Inuit Snow Knife or Pana

Contributed by clivet

Inuit Snow Knife or Pana

It was about 1980 when I bought this object,from an antiques dealer in Ruislip, I was struck with the objects tactility, so I had to buy it, I've owned it for some time now and at various times I've sought information about it and with the advent of the internet I've found out a quite a lot.
I believe it is an Inuit made 'Snow Knife' or Pana made sometime between 1800 and 1925 in Canada/Alaska and was used for making the blocks to build an igloo, these tools where multipurpose and would also have been used for digging for berries and story telling. It is made from a Walrus tusk with bone riveted to it at the handle with iron rivets probably sourced from old nails from packing cases abandoned by visitors. It's amazing how beautifully grafted on the bone to the ivory has been carried out and that in such harsh conditions the craftsman took pride in his tool by decorating it with scratched tribal markings. The inuit now have the benefit of modern materials so the time and effort required to make this tool is long gone.

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  • 1 comment
  • 1. At 01:40 on 29 December 2012, W Roger Fry wrote:

    This is a very high quality Eskimo/Inuit implament. I do think it dates to the mid 19th century. Later pieces would have had metal blades. I would agree that this is a snow knife for cutting blocks of hardened snow for building a snow house. I do not think it was a multi purpose tool for digging or for use as a story knife. It was to important as a snow knife to be placed at risk by less important uses. Also story knives and digging tools are quite unlike this piece. We have examples old authentic snow knives in our collection and would share photos of them if there is am interest. We have studied and collected native Arctic objects over many years. W Roger Fry email [Personal details removed by Moderator]

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