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Frontal view of an elongated ivory head carved with delicate features | Donald Ellis Gallery
Angled view of a beautiful ancient Okvik ivory head carving with dark coloring | Donald Ellis Gallery


Bering Sea, Alaska

200 BC - 100 AD

marine mammal ivory

height: 3"

Inventory # E4047



Excavated by a native family on Punuk Island, adjacent to St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, in the summer of 2012.

Related Examples

Wardwell, Allen. Ancient Eskimo Ivories of the Bering Strait. New York: Hudson Hills, 1986, pg. 46, pls. 22 and 24

The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas – See : La Rime et La Raison, Ministere de la Culture (France), Editions de la Reunion des Musees Nationaux, Paris, 1984, pg. 214, Cat. No. 265

Deletaille, Emile. Schatten Uit De Nieuwe Wereld. Brussels: Musee Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, 1992, pgs. 98-99

Two thousand years ago, from approximately 200 BC to 100AD, small coastal settlements appeared on St. Lawrence Island and the neighbouring Punuk Islands in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, off the coast of Alaska. This Bering Strait culture, commonly referred to today as the Okvik period or style, is considered the earliest of the known Old Bering Sea culture phases. The exceptional head seen above is exemplary of Okvik style. Hovering between abstraction and representation, the material is sculpted in the form of an elongated human head defined by arching eye-sockets extending into a long slender nose. Finely engraved eyebrows, set high on the forehead, lend a graceful expression that is counterbalanced by a small, downward-cast mouth. The subtlety of carving and reduction of details achieve a work of refined elegance, further enhanced by the smooth brown patina resulting from soil mineralisation. Although small in scale, the presence of this carving is monumental.