Woman's knives (ulu) from Greenland


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

'An ulu has to fit to the hand of the woman who uses it - it's like clothing, it has to fit.'(Frederikke Petrussen, Qaqortoq, June 2001)In Greenland, three regional variants of the ulu, or woman's knife, can be distinguished: the ulus used in the Avanersuaq (Thule) district in North Greenland, the West Greenlandic ulu (Kitaamiut uluat) and the East Greenlandic ulu (Tunumiut uluat). In contrast to West Greenlandic ulus, the latter has two stems and an almost rectangular blade.Today, East Greenlandic-style ulus are also used in West Greenland. Women working at Kittat, a skin workshop in Nuuk, discovered their advantages in about 1993, when an East Greenlander offered some for sale. They were comfortable to hold, especially when scraping skins, and the blade was easy to sharpen and not too inflexible. Today, both West and East Greenlandic-style ulu are used in Kittat, depending on the task at hand and the preferences of the woman using it.This ulu, with a blade of old saw blade and a wooden handle, was made in East Greenlandic style for the skin workshop in about 1995. It had been commissioned from Otto Petersen, a West Greenlander, who had started to make such ulu after some shown to him by his wife's aunt, Frederikke Petrussen, who had started to use them when living in East Greenland in the 1960s.Other Views: A West Greenlandic-style ulu (Kitaamiut uluat) with a prefabricated metal blade imported from Denmark, and a handle of caribou antler. It was made in 1999 by Absalon Schmidt, Nuuk.Frederikke Petrussen, Qaqortoq, uses an East Greenlandic ulu to cut narrow strips of frost-bleeched seal skin for sealskin embroideries (avittat). Qaqortoq, July 2001.


  • Title: Woman's knives (ulu) from Greenland
  • Date Created: 1995/1995
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 11.00cm; Width: 12.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: carved
  • Registration number: Am2001,14.6
  • Production place: Made in Neriunaq
  • Producer: Made by Petersen, Otto
  • Place: Found/Acquired Nuuk
  • Peoples: Made by West Greenland Inuit
  • Other information: Cultural rights may apply.
  • Material: metal; wood
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Collected by Pauksztat, Birgit. Purchased from Kittat

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