Quiver and arrows from Siberia, Asia. Collected by Marie Antoinette Czaplicka in 1914. Given to the Museum in 1915.
This is a carved wooden box-quiver (kopla) with a leather-hinged lid. It was used by the Yet (also known as the Yenisei Ostyak) in a boat, a Siberian people of the Yenisei River from where this object was collected. There are four iron-headed arrows accompanying it, which are smeared with decomposing fish oil to render them poisonous. Three of these arrows are for shooting big game, and the forked one is for shooting birds.
The Ostyak were regarded by their neighbours as master bow-makers, using compound bows of laminated birch and pine wood, bonded with fish glue. However, by the early 20th century, when this quiver was collected, the flintlock musket was gradually supplanting the bow as the hunter's weapon of choice.
The Ostyak are a semi-nomadic reindeer-herding people of northern Siberia, who supplement their diet by hunting fish and game. The reindeer themselves are considered, in general, far too valuable as a source of transport and milk to simply eat.
Archery had a particular symbolic role in Ostyak rituals surrounding the birth of a child. After the birth, the placenta was placed in a holder of birch-bark, along with some small pieces of fish and meat. This container was then hung up in the forest on a tree that stood apart from those around it. If the baby was a boy, the parents also tied a miniature bow and two arrows to this charm, one blunt for stunning fish, and the other sharp for piercing game. In this sense, we can see that archery, and particularly hunting, was intimately associated with masculinity for the Ostyak.