Shovels

A family poses in the snow with a wooden sled frame and snow shovel in the foreground
A Yup’ik family poses near a sled and snow shovel in southwest Alaska, circa 1925. Photo courtesy of Anchorage Museum Collections (Public Domain)

The shovel is probably one of the most important tools for life in Alaska. Before the metal and plastic shovels that we see in the store today, natural materials such as antler, animal bone, and wood served the same purpose. This is an example of one technology that hasn’t changed much over time.

Like the other tools and technologies found on these pages, the materials from which they are made reflect the natural resources available in the local environment. In the examples below, you’ll see shovels from both inland and coastal areas.

Select the photos to view a larger image (if available). Select the credit line to connect to a detailed museum record for each item.

wooden snow shovel carved of one piece of wood, 109.5 cm.

Qanikciurun (“snow shovel”) – Approximately 3 and a half feet long and carved of a single piece of wood, this late 1800s Central Yup’ik snow shovel comes from the lower Yukon River area of Alaska.

Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Natural History E36073

Shovel blade made of whale bone with ivory peg and baleen lashing

Whale bone shovel – This pre-1940 Inupiaq shovel from the arctic coastal community of Point Hope, Alaska has a blade made of whale bone with an ivory peg and baleen lashing.

Photo courtesy of the University of Alaska Museum of the North UAM.EH.1-1940-0019

shovel made of moose antler with wooden handle

Moose antler shovel – The blade of this Gwich’in Dene (Athabascan) shovel is cut from a moose antler. Moose antlers are large, broad, and strong, and moose are abundant in interior Alaska, including the community of Beaver, where this shovel comes from. The wooden handle was cut off and later reattached with a metal nail. Note the “galleries” carved in the wood by spruce bark beetles.

Photo courtesy of the University of Alaska Museum of the North UAM.EH.0979-0001