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Featured Object from Our Collections

This unique belt comes from King Island, an island in the Bering Sea west of Alaska. It is composed a total of 992 reindeer (aka caribou) teeth stitched to a long leather strap. The teeth are grouped in sets of 8 teeth where each set comes from the lower jaw of a single reindeer which means this belt has teeth from at least 124 reindeer!
According to the original documentation that accompanied the belt when it arrived at the museum in August, 1913, the teeth were procured by Chief Nivomoe Ashenshenic of King Island “from a band of reindeer which were turned loose by an exploring expedition to the North Pole”. Supposedly the exploring expedition that was attempting to travel from Siberia to the North Pole via the Bering Sea “were frozen out or turned back at Cape Prince of Wales, in December of 1881”. Chief Ashenshenic corralled the loose reindeer for food and once killed, collected their teeth which he gave to his daughter Nestausia. Nestaucia then used the teeth to make this belt. The exposure to the reindeer must have had an effect on Nestaucia because she eventually became known throughout Alaska and the Yukon Territory as one of the largest holders of reindeer in that region.

Anthropology and Archaeology Contact Information

The following list reflects the order in which we would prefer to be contacted for general inquiries.

KT Hajeian
Collections Manager
(213) 763-3452 
khajeian@nhm.org
 

Chris Coleman
Collections Manager
(213) 763-3449
ccoleman@nhm.org
 

Dr. Margaret Hardin
Curator, Department Chair
(213) 763-3382
mhardin@nhm.org

 

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