Inuit and Yupik (Eskimo) Transformation Art

In 2003, a few weeks after identifying the characteristic and recurring bird-human themes in artifact material at 33GU218 in Ohio, this author came upon the traditional Inuit/Yupik "transformation art" on the Internet.  It was noted with much surprise that this displays essentially the same apparently shamanistic themes in a much more virtuosic presentation.  Some cultural affiliation, however remote, seems unmistak- able.  Shown below are Inuit/Yupik works in specific common themes, along with lithic artifacts from the 33GU218 site incorporating the same iconography.  Crude as it is in the stones, it is quite recognizable.

__________ Bird or Other Creature Emerging from Mouth __________

     

 

____________________ Bird over Forehead ____________________

   

 

__________ Bird or Other Creature Emerging from Belly __________

Yupik Mask by Phillip John Charette

  

 

____________ One Eye Open, One Eye Closed ____________

   Limestone Figure - One Eye Open, One Eye Shut - Day's Knob Archaeological Site

______________ Bird on Top of Bird (or whomever) ______________

  

                       By Osuitok Ipeelee

(Artist unknown)

_______ Two-Faced (Janus-like) Figure - Human/Animal _______

  Limestone Bird-Human Figure - Day's Knob Archaeological Site

                         By Toonoo Sharky

(Click for more two-faced (janiform) figures at the Day's Knob Site and elsewhere.)

_________________________  _________________________

            

Modern Inuit sculpture by Uriash Puqiqnak.

Note the bird over the figure's forehead.

 
Modern Inuit sculpture by Tukiki Manome.  Note the two faces looking in opposite directions, a constantly recurring motif in the stone figures at Day's Knob (33GU218).

So far, one conspicuous theme in the Day's Knob assemblage that has not (to this author, anyway) shown itself explicitly in Inuit/Yupik "transformation art" is that of one creature emerging egg-like from the posterior of another.  This is a bit surprising given its prominence in much earlier "old world" lithic artifact material exhibiting the same motifs.

For an excellent display of traditional Yupik art in the bird-human motif, see the Arctic Studies Center website at http://www.mnh.si.edu/arctic/features/yupik/index.html.  Click "View the Masks" and progress through the series.

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