British Museum collections, £12.99
Length: 41.500 cm
Width: 2.000 cm
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Snowbeater of caribou antler
Inuit, early 19th century
From eastern Canadian Arctic
It is vital to keep clothes dry at all times in the Arctic, especially in winter when water and moisture freezes instantly. Sweat must not be allowed to accumulate and freeze. This is achieved in part by the loose fit of the garments, which permits ventilation and air circulation. Warm air leaves through the hood opening, preventing the accumulation of sweat and humidity inside the garment.
In addition, snow and ice has to be removed regularly. Ruffs of caribou fur around the hood, for instance, allow ice crystals which form from breath to be brushed off easily. Before entering a house, snowbeaters are used to remove ice and snow from clothes, to prevent the clothing from becoming wet from the melting snow.
This example is made from the hollowed antler of a caribou, with the strong rind left to catch and channel snow and ice. It was probably made in the early nineteenth century, and was collected by William Edward Parry on one of his voyages in search of the Northwest Passage.