Drag Handle – Western Alaska

This well-preserved drag features a cleverly carved zoomorphic handle threaded with a loop of hide knotted in the center. The thumb-sized handle depicts a polar bear with legs carved in relief, tucked along its belly. Eyes, ears, nose and mouth are developed and picked out with blackened details, presenting a predatory aspect. Age and use have left darkened pits, scratches and a mottled patina on the white ivory, adding a pelt-like texture to the figure’s surface.

Drags were tools used by hunters to pull walruses, sea lions and seals across the ice after a successful hunt. Serving as a magical aid for both protection and hunting success, these talismanic carvings assisted the hunter in his arduous task.

19th century
Walrus ivory, walrus hide
L: 2 3/4", 16" loop

Justin Cobb, Massachusetts

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