✅ SOLVED Please Help With Inuit Beaver Oil Bowl

chadkeath

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Hi and thank you in advance for your thoughts and input on this. I am trying to find more information on this piece. It’s a nice old piece. Made of a stone pottery type material. Has wear from being used. On back looks like someone carved into it Beaver Oil Bowl Alaska and then another word. It is around 7.5 inches. Hoping someone may have some insight. Great piece.
 

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Amergin

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Hi and thank you in advance for your thoughts and input on this. I am trying to find more information on this piece. It’s a nice old piece. Made of a stone pottery type material. Has wear from being used. On back looks like someone carved into it Beaver Oil Bowl Alaska and then another word. It is around 7.5 inches. Hoping someone may have some insight. Great piece.
Looks like clay and writing done in clay when wet, pre firing in Kiln, Style of lamp looks possibly indigenous, but joined writing on back done in wet clay before baking, in full modern script english indicates a modern creation , id guess 1960's to present
 
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Red-Coat

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Looks like clay and writing done in clay when wet, pre firing in Kiln, Style of lamp looks possibly indigenous, but joined writing on back done in wet clay before baking, in full modern script english indicates a modern creation , id guess 1960's to present

It looks a lot like cast iron to me. I just looked up "Beaver Oil Bowl" and all that came up was cannabis using bowls and one store is even called, "Beaver Oil."

It sure doesn't look like cast iron (a magnet would soon tell you) and I agree it looks to be earthenware or grit-tempered pottery, with the writing inscribed before firing.

However, I think it's not a lamp but a 'condiment' bowl. I'm doubtful that a lamp would have a completely open bowl like that and the writing on the bottom is, I think, intended to convey that it's a bowl for holding oil in the form of a beaver... not that it was for holding beaver oil. Inuit and related cultures used fermented whale, seal or fish oil as a seasoning, into which they would dip their food (or spoon the oil over it) and it was served in shallow bowls like this.

In reference to a more elaborate carved wooden example (pictured below) La Gazette Drouot website notes that it is a "condiment or a fat bowl shaped like a beaver with a log between its teeth carved by the Tsimshian people... / ..., The bowls were used in many contexts, notably during festivals validating the power of the chief who ordered them. The beaver is an important totemic figure up and down America’s northwest coast. It is considered the representation of an elder, who becomes involved in other people’s business only if necessary."

Beaver Bowl.jpg

I can think of only one likely reason why a bowl like that, made artisanally in a traditional style and with an artist signature, would have what is effectively a "self-description'" on the bottom in the modern western alphabet: it was made for the tourist trade. I would agree that probably puts it in the second half of the 1900s at the earliest. I couldn't find the artist mark (usually these are just Christian names) in any list of notable artisans but there are hundreds of lesser artists producing, or who have produced, this kind of work that aren't documented.
 
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ANTIQUARIAN

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I noticed this part of the 'bowl' almost looks to be where you'd hold it with your thumb. :icon_scratch:
To me this looks similar to what you would find with a candle or oil lamp holder.

I agree with Amergin, probably a modern tourist-made piece from the 1950s or 60s.
Dave
 

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Red-Coat

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I noticed this part of the 'bowl' almost looks to be where you'd hold it with your thumb. :icon_scratch:
To me this looks similar to what you would find with a candle or oil lamp holder.

I agree with Amergin, probably a modern tourist-made piece from the 1950s or 60s.
Dave

I guess a thumb grip is a thumb grip, whatever the function of the vessel.

But given that the artist went to the trouble of inscribing the bottom with a description, why doesn't it say "Beaver Oil Lamp" rather than "Beaver Oil Bowl"? That's also quite a large open area for the entire surface of the oil to potentially catch fire without some constraint for the wick (such as a holed or 'pinched' end).
 
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unclemac

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this would be known as a "grease bowl". Very distinctly, beyond a doubt. Very Alaskan too. Grease bowls were used by a variety of Native Alaskans to hold fish or seal mammal oil as an accompaniment to food (for dipping). But yours is absolutely a tourist piece as a real one would be made of wood.

search "Tlingit grease bowl"
 
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GlowingGem

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I really haven't been taught that you could get oil from a beaver animal. Wouldn't it stand to reason that it would be more common knowledge at least in the 40+ population if this were true?
 
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Red-Coat

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I really haven't been taught that you could get oil from a beaver animal. Wouldn't it stand to reason that it would be more common knowledge at least in the 40+ population if this were true?

You sure can. It’s called “castoreum” and obtained as a fatty/waxy secretion from the castor sacs at the rear end of both male and female mature beavers. They use it to mark their territory and to waterproof their fur. Since Roman times it was burned in lamps in the mistaken belief that the fumes would induce a miscarriage for unwanted pregnancies and later saw use as an attractant for hunting other fur-bearing animals. There was a resurgence of interest in its possible ‘medicinal’ properties post-colonisation of America as the beaver trade burgeoned and it was sold in drugstores and pharmacies as a remedy for earache, toothache, colic, gout, and a bunch of other false claims (not to be confused with castor oil, which comes from the beans of the castor plant). It later saw use as a fixative for perfumes (similar to the use of ambergris) and also as a flavouring additive for foods.

But that isn’t what this type of bowl is for. It’s a bowl in the form of a beaver for holding other oils, but the description “beaver oil bowl” creates an ambiguity. If you hyphenated it, then it would be “beaver oil-bowl” not “beaver-oil bowl”.
 
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DizzyDigger

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Red Coat is correct...a beaver has two Castor glands and two oil sacks located deep in the groin/anal area.

Castor is yellow, and looks and feels a little like play dough, but a bit drier. Both the castor and oil have a very pleasant odor (a bit earthy) and when mixed together you get a first-class attractant for most any animal, especially predators. I have some that I mixed over 30 years ago, and it still smells just as fresh as the day I blended it.

A beaver will push up a mound of mud just on the bank edge, and secrete a bit of both castor and oil on top, marking his territory.

Castor (Castorium) is still used in some high-end perfumes and make-up.

[edit note] Just checked the current market, and properly
prepared castor glands are selling in the $70-$100 range
per pound. The beaver pelt market is off, with the very best
northern pelts (Alaska and N. Canada) averaging about
$25. Unless it's a problem beaver, trappers will pretty much
not bother with them...it's just not worth the amount of effort it takes.

And that's just fine by me..I used to trap..now I just make
friends with 'em. :laughing7:
 
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ANTIQUARIAN

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Red Coat is correct...a beaver has two Castor glands and two oil sacks located deep in the groin/anal area.

Castor is yellow, and looks and feels a little like play dough, but a bit drier. Both the castor and oil have a very pleasant odor (a bit earthy) and when mixed together you get a first-class attractant for most any animal, especially predators. I have some that I mixed over 30 years ago, and it still smells just as fresh as the day I blended it.

A beaver will push up a mound of mud just on the bank edge, and secrete a bit of both castor and oil on top, marking his territory.

Castor (Castorium) is still used in some high-end perfumes and make-up.

[edit note] Just checked the current market, and properly
prepared castor glands are selling in the $70-$100 range
per pound. The beaver pelt market is off, with the very best
northern pelts (Alaska and N. Canada) averaging about
$25. Unless it's a problem beaver, trappers will pretty much
not bother with them...it's just not worth the amount of effort it takes.

And that's just fine by me..I used to trap..now I just make
friends with 'em. :laughing7:
This is really interesting information Mike, I learned a few facts I never knew before. :thumbsup:

Beaver dams cause flooding problems across the roads in our area, I know the city workers here will often trap and remove the 'offenders'. One time I asked them what they do with the animals after they trap them... "We attach a block to the cage and drown them, no more beaver problem". :p
 
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hollARDog

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Red Coat is correct...a beaver has two Castor glands and two oil sacks located deep in the groin/anal area.

Castor is yellow, and looks and feels a little like play dough, but a bit drier. Both the castor and oil have a very pleasant odor (a bit earthy) and when mixed together you get a first-class attractant for most any animal, especially predators. I have some that I mixed over 30 years ago, and it still smells just as fresh as the day I blended it.

A beaver will push up a mound of mud just on the bank edge, and secrete a bit of both castor and oil on top, marking his territory.

Castor (Castorium) is still used in some high-end perfumes and make-up.

[edit note] Just checked the current market, and properly
prepared castor glands are selling in the $70-$100 range
per pound. The beaver pelt market is off, with the very best
northern pelts (Alaska and N. Canada) averaging about
$25. Unless it's a problem beaver, trappers will pretty much
not bother with them...it's just not worth the amount of effort it takes.

And that's just fine by me..I used to trap..now I just make
friends with 'em. :laughing7:
Nice read thanks. Gives me some ideas🤔. Found this bit too 😲.......
The secretion has been used to flavor ice creams, sodas, candies and other alcoholic concoctions in recent decades
 
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