Item ESK5 - Eskimo Polar Bear Oosik with Shaman’s End Cap.
“Oosik” is an Eskimo word referring to the bacculum—“penis bone.” The
bacculum is a feature of mammals in the order Carnivora. They are found in
various degrees of robustness, but are not particularly impressive in the cats (Felidae).
Other carnivores such as dogs, raccoons, bears, and pinnipeds (seals, walrus)
can have noteworthy bacculae The bacculum is technically known as a “sesamoid”
bone, and is not derived evolutionarily from a bony precursor, forming instead
as the ossification of cartilaginous material forming in response to areas of
stress in the developing skeleton. Better known examples of sesamoid bones
include our patellas (knee caps).
A good friend of mine amassed a collection of about 14 bacculae from
raccoons he trapped or hunted. Cleaned up and dried, the bacculum from this
animal has an intriguing “S” shape, and average four or five inches long. He
delighted in serving cocktails to guests at his home, replete with the bacculae
as swizzle sticks! The walrus famously possesses the largest bacculum among all
mammals, and specimens nearly 24 inches long are known. Whereas the raccoon’s
bacculum is “S” shaped, that of the walrus is only slightly curved, and has a
basal end that is noticeably enlarged, making it seem like a pretty good club.
Prehistoric Eskimos and Inuits surely used walrus bacculuae as clubs, but more
recently their function is mainly to use them to craft objects to sell to
somewhat voyeuristic tourists, and they are not uncommon to find for sale.
As noted above the bears (Ursidae) also have bacculae. In my youth I
once bagged a male bear while deer hunting, and kept its bacculum (about 5
inches long) as a talisman of sorts until it unaccountably disappeared a number
of years ago. With that experience is was easy for me to almost immediately
recognize the bacculum presented here as originating from a bear. And because
this bacculum has been fitted with an walrus ivory end cap having an Eskimo
likeness, it is easy to surmise that the bacculum at one point belonged to a
Polar Bear—one of the largest species of bears. This object is about 6 7/8
inches long, and has a maximum diameter of about 5/8 of an inch. It is slightly
curved, with the proximal end being somewhat englarged. The opposite (distal)
has probably been somewhat shortened through wear or breakage over the years.
Its size is completely proper for that of a Polar Bear. The golden patina of
the bone shows considerable age, although it has been fairly recently finished
with a clear layer of shellac or lacquer. The proximal end has been fitted with
a cap of walrus ivory that has been carved in the form of an Eskimo face, having
eyes closed and a semblance of upper incisory teeth projecting down over the
lower lip. The expression on the face is one of sleep or repose. My belief is
that this item (very rare among Eskimo or Inuit items) could have been some sort
of a Shaman’s amulet, meant to assist the bearer overcome some sort of sleep or
even sexual dysfunction. It is certainly an intriguing, as well as a rare,
item. Fine. Not For Sale
Note: This object was crafted from Walrus ivory and a Polar Bear's
bacculum most likely more than 50 years ago, and predates federal restrictions
that are imposed by the Marine Mammal and Endangered Species acts.
Price - $650.00
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