Pictures on Sperm Whale Teeth
In 2009, the German Oceanographic Museum acquired an extensive and valuable collection of scrimshaws. Scrimshaw is the name of the original miniature carving and engraving technique using animal materials, whalers especially used to decorate polished Sperm whale or walrus teeth. These artistic witnesses to the age of whaling were collected by the zoologist Dr Wilhelm Vogel. After his death, his daughter gave the collection of that folk art, which is hardly practiced any more, into the hands of the Stralsund Museum.
Scrimshaw art also includes everyday utensils, tools, tiles or miniature models of all kinds. Many of these articles come from whalers from Europe and the United States, but there are also some from Japan, the Arctic or from the Azores.
With the almost worldwide ban and discontinuation of whaling, the peak period of this peculiar art form has passed. Perhaps that is why the most beautiful specimens, which mostly date to the 19th century, are highly sought after as collector's items. Fakes made of plastic also appear on the market every now and then.
In addition to the delicate and very realistic representations of hunting scenes, sea animals, or maps, pictures of many former whaling vessels with names and dates have survived in the engravings. Therefore, scrimshaw works have gained a major value as documents of their time. The identity of the artists, however, mostly remain unknown.