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Scrimshaw depicting Advance Australia legend, coat of arms and text

Date: 1821-1860
Dimensions:
Overall: 180 x 75 mm, 0.6 kg
Medium: Whale tooth
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Transfer from the Wildlife Protection Authority
Object Name: Scrimshaw whale tooth
Object No: 00029555

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    Description
    This whale tooth is engraved with an image of an Australian legend, coat of arms and poem. The inscription details how the tooth was removed from a whale that produced 128 barrels of oil and was captured in Australian waters in July 1821. It was carved in England but the artist was probably onboard the whaling expedition.
    SignificanceThis is an ornately engraved scrimshaw tooth. It is a rare piece because it records the details of a particular whale hunt.
    HistoryAmerican scrimshaw can trace its roots back to the 19th century whaling industry. It was a craft practiced by whale hunters with plenty of spare time on their hands and involved engraving, carving, inlaying or assembling bone from marine mammals, such as whale bone, teeth and baleen, walrus tusks and shell. Using jackknives, saws, homemade files or needles sailors carved functional objects and pieces of art depicting images of women, whaling scenes or memories of home.

    Engarvings on Sperm whale teeth are the most popular and recognised pieces of scrimshaw. A tooth would be selected and sawn off for stability. It was then filed and sanded to a smooth surface. Often, the basic design was copied from books and magazine illustrations and scratched into the tooths surface. The engraved lines were filled with ink, lamp black or other pigments and as the work progressed more detail would be added to finish the design.

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Scrimshaw depicting Advance Australia legend, coat of arms and text

    Web title: Scrimshaw depicting Advance Australia legend, coat of arms and text

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