Tickled by the Ivory

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This is an inuit ivory bow drill that is owned by the British Museum that I was lucky enough to glimpse in a cabinet last week. It’s a fascinating object telling us how the inuit people used to hunt seals (though it seems unclear what the date of the piece is – anything from 18-20th century when I try and find similar objects). What I particularly love is the level of detail – the smiles on the faces of the seals, the size of the seals in relation to the men (they look like friendly sea monsters) and the sequence of events, lovingly told. 20130709-091113.jpg

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Look at this tussle going on between three men. What did the middle man do? Perhaps try to steal some meat for himself? Or are they helping him to get dressed in special garments for preparing the meat? Despite their primitive nature they are wonderfully expressive in terms of body posture.20130709-091138.jpgOf course we learn that they stored the meat close to their houses and they kept dogs as helpers. This dog reminds me of a Lowry dog –  wonderfully crude and imperfect in looks but all the energy of the real thing.

If we carved out our day as a sequence I wonder whether it would be full of so much drama? Would it be that good that people would feel compelled to lean over cabinets in wonder, to take photographs and to stitch them together to share? Would it end up in the ‘Enlightenment’ room in the British Museum? Perhaps we should pick up some carving tools and find out…

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