Old Bering Sea
Harpoon socket piece
Old Bering Sea II-III culture
Height: 20 cm – 7 ¾ in.
Ex collection Jeffrey Myers, New York
Ex collection Dr. Andreas et Kathrin Lindner, Munich
Ex Sotheby’s Paris, 8 juin 2007, lot 225
As mentioned by Peter Loovers (Sainsbury Centre), based on Sergei A. Arutunov’s ‘The Eskimo Harpoon’, In Gifts from the Ancestors: Ancient Ivories of the Bering Strait, Princeton University Art Museum, 2009, pp 52-57, the sophisticated Old Bering Sea (OBS) harpoon consists of five parts: the counterweight-stabiliser (winged object), the shaft, the socket piece, the foreshaft, and the harpoon head. The harpoon would have been thrown with an atlatl and the harpoon head would have been attached to an inflated seal bladder. The walrus ivory components of the harpoon were beautifully carved and in particular the counterweight-stabiliser, the socket piece, and the harpoon head were with striking with intricate designs.
This reusable hunting implement had to be heavy enough to penetrate the thick skin of walruses or seals and short enough to be thrown by a hunter aboard his kayak.
The invention of the harpoon ensured organized, predictable, and fruitful hunting expeditions, establishing the foundation for a stable and flourishing culture.
Arctic carvers decorated their hunting gear with shamanic designs to enhance their spiritual potency and maximize their efficacy.