Girl's caribou-skin parka
Inuit, early 19th century
From West Greenland, North America
Traditional Arctic clothing consists of two layers of caribou skin garments. Caribou skin is used because the hollow hair follicles contain an air bubble; they also trap insulating air. The inner layer has the fur turned inwards towards the skin, while the outer layer has the fur turned outwards. A pocket of insulating air is caught between the body and the two layers of clothing.
This parka has contrasting mosaic-work made of the white belly skin of a young caribou. The curved flaps, front and rear, are characteristic of Arctic women's clothing.
The edge of the hood would have been finished with a ruff or fringe of fur from animals such as wolf or wolverine. Their glossy hairs allow the accumulated ice, from breath and snow fall, to be shaken away.
The parka may have been collected by H.P. Hoppner (1795-1833) in the early nineteenth century during the search for the Northwest Passage. It is one of the first woman's parkas to be collected in Greenland, and is similar in design to those, discovered with mummies at Qilatiksoq in 1972-8, dating to about 1475.
J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)