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Game pieces

meteghlluwaaghet “bird carvings for game”
Language: St. Lawrence Island Yupik

That’s for the bird game. It’s fun. I used to make some for my children when they were small, just to keep them in one place when they were bothering me too much, asking me what to do.

—Estelle Oozevaseuk, 2001

These ivory bird carvings are pieces for a game that was traditionally played all across the Arctic. Bird figures found in archaeological sites show that the game spread across northern Alaska, Canada, and Greenland about a thousand years ago, carried by migrating Thule ancestors of the modern Inuit. Some birds land upright when tossed onto the ground, while others tip over onto their sides. Different species of ducks or geese are indicated by the shapes of the birds’ heads and the markings on their backs.

Culture: St. Lawrence Island Yupik
Region: St. Lawrence Island, Alaska
Object Category: Toys, games
Dimensions: Length 15cm
Accession Date: 1926
Source: Dr. Ales F. Hrdlicka (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E333175