Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

Related Objects

Curved knife

mellgar “curved knife”
Language: Central Yup'ik

Cavilqaat. Tau taumeng wii atutullrat tangtullruamki qaygimi uitatullruama arnaungerma tang wii qanerrcigatellruunga. (They carved with it. I used to see them use it when they stayed in the men’s house, even though I was a girl. I was a mischievous girl.)

—Neva Rivers, 2002

The curved, or “crooked,” knife is an old tool still used by contemporary carvers. The knives were used for shaping masks, boxes, trays, tubs, harpoon shafts, bows, arrows, boat frames, and many other items. With its curved edge, a mellgar can sculpt grooves and concave interiors as well as flat or convex surfaces, and the sharp tip lends itself to the carving of fine details. The blade is scrap metal or a piece of steel knife or file. It is lashed to a handle made of wood, bone, or antler.

Culture: Yup’ik
Region: Southwest Alaska
Object Category: Tools
Dimensions: Length 26cm
Accession Date: 1897
Source: E. W. Nelson (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E176120