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Headdress Finial

Southeast Alaska

ca. 1840–1860

wood, abalone shell, pigment, hair
height: 9”

Inventory # N3568


Small carvings representing the dorsal fin of a killer whale, or orca, were made to fit into the top of carved wooden hats fashioned in the form of woven spruce root hats (see: this catalogue, pg. 57). Carved by the hand of a masterful traditional artist, this elegant finial when standing erect, would be elevated above the heads of a gathering, making visible the identifying symbol of the family crest of the owner.

The inlay of iridescent abalone shell in the eyes and forward teeth enabled the carving to catch and reflect the firelight of a ceremonial house as well as the sunlight of an outdoor gathering. The long wisps of hair attached to the back edge of these finials was often the hair of a respected female relative, thus bringing additional status and honor to this venerable object.

Mask CN3875

Southeast Alaska

ca. 1840