Head with spike
This carving seems to imitate the form of the spikes on a shaman’s goat-horn head-dress, where a face was sometimes carved at the base (see de Laguna, 1972:693, pl. 175, for a Tlingit example). The face here has human features but large, bear-like ears; the bear spirit, if encountered during a shaman’s vision quest, was among the most important of his helpers. This is too small to be part of a head-dress, but it may have been a shaman’s pendant or attachment of some kind. A clue to its former function is provided by a similar ivory in the Peabody Museum, Harvard (69-30-10/1922), which serves as a toggle on the end of a strap which ties a pouch of gambling sticks. The Skeena River provenance makes it likely to have originated among the Tsimshian.
Steven Hooper, 1997
Entry taken from Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection, Vol. 2: Pacific, African and Native North American Art, edited by Steven Hooper (Yale University Press, 1997) p. 268.
'Empowering Art: Indigenous Creativity and Activism from North America's Northwest Coast', Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, 12/3/23 - 30/7/23
Formerly in the collection of Harry Beasley.
Purchased by the Sainsbury Centre, University of East Anglia from K. J. Hewett in 1976 out of funds provided by Robert and Lisa Sainsbury.
Title/Description: Head with spike
Materials: Walrus ivory
Measurements: h. 100 x w. 20 x d. 15 mm
Accession Number: 659
Historic Period: Mid 19th century
Production Place: North America, Northwest Coast, The Americas
Cultural Group: Tsimshian
Credit Line: Purchased with support from Robert and Lisa Sainsbury, 1976
More from the collection
Norwich Cathedral, from Whitefriars' Bridge
Image h. 238 x w. 165, primary support h. 281 x w. 206, secondary support h. 314 x w. 244, mount h. 423 x w. 336mm