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Siberian goggles among the world’s earliest eyewear to prevent winter blindness from the sun’s piercing reflection.

These remarkable pictures and drawings show a range of ‘eye-conic Siberian spectacles’ in use today as they were in the deep past.

Some are crafted in silver, but over the centuries these snow goggles - both a stark necessity and a facial fashion statement - were also made by the Chukchi people and Eskimo groups from walrus teeth, whalebone or leather as well as wood, bark, and hair. The softer materials were used especially in the deep winter cold, being kinder to the facial skin.

Those made from metal have tiny cross-like slits for the user to see while blotting out most of harsh bright sun rays from the eyes.

Long before the emergence of modern-day protective sun glasses, Siberian hunters were forced to find their own solution to the dazzling glare reflecting from the snow.

In ancient times, like today, these goggles were made by skilled masters to combine effectiveness in blotting out the blinding light in some cases looking amazing.

Different ethnic groups across polar regions evolved their own distinctive style in snow goggles.

The most ancient known eyewear belong to the Old Bering Sea culture, the sites of which are located on the both sides of Bering Strait.

The oldest date for the culture - around 400 years BC - was obtained on Russian side, at Ekven graveyard, in Chukotka.


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The peak of the culture is considered to be in second and third centuries AD.

At Ekven and also Uelen graveyards snow goggles made of bone were found, dating from the first to the fifth centuries AD.

Some were decorated with carvings, some not, and examples are shown here in these drawings.

Eskimos, the Inuits and Yupik, and the Chukchi people made goggles of bone, including whalebone, along with ivory from extinct mammoths, antler, and wood.

Sometimes the surface of goggles was painted black to provide more protection from the sun.


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Northern latitudes of the US and Canada also have a tradition for making such eyewear.

While there was an obvious practical use for the goggles, a variant of these ‘spectacles’ is believed to have been used by traditional shamans; for example a pair of goggles without holes or slips was found at Ekve.

The Dolgans people turned to metal to make the eyewear with copper, tin or silver. The goggles were inserted into a half-mask made of reindeer skin or other pelt, or, later, cloth obtained from Russian incomers. Decorations with beads was also a feature.

The same type of goggles were also used by other Arctic people such as the Nganasan or Khanty.

The tradition continues to this day and is thriving in Yakutia - also known as Sakha Republic, the largest region in the Russian Federation.

Going back in time, the Yakut people used a wide range of materials to make goggles - metal, birch bark, wood, bone, skin, and horsehair.


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The goggles created from horsehair comprised strips of intricate net. A surviving 19th century example comes not from Yakutia but Tuva, the mountainous region in southern Siberia, now in a collection in the Irkutsk Museum of Local History.

Most of the metal goggles in Yakut collections are dated from between the 18th and early 20th centuries.

Some of these had ritualistic uses and were deployed by shamans and not for everyday life for use in the snow.

Many Yakuts recall that their grandfathers had very simple goggles made of birch bark.

Most of the older goggles look rather simple - for example a metal strip with the small deepening for the nose and slots for sight. Others have two round metal discs with a slit to see through while blotting out most of the glare; these were fixed into a the mask of skin or fur.

A more modern evolution are goggles made of silver with cross-shaped slits, with a fur lining.


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This silver eyewear inspires modern local designers in Yakutia, as our photographs show.

Local historian Prokopy Nagovitsyn said: "The round shaped silver goggles began to make an appearance in 19th century, when there appeared worn by rich people. The shape had a symbolic meaning - with a cross in the circle being a symbol of the sun since neolithic times. The cross-shaped cuts are convenient when you climb steps and these type of goggles were also used by shamans. People believed that when a man became a shaman, he could have killed with the might of his look, so these goggles could have been seen as a protective shield."