Length: 143.000 cm
Gift of Sir Joseph Banks
Room 26: North America
Sled of bone, ivory and wood
Inughuit (Polar Inuit), early 19th century
The sled is mostly made from whale, walrus (penis and rib) and other bone, and wood, tied with walrus skin. The shoes on the runners are made of strips of narwhal ivory. It was collected by John Ross (1777- 1856) on the first occasion that this isolated group of Inuit came into contact with Europeans. Although they had virtually no wood, the Inuit did have access to an amalgam of iron and nickel. This came from meteorites, which they named Woman, Tent and Dog; the type specimens (the first pieces collected by, or known to, scientists) are a knife and lance head also collected in 1818, now in the Natural History Museum, London.
Hans Zakaeus (died 1819), a West Greenlander, contributed sketches for the official account of Ross's voyage, and acted as interpreter, as did numerous other Inuit during the exploration of the Arctic by Europeans in the nineteenth century.
J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)