VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Image of the progenitor of a Khanty family
SU4899-130
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Lehtisalo was particularly interested in the mythology of the Nenets, of which he wrote the study Entwurf einer Mythologie der Jurak-Samojeder (1924). The museum collection that he obtained includes a valuable set of Khanty and Nenets ritual objects. This image of the progenitor represents the belief of Khanty that the ancestors were omnipresent in the home. It might be considered as an example of Khanty art.

History of the Object
Toivo Lehtisalo (1877-1962) an expert on Finnish and its related languages was awarded grants by the Finno-Ugrian Society with which he undertook expeditions to Siberia among the Werstern Samoyeds, or the Tundra and Forest Nenets in 1911-1912 and 1914. Like his other contemporaries, Lehtisalo studied not only languages but also the hunting practices, reindeer herding and religion of the Nenets. He collected vocabulary and folk poetry, studied the world view and customs of the Nenets, recorded phonograms, took photographs and gathered a significant ethnographic collection. The collection bought by the Antell Delegation to the National Museum of Finland comprised 187 artefacts. Lehtisalo spent a winter in the town of Salekhard (former Obdorsk) and an opportunity arose to acquire figurines of guardian spirits and of the departed from a Nenets shaman. The young shaman tried to become Lehtisalo's interpreter. Lehtisalo's regular guides threw him out and gave him a sound thrashing. "Because the shaman needed money to live in the village, I thought up a clever though not very beautiful way of helping him. I encouraged him to supply me with images of guardian spirits that were kept as objects of worship and figurines of the departed and promised him 50 copecks per piece. I soon had several dozen of these in my possession, but the ways and means he used to get hold of them remained a mystery."

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Type
Other 
Materials
Wood; reindeer skin; iron staff 
Measurements
Width 14 cm Length 38 cm  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Russia; Siberia, the town of Salekhard (former Obdorsk) 
Geography
Russia; Siberia 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 20th century 
Creation date
Before 1911 
Function
The speakers of the Uralic languages Uralic languages in Western Siberia believed that the human soul does not die at the same time as the body. When the deceased had been buried, an image was made of him or her to which the spirit of the deceased was thought to transfer. This image of the Khanty, (Ostyak)family "porongui" became a spirit honoured and worshiped by the kin. The iron staff symbolised the power of the progenitor. It was kept in a sacred Khanty site in a sacrificial storehouse and food was sacrificed for the happiness of the family and well-being of the kin. 
Acquisition
Acquired to the National Museum of Finland in 1911 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
Text by Ildikó Lehtinen Photos Markku Haverinen, 2006 Holmberg (Harva), Uno. Finno-Ugric, Siberian. The Mythology of All Races in Thirteen Volumes. Volume IV. Archaelogical Institute of America, Marshall Jones Company, Boston 1927. Lehtinen, Ildikó. Siberian peoples at the Museum of Cultures. Siberia. Life on the Taiga and Tundra. edited by Ildikó Lehtinen. National Board of Antiquities, Helsinki 2002. Lehtisalo, Toivo. Entwurf einer Mythologie der Jurak-Samojeder. Mémoires de la Société Finno-Ougrienne LIII. Helsinki 1924. Lehtisalo, Toivo. Juraksamojedishces Wörterbuch. Lexica Societatis Fenno-Ugricae XIII. Helsinki 1956. Lehtisalo, Toivo. Tundralta ja taigasta. Muistelmia puolen vuosisadan takaa. Helsinki-Porvoo 1959. 
Owner
State property, National Board of Antiquities, Finland 
Museum
Museum of Cultures, National Museum of Finland 
Credit line
 

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