Animal Panegyrics

Civilizations divided by both time and location are united with the mutual connection of the natural world. Animals were praised in folkloric panegyrics that told of both practical and religious significance. Tools fashioned from the bone of an animal will often bear carvings that depict a tale of culture or perhaps the crest of a family name. Such craftsmanship becomes passed down from generation to generation, with origins that become obscured or aggrandized with the passing of time. History is hidden under the recondite veil that is this mythology, yet it is a passageway that can be followed by the attentive eye.


I am pointing to a Finnish "puukko" knife, a versatile tool used by hunters and craftsman alike. The handle is often carved to tell a story.

Our new exhibit, now on display in the east balcony of the Bourne Building’s upper floor, exemplifies such hidden history. The Lapps of Scandinavia, the Chukchi of Siberia, and the Inuit of North America are various cultures indeed, yet they meet at the mutual point of mythology. Although their cultures may seem distanced and different in appearance, in essence they each celebrate the animals that are beloved in their societies.

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