An extremely rare pair of Punuk marine ivory goggles, of classical shape, sculpted to fit the wearer's face, perforated on each end for attachment presenting two thin lines in the center and a group of little holes. Worn as regular binoculars, they were protecting the eyes from the sun reflection. In this artifact, an ingenious utilitarian object is elevated to the level of a work of fine art. This piece captures two major forces in the Punuk Eskimo conception of the world. It is both a spiritual and a technical tour-de-force, executed in honor of the animals that offered their lives and allowed for the continued survival of the Eskimo people.
St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, circa 1200 - 1500,
For the ancient Punuk Eskimos of St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, (600-1100 AD), life revolved arund the hunting of the abundant sea mammal population in the Bering Sea. A combination of physical and spiritual means were addressed in order to ensure success in the hunt, and thus the continued survival of the village. Both of these aspects are strongly evident in these snow goggles.
The harsh arctic climate presented some unique impediments to the Eskimo hunter. The high latitude left the sun low on the horizon through much of the year, and the resulting glare was compounded by the highly reflective snow or water that covered the area. Without protection, a hunters eyes were left vulnerable to a painful and often serious condition known as snow blindness, similar to a sunburn. Ivory or wood snow goggles alleviated this effect by allowing the wearer to peer through narrow openings, while shading him from the excessive glare. Additionally, they afforded protection from wind, sleet, etc. while travelling.
Provenance : Lord Mc Alpine, UK, circa 1988, stock book No. A280, invoice No. 1529 from 29/12/88
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