Haida Helmet (3D)

Commentary
Haida Helmet (3D)
Accession number: 
1884.68.51
Collection: 
Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

Wooden helmet with relief carving of octopus, painted in black, blue, red and white

Description from Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxfordwritten by CAK (11/03/2010)
  
 
"Wooden helmet with relief carving of octopus, painted in red, black, blue, and white. The helmet is carved from a single piece of wood, likely alder or maple. It has a dome-shape and is painted red. The head of the octopus is carved on the top of the helmet. The face has mammalian features including a mouth with two rows of teeth, including sharp canines, and ears. The teeth had been painted in white, though little pigment remains on them. The mouth is outlined in red as are two round nostrils. There is a black stripe from the eyebrows down the centre of the face and into the mouth. The face is painted blue, with triangular unpainted segments on each cheek. The eyes are painted white with large black irises. There are thick, angled eyebrows painted black.

The top of the head is unpainted, but there are thin black lines outlining certain features. There is a red stripe that goes across the top of the head. Two thin black ears(?) are carved behind the red stripe. On the back of the head is a design featuring two black ovoids surrounded by blue and set within a red form that may be a face or a fin. There are six tentacles that extend from the head down the sides of the helmet. The tentacles are primarily black with blue segments outlined in red at the top, followed by upside down blue faces with black eyes and red mouths, and then abstract accents of blue and red. The ends of the tentacles curl and a human face is carved at the centre of each. The faces are outlined with red paint. 

This helmet was in General Pitt Rivers' collection by 1878. It was identified as being Haida by Mungo Martin in 1958; this was confirmed by a visiting Haida delegation at the Pitt Rivers Museum in 2009. Such helmets were worn for warfare, but also for war dances at potlatches and other events."