Fossil Walrus Ivory

Fossilized walrus ivory is the second type of ivory that I use in my work and comes from the teeth and tusks of these magnificent arctic animals. Like the wooly mammoth ivory, fossil walrus ivory is buried in frozen ground along the arctic coast or preserved in icy waters of the Behring Sea. While the fossil walrus ivory can be newer than the mammoth ivory (walrus ivory that has been buried for a few hundred years can be classified as fossilized) it can also be significantly older: paleontologists have dated the fossil walrus ivory up to 300,000 years old. As with the mammoth ivory the walrus ivory is still the organic material, but takes on coloration when buried.

Fossil walrus Ivory is purchased from Alaskan Natives who excavate the materials from the beaches and ancient village bone yards on St. Lawrence Island and other native-owned lands along the arctic coast. Because the natives excavate from the rubbish heaps of their ancestral villages, which can be up to 14,000 years old, they often find ancient artifacts crafted from walrus ivory. I sell these artifact pieces in their natural form and occasionally, with artifacts that are too broken or decomposed to be specimen pieces, create sculptures that juxtapose the ancient surfaces with finely carved and polished forms.

Fossil Walrus Ivory is perhaps my favorite of all materials to carve, and I utilize it in my sculptures, vessels and jewelry pieces. It provides the same array of colors that can be found in the mammoth ivory, with the advantage that walrus tusks tend to be more stable with fewer cracks than mammoth tusks. The connection I feel with the ancient natives who relied on this amazing material for their livelihood makes working with fossil walrus ivory a magical experience for me.