During the Dorset period (c. 600 BC–AD 1300), residents of the island of Igloolik in the self-governing Inuit Nunavut Territory in Canada’s eastern Arctic carved remarkable bone and ivory sculptures. Miniature carvings, such as the two shown here, include miniature tools as well as animal, human, and sacred representations. Thousands of miniature carvings depicting the natural and spiritual world have been recovered in excavations of Dorset-era archaeological sites. Researchers have proposed that many were amulets, used in communication with the spirit world and shamanic ritual practices. Archaeologist William Taylor collected these two ivory figures from Igloolik, and the National Museum of Canada donated them to the Museum in 1957. The bird figure on the left (approximately an inch long) may have been used as an amulet, while the carved fish, which has a hole drilled in it, is described in the Museum’s catalog as a fish lure. See also Day 195.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.