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At Cape Wankarem I saw the Chukchi capture many eider ducks by its aid, and frequently saw one of the extended balls or its cord touch a duck, when the other balls appeared as if endowed with intelligence; their course was rapidly changed, and the bird enwrapped completely…They are used mostly on low points over which waterfowl fly at certain hours of the day.

—Edward Nelson, in “The Eskimo about Bering Strait,” 1899

Hunters wore coiled bolas on their heads or looped them around their waists, ready to throw at passing flocks of geese and ducks. The ivory balls fanned out in the air and tangled the birds’ wings, bringing them to the ground. For use at sea or on lakes non-sinking balls made of wood were used. This ancient weapon declined after the introduction of shotguns.

Culture: Eastern Siberian
Region: Chukchee Point, Siberia
Object Category: Hunting
Object Type: Bolas
Dimensions: Length 48cm
Accession Date: 1879
Source: E. W. Nelson (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E037649