you have 0 items in your cart

Walrus Jawbone Ivory Nar Whale Siberian Yupik Eskimo Moses Soonagrook


Availability: In stock


by Moses Soonagrook of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from marine mammal walrus jawbone and ivory into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist Moses Soonagrook.

This very beautiful piece was carved from the lower jawbone of a walrus by Moses Soonagrook of Gambell, Alaska, a small Siberian Yup'ik Eskimo village of about 700 people on St. Lawrence Island, just south of the Bering Straits. Their Siberian Yup'ik language is spoken on both the U.S. and Russian side of the straits. It's about 140 miles off shore from Nome Alaska, and about 40 miles from Russia. On a clear day (which is rare) you can see the mountains of Russia.

Moses has carved for many years and is a master carver. He is the eldest son of the Soonagrook family of carvers. His father William Sr., brothers Billy and Ladd are well known carvers in Alaska. He carves from ivory tusks of walrus, walrus bone and whalebone, and trims with baleen from Bowhead whales. His carvings are featured in a book titled: Eskimo Carvers of the Bering Sea by Dale Kessler.

Much walrus ivory, walrus bone and whalebone are dug up or found washed up on beaches after storms. Carving is a rich tradition for the Native Alaskan people on St. Lawrence Island, it helps sustain their proud ancient culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.

Nar Whale or "Qungvughaq" - which is Nar Whale in the Siberian Yup'ik language. This beautiful Nar Whale was carved from the lower jawbone of a walrus found in the old village of Gambell. It was buried for centuries. The eyes and each spot on the back are inlaid baleen, a fibrous black material found in the mouth of Bowhead whales, they strain food through it. The "Nar" tusk is walrus ivory, it was also found in the old village of Gambell. It's mounted on a jawbone base with a baleen pin. The base is where the lower jawbone articulated with the skull.

The name Nar Whale was derived from the Old Norse word ‘nahvalr’ which meant “corpse-whale”; because it resembled a floating corpse on the ocean surface. The Nar Whale is common in the Greenland and Norwegian Arctic seas, but rare in the Alaskan side of the Arctic Ocean. Because it’s so rare it takes on mythical qualities. Prominent features of the Nar Whale are the spots on its back and its mythical like tusk, which is actually an overgrown off centered tooth. The function of the “Nar” is thought to be an attractant in mating rituals of the whale. It was also recently discovered the narwhal's mysterious spiral tusk works as a giant sensor to help it test water quality in addition to smooching other narwhals. The whale's eight-foot long tusk has long mystified naturalists and hunters, and the explanation may be equally intriguing.

In the Siberian Yup'ik culture the Nar Whale was very sacred. In addition to rarely being seen, the presence of a whale with a unicorn like tusk was thought to be a sign of good things to come.

Care of bone includes avoiding hot dry locations, such as direct sun in a window or a heat register. Give it an occasional very light coating of baby oil or mineral oil, put it on a cloth first or a q-tip; avoid acid based oil such as lemon oil. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also like bone and ivory carvings!

Moses signed his name on the bottom. The actual bone Nar Whale measures 7 3/4 inches long, 2 1/4 inches wide at the forward flippers and stands 4 1/4 inches high above the mounting pin. The "Nar" is 2 3/8 inches long.

This is a very nice piece and would make a great addition to a collection or a very unique gift for someone with an eye for something really unusual from one of the most remote areas of the U.S.

Don't Wait, Buy it now!