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Gavel carved from whalebone

Date: 19th century
Overall: 40 x 30 x 140 mm, 0.04 kg
Medium: Whalebone
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Scrimshaw craft
Object No: 00032486

User Terms

    This small whalebone gavel is undecorated and deomonstrates the simple carved design of some pieces of scrimshaw. Gavels are hammer- like instruments used by officials or judges in public environments. This particular item is likely to have been a ceremonial piece rather than a functional object. It has been associated with a Masonic lodge in rural Tasmania.
    SignificanceThis gavel represents the production of functional and ceremonial scrimshaw objects in the 19th century.
    HistoryAmerican scrimshaw can trace its early roots back to the 18th century whaling industry and is a craft practised by whale hunters with plenty of spare time on their hands. Scrimshaw is one of a handful of American folk arts that has maintained its presence in contemporary craft practices.

    The average whaling expedition lasted anywhere from three to five years. This could bring about unbearable boredom and loneliness for the sailors. Whalers would fill their long hours by crafting presents for their loved ones back home. They carved designs into whale teeth and bone reflecting scenes of everyday life afloat and the sailor's memories of home.

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Gavel carved from whalebone

    Web title: Gavel carved from whalebone

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