North America

Inuit Snow goggles

Norton Sound, Alaska

Ancient Eskimo

Carved wood (spruce)
19th century
Length: 5 ½ in. (14 cm)

Ex private collection Amherst, MA, USA

Price: on request

America - Alaska
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These goggles, called ilgaak or iggaak in the dialects of Alaska, were carved so as to echo as closely as possible the shape of the face, and minimize luminosity to a maximum – hence the narrowness of the openings for the eyes. The width of these openings had a direct influence on the wearer’s visual field. According to the Inuit, the more the visual field was reduced, the more visual acuity was accentuated.
Goggles with slits of different sizes were chosen to match climatic conditions (in particular according to the incidence and intensity of the sun’s rays as they varied with the seasons over the course of the year). Carved goggles like these have outfitted hunters/fishermen since the most ancient times, as goggles of the same type in marine ivory or bone have been found on archeological sites (Old Bering Sea cultures).
The superb stylization and the eminently graphic character of the shape of these snow goggles are to be noted.