British Museum collections, £12.99
Length: 73.500 cm
Width: 35.500 cm
Acquired from the Paris Exhibition 1867
AOA Ethno 5068
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Ivory model of a summer festival (Ysykh)
Yakut, early 19th century
From the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), north-eastern Russia
This ivory model represents the Ysykh, the summer festival of the Yakut people of Sakha (Yakutia), a republic in north-eastern Siberia. The festival is celebrated for several days in June, including the 21st, the summer solstice, and welcomes the new economic year and honours various deities and spirits.
The model contains twenty-one human figures carved from mammoth ivory. The scenes of sporting competitions reflect the importance of games of strength among the Yakut, who used to honour their athletes as heroes.
The Yakut's national form of wrestling (khapsagai) was a favourite spectacle at the Ysyakh. The rules were very strict: if any part of the body (apart from the feet) touched the ground it would count as a defeat. Formerly, the men used to wrestle barefoot. Other games included running, high-jump and long-jump. All the competitions and games of strength ended with singing, and glorifying the winner with the presentation of pieces of horse or oxen meat (miuse).
S.N. Gorokhov, Ysyakh: a model tableau in the (**Publisher?**, 1997)