A pair of extremely rare and fine Okvik wood snow goggles
Lot 1123
A pair of extremely rare and fine Okvik wood snow goggles
US$ 20,000 - 40,000
£12,000 - 25,000

Lot Details
A pair of extremely rare and fine Okvik wood snow goggles A pair of extremely rare and fine Okvik wood snow goggles
A pair of extremely rare and fine Okvik wood snow goggles
200 BC – 100 AD, conceived as a series of gracefully curving planes contoured to fit the face, leaving a slit for each eye, pierced at one end, the opposite side finished in two short prongs for affixing to the wearer's head.
length 5 1/8in

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Consigned by the Eskimo family who excavated it at Eevwak on St. Lawrence Island in summer 2012

    Ancient Eskimos wore lenseless goggles carved from ivory or wood to protect the eyes against the devastating effects of the blinding glare, high winds and driving snow of the Arctic. Other than dance and ceremony, hunting was one of the principal activities for which goggles were worn. The improved visual acuity from looking through narrow apertures would, in practical terms, give the hunter a distinct advantage over unaided vision.

    The sculptural quality evident in the carving of these goggles, however, harkens to loftier aspirations. In both presentation and top-down views, they resemble a bird in flight. As observed in nature, the bird was adaptable to water, land and air, hence thought transcendentally capable of moving between physical and spiritual realms. In the ritual act of dressing for the hunt and putting on the goggles, the wearer would take on the superior predatory attributes of the bird—agility, swiftness, deadly visual accuracy—and become one with the hunt and the hunted.

    It is exceedingly rare for wood objects to survive millennia in the permafrost without structural compromise. Perhaps this pair of goggles beat the odds because they were found wrapped in polar bear hide. After undergoing conservation, they now have an overall uniformly rich chestnut brown color and a mellow, furniture-like patina. Hand-tool striations are crisply evident on the inside.

    The beautiful marriage of aerodynamic efficiency and sculptural sophistication imbues these goggles with an enduringly soulful presence.

    Please see the essay associated with lot 1121 for more information.

    Cf:
    For similar wooden goggles from the mere handful of extant ancient examples, see Rinkevich, 2012, p. 109, fig. 25; p. 110, fig 27 & 28 (this latter pair most closely resembling our lot, though clearly not in such pristine condition); Fitzhugh and Crowell, 1988, p. 127, fig. 148 and Dumond, 1998, pp. 196-197. For related ivory examples, Fitzhugh, Hollowell and Crowell, 2009, p 167, Christie's NY, American Indian Art, Jan. 12, 2006.
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