The Testimony of Hands


75.35.304, snow goggles of wood
Middle Birnik (A.D. 700–800)
Walakpa Site, Alaska
UNM Research Collections
Photograph by B. Bernard

If you have ever traveled or done serious work in the snow, you know that snow blindness (photokeratitis) is a serious problem. For a hunter or fisher far from home, temporary loss of vision can be fatal. If you do not have glasses to block ultraviolet radiation, one solution is to create a mask with narrow slits. Most of the ultraviolet radiation is blocked, and enough light gets through to let you see. Most climbers and backpackers carry materials that can be converted into an emergency pair of snow goggles—a folded piece of map and a shoelace, for example.

Arctic people did not have glass for goggles, so they carved permanent slit-type goggles for use on the snow and ice. Though quite simple in concept, this pair has lines that a sunglass designer—or a superhero—might envy.

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