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Fish carved out of whale tooth

Date: 19th century
Overall: 7 x 165 x 32 mm, 0.05 kg
Display Dimensions: 165 x 34 x 6 mm
Medium: Whale tooth
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Scrimshaw
Object No: 00006681

User Terms

    This carved ornament in the shape of a fish, was made out of whale tooth. It features scrimshaw scale decoration on each side. Whales were primarily hunted for their oil, to be used in candles, fuels or mechanical lubricants. However the animal’s bones, baleen and teeth were also valuable materials and commonly made into functional items of scrimshaw, including sewing tools, buggy whips or busks (corset pieces).
    SignificanceThis rare piece of scrimshaw represents the variety of objects that were made by whalers.
    HistoryScrimshaw is produced by engraving, carving, inlaying or assembling bone from marine mammals, such as whale bone, teeth and baleen or walrus tusks and shell. Using jackknives, saws, homemade files or sharp sail needles, sailors would etch images of women, whaling scenes or other memories from home.

    The act of making a gift of scrimshaw helped sailors deal with the separation from family or loved ones. For the recipient, the scrimshaw provided something useful in the daily routine of domestic life and was a decorative reminder of the sailor often away for years on end.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Fish carved out of whale tooth

    Assigned title: Carved polished whale tooth carved into the shape of a fish, TILBROOK 77

    Collection title: Tilbrook collection

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