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Scrimshaw tooth depicting vessel and neptune sitting on a rock

Date: 19th Century
Dimensions:
Overall: 152 x 68 mm, 0.45 kg
Medium: Sperm whale tooth
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from E M Farram
Object Name: Scrimshaw whale tooth
Object No: 00008361

User Terms

    Description
    This Sperm whale tooth has been engraved with images of an American sailing ship and a seated Neptune holding a trident. Scrimshaw artists commonly depicted maritime images in their work, including scenes of ships, whale hunts or sea animals. This tooth was made by an American whaler during a visit to the Pacific Ocean. Australia's resource rich waterways lured many ships in search of Sperm and Right whales.
    SignificanceThis whale tooth represents the 19th century presence of American whalers in Australia and demonstrates the typical depiction of maritime scenes in scrimshaw.
    HistoryScrimshaw originated onboard 19th century whaling ships and helped sailors to pass the long hours at sea. Using jackknives and other tools scrimshanders carved material from marine animals, including whale bone, teeth or shell into functional everyday objects or decorative art works.

    Engraved whale teeth have become the most recognised form of scrimshaw art and demonstrate great creative diversity. Scrimshanders prepared the teeth by sawing the base flat and smoothing and polishing the surface. Sailors then etched images on the tooth relating to their first-hand experiences or copied illustrations from fashion magazines.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Scrimshaw tooth depicting vessel and neptune sitting on a rock

    Assigned title: Scrimshaw tooth depicting vessel and neptune sitting on a rock

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