This comb from the Tlingit tribe of the Pacific Northwest depicts the head, torso and forelegs of a bear. Human faces are carved within the bear’s ears, and a bear cub’s face peaks out between them. There is symmetry between the bear’s teeth, claws, and the comb’s tines. The reverse side features two human feet with cross-hatching on the soles; intriguingly the right foot has six toes. The decorative surround framing the feet may well represent a stylized bear’s den.
Historians are not sure if these combs were used by women or shamans. Others suggest weavers to carded mountain goat wool with them. Whatever the application, this classic evocative carving was old when it was collected in 1867-68, and the comb is attributed to the year 1772. It sold for $37,600.