Non-Stone Materials

Most Inuit sculptures are carved from stone, however, some sculptures contain bone, antler, ivory, and other natural materials of animal origin.

Inuit people living in the arctic remain dependent upon local game for food and obtain certain non-stone carving materials through their hunting and harvesting. These materials are also found naturally on the land. Occasionally they provide the principle material for the sculpture; however, antler and ivory are also inset into sculptures of other materials.

You should familiarize yourself with the materials used by the Inuit and assure yourself that your government does not have any restriction on the importation of non-stone materials (see also Foreign Import Restrictions).


Inuit artists obtain their antler from caribou. Caribou are an important source of food for people living in the arctic and are both hunted and harvested. All caribou annually shed their antlers and most antlers used in sculptures are found on the land. Antler has no commercial value on its own other than the beauty created by the Inuit artist.

Whale Bone

The whalebone used for sculpture is fossilized whalebone and is found at sites near the arctic shoreline. The weathered bone is highly prized as a carving material and dates from more than a thousand years old through to the late 19th century. These bones are often found in large concentrations that mark ancestral Inuit hunting campsites and historical whaling campsites. Whalebone has no commercial value and the value of a whalebone sculpture resides in the beauty created by the Inuit artist.


Most ivory used in carvings is obtained from walrus. Walrus are not endangered and a few Inuit hunters still obtain walrus for its meat during controlled hunting periods. The ivory currently used for sculptures is a by-product of these controlled hunts and is not sought on its own. Walrus ivory is not often used for carving nowadays. The principal value of an ivory sculpture resides in the beauty created by the Inuit artist.

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