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Scrimshaw whale tooth depicting sailor, anchor and crown

Date: 19th Century
Overall: 35 x 130 x 50 mm, 0.15 kg
Medium: Sperm whale tooth
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Scrimshaw whale tooth
Object No: 00003838

User Terms

    This Sperm whale tooth is engraved with images of a sailor resting on rigging, an anchor and a crown. Whaling expeditions lasted for five years an average and the voyage at sea could be boring. Scrimshaw was a time consuming activity that helped sailors pass the hours at sea. Often whalers collected teeth to engrave at a later stage.
    SignificanceThis tooth demonstrates the frequent depiction of martime scenes on pieces of scrimshaw.
    HistoryScrimshaw was originally a maritime folk art that developed from the unique conditions encountered onboard whaling ships in the early 19th century. No one knows for sure where the term originated, but it comes from the Dutch words 'scrim' meaning to etch and 'shorn' meaning to make. The earliest written reference is in an American ship log dated 20 May 1826. There is also a reference to 'skrim shunder articles' in Herman Melville's Moby Dick in 1851.

    Engravings on whale teeth are a common form of scrimshaw art and have become popular with collectors. Teeth were often engraved in fine detail and depict maritime scenes of ships, whale hunts, sailors and sea animals.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Scrimshaw whale tooth depicting sailor, anchor and crown

    Primary title: Scrimshaw whale tooth depicting sailor, anchor and crown

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