Seal head amulet
Toggle (qanging) or handle ornament
Inuit or Thule culture (Ancient Eskimo)
19th century or earlier
Carved walrus tooth
Length: 3 cm – 1 ¼ in.
Ex collection Edric Van Vredenburgh, Brussels
Throughout history, Eskimo cultures have shared the belief that all things in the physical world are imbued with a living spirit, or inua. In order to gain favor with the spirits controlling the animals, a hunter had to approach his prey in a respectful manner. It was believed that decorated objects, through their beauty, attracted the prey and at the same time honored its spirit.
This animal figure was possibly an ornament for a bag handle. A very similar example was collected on Sledge Island, Norton Sound, Alaska in 1880 by Edward W. Nelson and is now in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History in New York, accession Number 80A00050. It might also have been used as a toggle.