Monday, October 20, 2008
Another fine form of ivory you will not be able to scavenge in your neighborhood, unless your neighborhood happens to be located in the Yakutia Republic of Russia, is Mammoth Ivory. The frozen ground of this region just south of the Arctic Circle has preserved the remains of millions, perhaps even billions of extinct Woolly Mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) which roamed the area up until the end of the Pleistocene Era some 10,000 years ago. During summer, the frozen tundra thaws just enough to reveal these ancient treasures to those who know where to look. Mammoth Ivory isn't just a recent commodity; Russian craftspeople have been carving the material into beautiful works of art for years, but thanks to ambitious fossil hunters like Igor G., Mammoth Ivory is finally readily available to crafters and hobbyists in America! This video offers a glimpse into the remote world of mammoth ivory excavations.
I first found out about Igor's business while searching for Mammoth Ivory on Ebay, and couldn't resist bidding on one of his lots of "Mammoth tusk trimmings" which consist of various sizes and shapes of tusk sold by the pound: My 2 pound lot (above) yielded a wonderful array of useful pieces of ancient ivory (detail below)! So what have I done with my Mammoth Ivory? I must admit to being somewhat intimidated by this ancient stuff; I cant help but feel awed by the tremendous age of the pieces, and have been reluctant to do anything other than handle them and ponder life on the tundra thousands of years ago. That said, I did choose some of the finest pieces and buff them well with a bit of beeswax on my dremel buffing wheel and solder brass display mounts for them. Those made fine gifts for the Natural History buffs in my family. I also used a piece to fashion a crude representation of an Eskimo fishing spear: As soon as I feel more comfortable with my scrimshaw skills, I shall certainly like to depict a whaling scene on one of my larger slabs of Mammoth Ivory! The fellow I mentioned in my previous post on piano key ivory, Derrick Cruz, has crafted a limited edition line of Mammoth Ivory straight razors for the gents under the name of his line Black Sheep and Prodigal Sons. Well played, Sir! And finally, if you'd like to learn more about Mammoths and the Mammoth Ivory trade, take a look at this excerpt from the book "Mammoths: Giants of the Ice Age" by Adrian Lister, Paul Bahn, and Jean Auel... fascinating reading! Please check back soon for part 3 of this post addressing the gentle art of scrimshaw! Mammoth Ivory Tusk Tip.