North America

Inuit or Thule Figure

Alaska, USA

Probably a doll’s head
Ancient Eskimo

Carved bear tooth
17th-19th century
Height: 2 ¼ in. (5.5 cm)

Ex Christie’s London, 16 October 1979 lot 258

Price: on request

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According to Fitzhugh et Kaplan (Inua: Spirit World of the Bering Sea Eskimo, 1982 : 156), these shamanic figurines were carved for several purposes: to stand in for people absent from the village during festivals, to avert infertility, or else to focus the attention of animal inua (spirit) during the Doll Festival, which was held to bless hunting and fishing expeditions in the coming year.
These dolls were made as children’s toys, for use in fertility ceremonies, or for calling upon the “masters” of game animals.
See Fitzhugh and Kaplan (Inua: 157, no. 191) and Feder (1965: 67, no. 67) for comparable dolls.