Following my successful attempt yesterday, to coax an ember using the "Inuit" mouth drill strap drill method I have been asking myself "did the Inuit’s actually use the mouth drill for fire making ?" Yes using the mouth drill to coax an ember is possible , it isn't very pleasant though as you have smoke in your face which you can easily breathe, and it's not comfortable applying the pressure, you could damage your teeth and I nearly burnt my lips !
All of the pics I have seen have been Inuits using the mouth drill for decorating ivory. I can see the reason for using a mouth hold to decorate ivory as it frees up a hand to manipulate the ivory so to carve designs. I have seen a few similar pictures of mouth drill fire sets in museums but I’ve not seen a picture of Inuits actually using mouth drill to make fire.
So it intrigued me – was this technique actually used to make fire… did they use traditional bearing block for making fire (I have seen a picture of 2 Inuit's using the strap drill - see below) or because they were so skilled at using mouth hold did they also use for fire making? Or have us westerners assumed that; and are the sets in museums assumed replicas ?😀
I may do more digging – I do find the Inuits fascinating. Anyway the mouth drill does work for fire making if you wish to use it 😀
1 - Eskimo school boy drilling ivory with primitive bow drill. Little Diomede Island, 3/1942.
Pic 2- Man using a bow drill. King Island, circa 1920 by Edward S. Curtis, courtesy of the Library of Congress, 3a16199.
3 and 4 – Inuit bow drill set. Penn museum
5 Three sides of a ivory drill bow, 1880s. Lowie Museum
6 - icodemus, an Inuit man sits on a wooden sledge. He holds the two ends of a piece of string which is wound round a pole. Gusdiana, an Inuit woman, bends over and holds the top of the pole at knee height to steady it. 1930
7 –a Inuit fire drill thong with mouth hold – I have seen a few of these but no one actually using one to make fire . Science museum.