Sami Fleshscraper

Status: Possible prank
image Forty years after stealing a "Sami Fleshscraper" from a Norwegian museum, the contrite thief has mailed the item back. Problem is, the museum has no idea what the object is. From the article on Yahoo News:

"For 40 years I have enjoyed this rare tool in my home. In my old age ... I have now decided to return it to the descendants of those who imagined it, built it and used it," the anonymous thief wrote in a typed letter sent to the embassy just before Christmas. The letter was posted from Biarritz in southwestern France and signed by "an ex-thief who was less a thief and more a man passionate about authenticity and real life"... The repentant thief called it a "scratcher", a word he then crossed out and replaced with "Sami fleshscraper" followed by a question mark. Sami refers to the indigenous people of northern Europe, also known as Lapplanders.

This sounds to me like a prank: mail an inexplicable object to a museum, leaving them wondering what in the world it is. Maybe they'll even decide it really is a fleshscraper and place it in the museum.

History Pranks

Posted on Mon Jan 16, 2006


This does not seem like a prank to me. The Sami are reindeer herders and would have used a tool like this to scrape the flesh off fresh reindeer hides before drying and stretching them. The Inuit in Canada use a similar tool for seal skins and I'm sure many cultures that clothe themselves in fur have similar tools.
Posted by phil  on  Mon Jan 16, 2006  at  07:41 PM
So...he used it to scrape the flesh off his back?!
Posted by Lady Hedoniste  on  Mon Jan 16, 2006  at  08:16 PM
He may have done, Carmen. After all, the ancient Romans used to scrape their flesh when they went to the baths.
Posted by Smerk  on  Mon Jan 16, 2006  at  08:35 PM
Great minds think alike Smerk. 😊

Though the Roman scraper was more curved in shape and was used more as radical exfoliation than removal of tissue. This does look more like the tools used to clean hides for tanning purposes, so I'd go with the reindeer explanation. Mind you, it's damn ornate for that purpose.....
Posted by DFStuckey  on  Tue Jan 17, 2006  at  01:14 AM covered this story last year.
Posted by Craig  on  Tue Jan 17, 2006  at  06:13 PM
Looks very, very similar to an "Ulo", an Inuit tool from Northwest Greenland used by women. The blade of an "Ulo" was either made from iron scrap traded from Western Whalers, or meteoritc iron from the Cape York meteorite masses.

So could well be real and not a prank.
Posted by LaMa  on  Wed Jan 18, 2006  at  07:23 AM
Oh, and an Inuit Ulo indeed was/is used for scraping hides...
Posted by LaMa  on  Wed Jan 18, 2006  at  07:27 AM

I am surprised at you guys, the flesh scraper is of course not a prank. Similiar devices can be seen in many museums. The Inuiut (formerly known as Eskimos ) used them when cleaning the hides of animals, as did other native peoples.

Posted by rb  on  Wed Jan 18, 2006  at  07:31 AM
So just a case of right general area (Arctic), but wrong people (Inuit, not Sami)...
Posted by LaMa  on  Wed Jan 18, 2006  at  07:47 AM
UPDATE: I've been in contact with the first secretary of the Norwegian embassy in France, Bj
Posted by LaMa  on  Wed Jan 18, 2006  at  09:56 AM
There are two types of "fleshscrapers" commonly used by hunting and herding peoples. The first is used to separate meat from bones, and the second (which this example resembles) is used, as others said, to remove residual bits of fat, muscle, etc. from hides, and also to cut skins and meat in general.
In Alaska, such a broad-bladed knife is known as an "Ulu" (one of my favorite crossword puzzle words). "Ulo" must be the name in Greenland for the same thing. Among the Alaska natives,they are traditionally used almost exclusively by women (Men have other kinds of knives). I don't know if the same rule applies to Sami (Lapps). I have two or three of these ulus at home, one in the Yupik style and one or two in the Athabascan style. Besides scraping hides and gutting fish, they are very handy for slicing or chopping vegetables and cutting pizza slices.
Is the item in question a genuine "Sami fleshscraper"? I don't know, but it seems plausible to me.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Wed Jan 18, 2006  at  04:40 PM
Oddly enough, I read this item last night, right after watching "The Fast Runner" (a movie about Inuits in northern Canada).
Posted by Big Gary  on  Wed Jan 18, 2006  at  04:42 PM
Not odd at all, Gary. I knew you would be watching The Fast Runner and that you would check out the site after doing so. It was all planned days in advance! 😏
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Thu Jan 19, 2006  at  04:17 PM
:P ok. i think it is used to scrape the flesh off the reindeer as well because i am doing a project on the Sami people and their resources and one thing i looked up was their tools. This suddenly came up i thought about the Sami people and how everything evolves around their reindeer and this makes alot of sense to me.
Posted by Michelle  on  Sun Mar 19, 2006  at  05:41 PM
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