to the top of the shaft would be the drill bow, a thong extending from the bow to the shaft. As the drill bow is moved from side to side, the thong tightens around the shaft, which rotates, driving it into the surface to be drilled. They were part of a large and varied collection of 30 works of ethnographic art, formed by W. O. Oldman, which the Art Fund presented to the nation on account of its 'exceptional merit'.

Provenance

Hurst and Collier Collection; Mr W O Oldman.

Venue details

British Museum Great Russell Street, LONDON London WC1B 3DG 020 7323 8299 www.britishmuseum.org

Entry details

50% off with National Art Pass

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