Punuk Trace Guide - St. Lawrence Island, Alaska

Rounded on both ends and drilled with three large holes through both of its indented sides, this gently curved trace guide was used to organize and separate the rawhide traces of a dog sled. The slightly convex top surface is decorated with a beautiful geometric composition showing looping and crossing bands framing rows of triangular motifs that point symmetrically outward from the center line. A lovely blend of mottled golds and browns clouds the surface of the aged ivory, which is smoothed to a gloss. 

Walrus ivory was a precious resource for the peoples of the Arctic, and was used in the crafting of objects concerning all aspects of life, from the recreational to the ceremonial. Decoration of ivory pieces could be very minimal, but some showcase the skill of Arctic carvers in sharp, linear incised designs. The geometric engraving seen here is strong and boldly executed in contrast to the rather delicate designs found on some other Arctic objects, making it a striking example of its kind.

Ca. 500–1300 C.E.
Walrus ivory
8” l
- John J. Klejman, New York
- Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York, acquired from the above on December 20, 1971
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