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Bentwood Bucket

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RTCFA No. NA1021
Bentwood Bucket
Artist: Unknown
Wood, ivory, hide thong, and spruce root, 7.5 x 9.2 in. (19 x 23 cm).

Geographic Location: Alaska
Region: Far North
Group / Tribe: Yup'ik


/*In the scrub and riverine areas of the Kuskokwim, Yukon Delta, area, wild berries became abundant in the very short late summer and early autumn. Bentwood containers such as this one made from thick strips of wood and shaped by hot water or steam were used to pick these berries and transport them. This one, typically, has a red stain still remaining in the incised lines that enliven the outer body of the bucket which has more of the stain spread along the surface due to exposure and use. The elegant, flat handle is suspended for carrying from two pierced side attachments made from the same fossil ivory as the handle. Hide thongs allow the bucket to move up and down as the user carried it by the handle. Every feature of this container including its lightweight and compactness facilitates ease in movement while berry picking. All elements are tightly fitted together not only by spruce lacing, but by whittling joints to fit one another as tightly as a drum. The bottom is carved from a single piece of wood and snapped into place so tightly that only one side required lacing. Although some of these containers have small religious or votive symbols painted, this one seems to have been unadorned. The finished bucket is a tour-de-force of reciprocal contour carving, whittling, and subtle joinery. These buckets were used to pick berries. For a similar example from Saint Michel is illustrated and discussed in Dorothy Jean Ray, “A Legacy of Arctic Art” University of Washington Press, 1996, fig. 39 p. 81.*/ —Ralph T. Coe