Painting, in black, on sealskin; a large number of small figures, including men in sledges drawn by reindeer, in canoes, harpooning whales, etc.

Place details: ASIA. Russia / Siberia Bering Strait (Asiatic shore). Cultural Group: Chukot (Chukchi)?: Local Name: Unknown. Materials: Seal Skin Animal / Pigment / ?. Processes: Painted / Stretched / ?. Dimensions: Max W = 1170 mm Max L = 1115 mm Field Collector: Captain of an Arctic whaler? When Collected: 1860s or 1870s ? Other Owners: The captain of an Arctic whaler; Edward Goodlake; Thomas de Grey known as Lord Walsingham; from 1882, Alfred Denison; Archibald George Blomefield Russell, until 1958; from 1958, Ashmolean Museum. PRM Source: Ashmolean Museum Acquired: Transferred 1966

KEYWORD: Painting / CLASS: Picture and Graphic Art / ?.

Object description: Painting, in black, on sealskin; a large number of small figures, including men in sledges drawn by reindeer, in canoes, harpooning whales, etc.

Publications history, trails & websites: Reproduced in black and white as Plate 81 between pages 938 and 939 and discussed at length on pages 938-44 in 'The Graphic Art of the Eskimos Based upon the Collections in the National Museum', by Walter James Hoffman, in Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution ... for the Year Ending June 30, 1895 / Report of the U.S. National Museum (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1897) (photocopy of relevant pages in RDF). [JC 12 2 1996]

Apparently published as a lithographic print before 1897 by Carlos Bovallius (see Hoffman, above). [JC 12 2 1996]

Apparently published in the following (details from Crossroads [see below]): Hildebrand, Hans 1883. De lagre naturfolkens knost. Studier och forskningar..., by Nordenskiold, pp. 303-402. (Translated as Kunst der niedern Naturvolker, in Nordenskiold, 1885.); Nordenskiold, Adolf E. F. von 1885. Studien und Forschungen veranlasst durch meine Reisen im hohen Norden. Ein popular-wissenschaftliches Supplement zu die Umsegelung Asiens und Europas auf der Vega. Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus; Ivanov, S. V. 1954. Materialy po izobrazitel'nomu iskusstvu narodov Sibiri XIX-nachala XX v [Material on the depictive art of the peoples of Siberia, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries]. Trudy Instituta Etnografii, n.s. 81. Moscow/Leningrad: ANSSSR (see page 449). [JC 12 2 1996]

Reproduced in black and white as figure 443 on page 309 of 'Comparative Art of the North Pacific Rim', by William W. Fitzhugh, in Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska, by William W. Fitzhugh and Aron Crowell (Washington DC and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988, pp. 294-312), where it is captioned (page 308) 'History of a Year of the Chukchi'. The caption quotes the 'original' label (see above), lists its publication history (see above) and gives a summary of Hoffman's account (see above) (see photocopy in RDF). The skin is also mentioned on page 299 of Fitzhugh's essay (see photocopy in RDF). [JC 12 2 1996]

Reproduced (detail only) as the cover of Journal of Museum Ethnography, no. 9 (1997). [JC 17 5 1997]

Reproduced in black and white (whole and two details) as figures A, B and C on page 35 of The Burlington Magazine (Vol. LXX, no. 406 (January 1937)), where it illustrates the article 'A Unique Chukhi Drawing', by J. G. Noppen (page 34). Copy in RDF. [JC 16 7 1997]

Reproduced in black and white as figure 8.26 on page 349 of 'Traditional Cartography in Arctic and Subarctic Eurasia', by Elena Okladnikova, in Cartography in the Traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian, and Pacific Societies (Volume Two, Book Three of The History of Cartography), edited by David Woodward and G. Malcolm Lewis (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998), pp. 329-349. Captioned as follows: 'SEALSKIN MAP? Among the things shown are whale, walrus, bear, and seal hunting scenes, deer herds, people, Russians and Europeans, scenes from the daily life of the Chukchi, shamans, villages, dwellings, fighting scenes, whaling schooners, and kayaks. In the shoreline around the edge, Plover Bay, Chaplino, Michigme, and St. Lawrence Bay have been identified.' Okladnikova discusses the object at length (pp. 346-8): 'An extant example, now in Oxford, was obtained from the Chukchi by the crew of an American whaler in the late 1860s or 1870s. The skin has been studied by several scholars, one of whom considers it to be a calendar of the events of one year on the Chukchi Peninsula coast, while others see it as a simple collection of scenes from Chukchi everyday life. {Note 66: Hoffman based his opinion of the skin as an annual calendar on Carlos Bovallus, who believed that the record on the skin "refers to the avocations and hunts of an entire year." See Walter James Hoffman, "The Graphic Art of the Eskimos," in Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution...for the Year Ending June 30, 1895, including the Report of the U.S. National Museum (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1897, 739-968, esp. 938-44 (however, no reference for Bovallus is provided). The skin is also discussed and illustrated by Hans Hildebrand, "De lagre naturfolkens kunst,' in Studier och forskningar foranledda af mina resor i hoga Norden, by A. E. Nordenskiold (Stockholm: F. och G. Beijer, 1883), translated as "Beitrage zur Kenntniss der Kunst der niedern Naturvolker," in Studien und Forschungen, ed. A. E. Nordenskiold (Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1885), pp. 289-386, esp. 316-22; Bogoraz, "Ocherk material'nago byta olennykh Chukchey" (note 44); J. G. Noppen, "A Unique Chukchi Drawing," Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 70 (1947): 34; Ivanov, Materialy po izobrazitel'nomu, 449-54 (note 21); and William H. Fitzhugh, "Comparative Art of the North Pacific Rim,' in Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska, ed. William W. Fitzhugh and Aron Crowell (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988), 294-312, esp. 308-9, fig. 443.} In addition to the terrestial and maritime scenes depicted, some geographical locations on the Chukchi Peninsula have also been identified, including Plover Bay, Chaplino, Michigeme, and St. Lawrence Bay. {Note 67. Redrawings of this skin are reproduced with items numbered and identified in Hoffman, "Graphic Art of the Eskimos," pl. 81 (fifty-two items), and Ivanov, Materialy po izobrazitel'nomu, fig. 28 (eighty-one items).} Both Hoffman and Ivanov consider the skin unusual in its size, the number of individual pictures, and the overall sophistication of the composition. There are no parallels to this skin in Chukchi art, which is much less sophisticated and never contains the large number of characters found on the extant skin, and Ivanov suggets that the skin could have been designed expressly to be sold to Europeans or American traders. {Note 68. Hoffman, "Graphic Art of the Eskimos," and Ivanov, Materialy po izobrazitel'nomu, 448. Whether the chart is Eskimo or Chukchi has been debated. When received by the Pitt Rivers Museum, it was mounted and labelled "A CHUKCH Drawing on sealskin brought by the Captain of an Arctic Whaler from the BEHRINGS STRAITS, given by him to the late Edward Goodlake, by Mr Goodlake to Thomas Lord Walsingham and by Lord Walsingham to me Alfred Denison, 1882," signed Beatrice Mary Blackwood [sic; BMB did not, of course, sign this label, it is her transcription of it in the accessions book that is signed by her]. The museum documentation notes an undated pencil note: "Not ESKIMO as described in Reports" (referring to Hoffman, "Graphic Art of the Eskimos"). Most recently, Fitzhugh has stated that "although alleged to be of Chukchi origin, it may be Asian Eskimo, whose style and cultural activities it more closely resembles" (Fitzhugh, "Comparative Art," 308, caption to fig. 443 (note 66)).}' [JC 24 1 1999]

Reproduced in black and white in the plate section between pages 114 and 115 of The Shaman's Coat: A Native History of Siberia, by Anna Reid (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002); caption (with the plate) reads: 'A pictogram on sealskin records the activities of the Chukchi year: Whaling and walrus-hunting, reindeer-herding and trading with visiting ships. The sketch's outline corresponds to the Chukotkan coastline.' [JC 5 11 2003]

Reproduced in colour (detail only) on pages 8-9 of Visions of the World: A History of Maps, by Jeremy Black (London: Mitchell Beazley, 2003). Caption (page 10) reads: 'This painting on a sealskin, produced by the Chukchi people on the Russian shore of the Bering Strait, challenges our ideas of what constitutes a map. It was obtained by the captain of an Arctic whaler in the late 19th century. Donated to the Ashmolean Museum in 1958 it was transferred to the Pitt-Rivers [sic] Museum in 1966.' In the text (also page 10), Black writes: '...the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford displays what is captioned as a "painting on sealskin representing men performing various activities", including harpooning whales and riding in sledges drawn by reindeers. It is also possible to see the sealskin as a map, marking where this trading took place by depicting Western sailing ships alongside native canoes in an anchorage, which is positioned both geographically and with reference to the range of Chukchi activities.' [JC 5 11 2003]

Illustrated (detail only) in colour on page 24 of Pitt Rivers Museum: An Introduction, by Julia Cousins (Oxford: Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, 2004). Caption (same page) reads: 'Detail of a painting on sealskin by a Chukchi artist in the Bering Straits, Siberia, acquired by the captain of an Arctic whaler in the early nineteenth century. Numerous scenes of Chukchi life are depicted, including trading with Western sailing ships in an anchorage.' [JC 8 10 2004]

Illustrated in colour (detail only) on page 33 of a Korean-language children's book about maps (Paju-si: WoongJin Think Big Co., 2008); copy in Balfour Library. [JC 31 7 2008]

Illustrated in black and white as Figure 12.1 on page 269 (and detail only as Figure 12.3 on page 270), and described and discussed in detail on pages 268-273 of Furs and Frontiers in the Far North: The Contest among Native and Foreign Nations for Control of the Intercontinental Bering Strait Fur Trade (The Lamar Series in Western History), by John R. Bockstoce (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009). Bockstoce writes: 'Siberian Eskimo Pictograph of the Bering Strait Region, 1860s. This important document (fig. 12.1), drawn on sealskin, records both the geographical knowledge and the events in the life of a Siberian Eskimo who probably lived on the coast of the Chukchi Peninsula in the settlement of Unaziq on Cape Chaplin (Mys Chaplina – “Indian Point” to the whalers and traders). Judging from the information on the sealskin, the person who drew it was probably a wealthy hunter who was not only a whaling captain but also a trader who had traveled throughout the Bering Strait region and dealt with foreigners in several locales. Among much other information, the pictograph contains scenes of hunting for bowhead whales, gray whales, beluga whales, walruses, seals, reindeer and caribou, and bears. / Most important, the drawing depicts events that probably took place in the 1860s, and delineates landforms on both sides of Bering Strait (fig. 12.2). On the Asian coast the shore is traced from west of Plover Bay in the Gulf of Anadyr to Cape Dezhnev at Bering Strait. On the American coast, the shoreline runs from approximately Cape Krusenstern in the Chukchi Sea to Point Spencer in the Bering Sea. Native traders on both sides of Bering Strait would have been acquainted with these coasts. / More specifically, the large lobe on the left side of the sealskin (here shown at 9 o’clock) represents the artist’s home village at Indian Point (Cape Chaplin), the Siberian Eskimo settlement of Unaziq, with its several rows of dwellings and a row of storage racks closer to shore. To the left of the settlement is the Cape Chaplin lagoon, Lake Naivan, and to the left of the lagoon are high hills and hunters. Below the lobe of Cape Chaplin is Tkachen Bay (“Marcus Bay” of the whalers and traders), and near Tkachen Bay umaiq crews are shown hunting gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus). / Below this bay (at approximately 7 o’clock) is Zaliv Providenia (“Plover Bay” of the whalemen). A hook-shaped sandspit represents the site of the Eskimo settlement of Yryrak (V.V. Bychkov et al. 2002, 133). Nearby, a three-masted ship, which is almost certainly a whaling vessel, it at anchor behind another sandspit representing Emma Harbor (fig. 12.3). The ship’s anchor line extends to the shore, a precaution often taken when wintering in a location where the harbor ice might shift. Two dog teams pulling sleds approach the vessel, indicating that it is a winter scene and thus that the ship is probably in winter quarters there. On the shore, two figures – one of which is not wearing native clothing – are apparently engaged in trade. Native artists always carefully depicted a ship’s rig: three-masted ships are known to have wintered alone in Plover Bay only in 1861-62 and 1862-63 (Bockstoce and Batchelder 1978b, 83). / Curving to the right of “Plover Bay” the coastline is shown as high hills, which probably represent the steep southern coast of the Chukchi Peninsula that extends west as far as Cape Yakun (which is shown as very bold, at about 6 o’clock). / To the right of the bold coastline (from about 4 o’clock to 5:30), a person is leading a train of five reindeer hauling sledges, on one of which another person is riding. This scene depicts a group of traders heading toward a trade fair. Near the reindeer train is a reindeer herd. Near the herd a man is shown harpooning a seal at its breathing hole in the winter ice. To the left of these are three figures wearing Chukotkan armor, suggesting the memory of a hostile encounter. It is interesting that St. Lawrence Island is apparently not shown. Perhaps the person who drew the map did not consider its trade to be of importance. / Directly above the lobe of Cape Chaplin (at 9 o’clock) two embayments appear. The lower one, which extends farther to the left, conflates Seniavin Strait (Proliv Seniavina), Arakamchechen Island, and Mechigmensky Bay. The other embayment (at approximately 10 o’clock) is St. Lawrence Bay, with its bold shoreline and the settlement of Nunyagmo (Nuniamo) at its northeastern corner. From there, the relatively straight line is probably the coast from St. Lawrence Bay to Cape Dezhnev. Three settlements are shown on the shore. At the top of the sealskin the shoreline then curves back (at approximately 12 o’clock) and there are five habitations shown on shore. This most likely is the Chukchi village of Uelen, which lies on a sandspit just west of Cape Dezhuv. This shoreline then ends. / Another shoreline starts directly above the first. It represents the American coast from approximately Cape Krusenstern (at 1 o’clock) in the north to Port Clarence and Point Spencer (at approximately 4 o’clock) in the south. Three two-masted vessels – which are probably trading brigs or schooners – are shown (toward 1 o’clock), each with a number of umiaqs nearby. This scene probably represents trading activities in Kotzebue Sound. On shore two pairs of figures are engaged in trade. Trading vessels began visiting the Sheshalik trade fair in Kotzebue Sound in the 1850s. / A small hook in the American shoreline appears on the right of two of the trading vessels (at approximately 1 o’clock). This no doubt represents Cape Espenberg, which lies at the northeastern corner of the Seward Peninsula. Traders from Chukotka would have passed Cape Espenberg when visiting the trade fair at Sheshalik. At that point on the pictograph the shoreline divides into two roughly parallel lines (running from 1 o’clock to 3 o’clock), one of which depicts the long chain of barrier islands that enclose lagoons on the north coast of the Seward Peninsula; the other is the shoreline inland of the lagoons. Several settlements are on the barrier island shore. At the western end of the inner line is the short chain of mountains that ends at Cape Prince of Wales. / Near the inner line (from 1 o’clock to 2 o’clock) are three groups of human figures. One group, to the right of the line, is hunting a wounded animal with bow and arrow and spear. To the left of the line a second group is engaged in wrestling, dancing, and perhaps rope pulling, suggesting the festivities that often accompanied trading encounters between native groups. To the right of the line a third group apparently engages in warfare or some hostile activity: three men armed with spears and bow and arrow surround a fourth who is armed with a spear. Ernest S. Burch, Jr. (2005, 141, 259-73), has identified seven sites where armed conflicts took place in Alaska between Chukotkans and Seward Peninsula Eskimos. He states that warfare between native groups in the Bering Strait region had ceased by the 1860s or 1870s and speculates that when the region suddenly became well supplied with manufactured goods, the natives concluded that the advantages from trade outweighed any possible gains from inter-national warfare (234). Waldemar Bogoras also found that trade was responsible for the decline in warfare in Chukotka at about the same time (1904-9, 44, 49-50, 53-54). / The headland of Cape Prince of Wales is on the right (at approximately 3 o’clock). The shoreline continues from there with the cliffs of the York Mountains. Then (at about 4 o’clock) a large embayment is enclosed by a sandspit. The sandspit is likely Point Spencer and the bay is Port Clarence. On shore are habitations, and in the shallow water near shore is perhaps a net for capturing beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas). / In the bay is a two-masted ship with several umiaqs nearby. Two larger umiaqs are approaching from the vicinity of Cape Prince of Wales. One of these umiaqs has a mast up, indicating that it is probably on a long-range traveling expedition. These two umiaqs may represent traders arriving from the Asian side of Bering Strait. On the inland side of the shoreline are two figures in foreign dress, one of which apparently wearing a board-brimmed European-type hat. In the 1850s and 1860s Port Clarence was visited by whalers and traders, Russian-American Company supply vessels, and the Royal Navy’s fleet searching for Sir John Franklin. For an earlier analysis of this document see Walter J. Hoffman’s description (1897).' The references are as follows: Bockstoce, John R. and Charles F. Batchelder, 1978b. “A Chronological List of Commercial Wintering Voyages to the Bering Strait Region and Western Arctic of North America, 1850-1910.” American Neptune 38 (2): 81-91; Bogoras, Waldemar. 1904-9. The Chukchee. Jessup North Pacific Expedition, Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 11; Burch, Ernest, S., Jr. 2005. Alliance and Conflict: The World System of the Iñupiaq Eskimos, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press; Bychkov, V. V., et al. 2002. Catalog of Objects of Material and Spiritual Culture of the Chukchi and Eskimos of the Chukchi Peninsula in the Provideniya Museum Collections. Trans. Richard L. Bland. Barrow: North Slope Borough and U.S. National Park Service; Hoffman, Walter James. 1897. “The Graphic Art of the Eskimos: Based upon Collections in the National Museum.” Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution … for the Year Ending June 30, 1895, Report of the National Museum, 1895. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, Government Printing Office. (Photocopy in RDF.) [LP, JC 8 10 2008; JC 12 3 2010]

Illustrated in colour as Figure 13 on page 102 of ‘The Pitt Rivers Museum Revisited’, by Catherine Elliott Weinberg, in Tribal Art, Vol. 14, no. 3 (no. 56; Summer 2010), pp. 96–105. Caption (on page 103) reads: 'Fig. 13: Pictogram. Bering Strait. Sealskin, pigment. Transferred from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in 1966. PRM 1966.19.1. (c) Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford.' [JC 24 9 2010]

Illustrated in colour in WILES, K, The Map, Bering Strait, 1860s, History Today, 2017, vol 67, Issue 8, pages 4-5 [NC 26/7/2018]

Discussed as part of an account of the author's visit to the PRM on pages 30-31 of The Library of Ice: Readings from a Cold Climate, by Nancy Campbell (London: Scribner, 2018); see also noe on page 298. (Photocopy of relevant pages in RDF.) [JC 8 1 2019]

Listed, and illustrated, as map 28 'Siberian Sealskin Map' in Fifty Maps and the Stories They Tell, Jerry Brotton & Nick Millea (Oxford: Bodleian Library University of Oxford, 2019). The text which accompanies the photograph is as follows: 'Variously described as a drawing, painting or pictogram, this intriguing object can also be called a map. Dating to around 1860, it was drawn on sealskin by a member of the Chukchi people, semi-nomadic inhabitants of of the Asian side of the Bering Strait in Siberia. Chukchi life was built around hunting, fishing and trade in furs and skins. All are depicted here, from the slaughter of whales and reindeer to encounters with European whaling ships (bottom right). It is a geographical map of Chukchi territory - showing settlements at St Lawrence Bay (bottom left) and Plover Bay (bottom right) - as well as a record of their everyday life and customs. Siberian sealskin map, c. 1860. Pitt Rivers Museum 1966.19.1.' [MOBB 25/9/2019]

Illustrated, in colour, as Fig. 4 to accompany the Introduction to Talking Maps, Jerry Brotton and Nick Millea, (Oxford: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, 2019). The map is discussed on pages 12 and 14 of the Introduction: 'One such example is an object attributed to the semi-nomadic Chukchi people living on the Asiatic side of Siberia's Bering Strait, dated to the late 1860s or 1870s (fig. 4). Painted on a bleached sealskin (mandarka), this artefact has been variously described as a painting, a drawing and a pictograph. Based on Harley and Woodward's definition, we can now see it as a map, albeit one that stands outside the modern, Western cartographic tradition. The Chukchi lived by fishing, hunting and trading the skins of Arctic animals such as whales, seals and walruses, and by the late nineteenth century were engaged in trade with Western whaling companies, one of which acquired this map, which subsequently entered the Pitt Rivers Museum's collection in Oxford./ Although it lacks a prime orientation, the map teems with sacred and profane graphic stories of Chukchi beliefs and everyday life, as well as their encounter with the outside world. It appears to be cosmological and calendrical in the images at its centre. The black disc in the middle represents the night, the one to the right day, suggesting the map may depict a year in the everyday life of the Chukchi. To the right of the black sun a rectangle contains two figures with outspread hands, suggesting some form of shamanistic ritual. As we move further outwards the map represents more quotidian scenes of the Chukchi's dwellings, tent-like structures known as yaranga shown at centre left, their kaiaks and umiaks(or skin boats), two of which are drawn to the right of centre, herds of reindeer on the far right, and various graphic scenes of whale, bear and seal hunting (with each weapon and kind of animal precisely differentiated.) (Fn 3: Walter James Hoffman, The Graphic Art of the Eskimos (Washington, DC, 1897), pp 938-44.)/ As well as its cosmological and cultural preoccupations, the map depicts the coastline of Chukchi territory, although, in keeping with a peninsula that is ever-changing because of its environmental extreme, the cartographic line between land and sea is extremely porous. The lobe of land jutting out at bottom left is St. Lawrence Bay, below it Mechigmensky Bay, with the adjoining settlement at the map's very bottom of Unaziq on Cape Chaplin. Bottom right is Plover Bay, with a three-masted European whaler riding at anchor as Chuckchi dog teams and merchants approach it to trade (preseumably in furs and the kind of skin from which the map is made). (Fn 4: John R. Bockstoce, Furs and Frontiers in the far North: The Contest among Native an Foreign Nations for the Bering Strait Fur Trade (New Haven, CT, 2010), p. 270). At the top right is Port Clarence, with the Seaward Peninsula at the top and Kotzebue Sound top left. The map is a graphic embodiment of Chukchi life, embracing its apparently timeless rhythms of hunting, fishing and settlement, as well as how this society was beginning to change in its encounters and exchanges with the Western world./ Many of hte stories embedded within the Chukchi map may remain lost to a wider audience, especially as the influence of Russia has gradually eroded its people's language, rituals and beliefs. But perhaps in highlighting the role that maps play in talking about their cultures' stories, we can generate further research into cartography both within and beyond the Western cultures and societies. ...' [MOBB 25/9/2019]

Listed and illustrated in colour on page 243 of the exhibition catalogue 'Arctic Culture and Climate' Edited by Amber Lincoln, Jago Cooper and Jan Peter Laurens Loovers. (Thames and Hudson, British Museum, 2020). The map is illustrated as figure. 5.24 with the caption Sealskin and pigment map of the Bering Strait. Siberian Yupik; Chukotka, Russia 1850-65 Sealskin and ink 1120 x 1170 mm Pitt Rivers Museum 1966.19.1 and with a further description in the main text which reads "... The Siberian Yupik man made his drawing on a bleached sealskin map (fig. 5.24). Recent research suggests that its maker may have been Chief Teo, an important whaling captain and trader; who then gave the object tot he British navel officer William Hooper (1827-1854). The circular map, showing the Bering Strait region that he regularly traversed, depicts intimate scenes of life with hunting, travelling, animal migrations, spiritual beings and events happening on the Russian and American coastlines." [FB 16/12/2020]