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Mask
SU1870-34
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

The birch bark mask is a rarity in museum collections. August Ahlqvist took part in a bear-hunting ceremony in August 1877 following the sacred songs and performances. After the ceremony the bearskin and the other objects including the birch bark masks and sacrificial scarves, were usually taken into the forest behind the village and fixed to a tree. Emil Boehm photographed the dancing players and at this occasion Ahlqvist managed to buy some masks for the museum.

History of the Object
This birch bark mask was acquired by August Engelbrekt Ahlqvist (1826-1889), a professor of Finnish language in the Imperial Alexander University. Ahlqvist visited Russia, the Volga Finnic peoples, the Mari and Mordvins, the neighbouring Tatars, the Chuvash, the Khanty and Mansi in Siberia to collect folklore, linguistic and ethnological material. In 1858 he studied the dialects of Mansi and Northern Khanty in Siberia. In 1877 he travelled in Western Siberia and was accompanied by Emil Boehm (1856-1919) who did the photography. Ernst Evald Bergroth (1857-1925) collected insects and fish for the Helsinki Zoological Museum. Ahlqvist brought a collection of 70 ethnological items to the Ethnographic Museum of the Imperial Alexander University of Helsinki.

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Type
Sculpture 
Materials
Birch bark, root of cembra pine, reindeer fur 
Measurements
Width 21 cm Length 22 cm without the beard  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Russia; Siberia, Sosva river, the village of Sartynya 
Geography
Russia; Siberia 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
Before 1877 
Function
During the bear-hunt celebration ceremony the Mansi (Vogul) villagers performed some 270 songs for the guest of honour. In addition to the sacred songs about the bear's birth and life on earth, the ceremony was an occasion for the performance of dances, mime and dramatic sketches. Men wearing masks played both female and male roles. This mask with a beard represents a Russian merchant. 
Acquisition
Acquired by the Ethnographic Museum of the Imperial Alexander University of Helsinki in 1880 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
Text by Ildikó Lehtinen Drawing by G. W. Nummelin after a photography by Emil Boehm in 1877 Photo Rauno Träskelin, 1989 Aalto, Pentti. Oriental Studies in Finland 1828-1918. Societas Scientarium Fennica 10b. Helsinki 1971- Ahlqvist, Aug. Unter Wogulen und Ostjaken. Reisebriefe und ethnographische Mittheilungen. Acta Societatis Scientiarum Fennicae XIV. Helsingfors 1883. Airaksinen, Tiina. The bear cult of the northern peoples. Siberia. Lihe on the Taiga and Tundra. Edited by Ildikó Lehtinen. National Board of Antiquities. Helsinki 2002. Iso Karhu. Arkistokuvia etästen kielisukulaistemme asuinsijoilta. The Great Bear. Old Photographs of the Volga-Finnic, Permian Finnic and Pb-Ugrian Peoples. National Board Of Antiquities and Finnish Literature Society. Helsinki 1980. The Great Bear. A Thematic Anthology of Oral Poetry in the Finno-Ugrian Languages. Lauri Honko, Senni Timonen and Michael Branch. Finnish Literature Society editions 533. 1993. 
Owner
State property, National Board of Antiquities, Finland 
Museum
Museum of Cultures, National Museum of Finland 
Credit line
 

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