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Noah's Ark
Artist Unidentified

Although made under distinct circumstances, these two objects reflect a common cultural fascination with systemization and regulation as a means of giving shape to a multitudinous natural world. In Anglo-European culture, human relationships to animals and one another were historically understood as part of a divine natural order, placing white, Christian people at the top of a hierarchy. While each can be enjoyed for qualities of craftsmanship and beauty, these two works also expose the problematic underlying power structures that ordered the world of their makers, seeking to make sense out of multiplicity.

 

The depiction of Noah’s Ark represented in this bone sculpture—possibly made by a mariner or prisoner of war—credits humans with dominion over animals. Male and female pairs of various species are shown side by side, advancing into the protective ark which will shelter them from the oncoming flood. A crank allows for the animals to move forward, giving the user the satisfaction of physical authority over the numerous pairs of miniature figures.