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Tlingit helmet

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Dated: 1775-1800

Cultural Context: Tlingit style (Northwest Coast)

Origin: Alaska (United States)

Medium: Wood, shell, leather, copper and pigments

Technique: Carved, painted, perforated, cast, inlaid

Dimensions: Height = 28.50 cm; Width = 27 cm

Inventory no.: 13909

Head-shaped helmet or headgear combining anthropomorphic and zoomorphic features. It features a diadem with copper appliqué on the forehead, very pronounced ears, broad leathery eyebrows, almond-shaped eyes, a wide nose and a mouth with two long rows of opercula inlaid in place of teeth. A stylised painted face is preserved on the back. It has two leather straps to secure the helmet under the chin. This helmet, thought to have been a piece of war dress, is considered one of the masterpieces of Tlingit culture. The piece is made of copper, an element of great symbolic value in this culture. The possessor of an object made in part or in whole from this metal was an individual with high social status within the group.

This piece may have been collected during Malaspina's expedition during his stop in Yakutat Bay in June 1791.