Object photography

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Object description

  • Inuit artist
  • Bow drill, 19th century
  • Ivory
  • Northern Alaska, United States
  • L: 13 in, W: 1/2 in (L: 33.0 cm, W: 1.3 cm)
  • Gift of Mr. Alexander O. Vietor, 1980
  • E67117
  • Illustrations of dangerous activities of hunting and warfare
  • Used for drilling hard materials and starting fires

Etched with scenes of daily life, bow drills were invaluable tools of survival in the Arctic. A leather cord attached to the bow would have been wrapped around a drill shaft, and the motion of moving the bow back and forth would have rotated the drill, creating the friction necessary to start fires and carve bone, ivory, or wood.


This is a drill bow carved out of walrus ivory. The bow is decorated with carved figures and scenes depicting hunting and warfare. There is a hole drilled through each end.

Exhibition History

  • Gifts of the Spirit: Works by Nineteenth-Century & Contemporary Native American Artists, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.; November 14, 1996 through May 18, 1997