Object: Statue of Vishnu Riding Garuda

Figure 1    Basalt statue of Vishnu riding Garuda from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Basalt statue of Vishnu riding Garuda from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/2003/14/1
Statue of Vishnu Riding Garuda
Indonesia
Unknown Date
Materials: Basalt, stone

Carved basalt statues of Vishnu riding Garuda are a prominent artistic and religious feature of southeastern Asia. These particular types of carved statues are often found in temples and shrines dedicated to Vishnu and his bird mount Garuda. The image of Vishnu and Garuda spread throughout Southeast Asia with the spread of Hinduism, and has even been adopted as the national emblem of Indonesia and Thailand. This statue from the Ethnology Collection is carved from basalt—a volcanic rock found naturally in plateau deposits and volcanic terrains—and is commonly used for carving statues, tools, and weapons. Carved basalt statues like this are incredibly heavy, which indicates that they aren’t intended to be moved around, but instead stationed at a temple or shrine for long periods of time. Statues of Vishnu and Garuda are often carved from basalt, granite, wood, and bronze, and are also featured in pillars and architecture. This particular statue was acquired in Indonesia, and measures about 5 feet in height.

Vishnu is one of the three iconic deities of the Hindu faith and is often depicted with his mount, Garuda. Garuda is often portrayed as half man, half bird, with his wings spreading out as he supports Vishnu. Stories and myths of Garuda date back more than 3,000 years, and his image can be found throughout Buddhism as well as Hinduism. The Hindu myth of Garuda tells that he became the mount of Vishnu when he attempted to steal the elixir of immortality from the gods to free his mother from the serpents who imprisoned her. Garuda resisted drinking the elixir himself and prevented the serpents from taking it. Vishnu was impressed by his strength and determination and made him king of all birds. After that point, Garuda became the mount of Vishnu and the enemy of all serpents. The image of Garuda is often used today for protection against snakes and snakebites, and he continues to be an important religious icon across Southeast Asia.

Take a look at this video of a sculptor carving a wooden statue of Vishnu riding Garuda:

[Adisson Bolles]

References Cited:

Behera, Prajna Paramita. “The Pillars of Homage to Lord Jagannatha” http://www.orissa.gov.in/e-magazine/Orissareview/jun2004/englishpdf/pillar.pdf

“Carved and painted figure of Vishnu riding Garuda” britishmuseum.org. Accessed February 13, 2015. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/asia/f/figure_of_vishnu_riding_garuda.aspx

Dietrich, R. V., “Basalt” Gemrocks: Ornamental and Curio Stones. Accessed February 12, 2015. http://stoneplus.cst.cmich.edu/basalt.htm

“Garuda Wisnu Kencana Statue” GWK Cultural Park. Accessed February 14, 2015. http://www.gwkbali.com/about/2/garuda-wisnu-kencana-statue

“Hindu deity Vishnu, 1100-1200” Asian Art Museum. Accessed February 13, 2015. http://education.asianart.org/explore-resources/artwork/hindu-deity-vishnu-1100%E2%80%931200

“Prambanan Temple Compounds” unesco.org. Accessed February 15, 2015. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/642/

“Opposites Attack” American Museum of Natural History. Accessed February 13, 2015. http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/mythic-creatures/air-creatures-of-the-sky/opposites-attack

“Prambanan Temple Compounds” unesco.org. Accessed February 15, 2015. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/642/

Object: Roman Tombstone

Figure 1    Roman Tombstone with Latin Epitaph from the Classics Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Roman Tombstone with Latin Epitaph from the Classics Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

C/2000/1/1
Roman
Unknown Date
Materials: Stone

This ancient Roman stone is from the Classics Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. It has an interesting epitaph, or inscription, in Latin, which roughly translates as “To the shades of the departed ( or ‘for/to the god Mercury’), Plutianici (Latin-ized Greek name) lived 23 years, 4 months and 3 days. L. Plutius (Latin-ized Greek name) Stephanus made this (stone) for his most sweet (dear) wife.” The inscription identifies it as a Roman tombstone or funerary monument erected by L. Plutius Stephanus for his wife Plutianici, who lived only 23 years, 4 months and 3 days.

Funerary monuments in Roman cemeteries were important symbols to the people of Rome because they served as a way to commemorate the deceased as well as a way to remember them for the years to come. According to Valerie Hope, “monuments were frequently designed to catch the eye of the passer-by: scale, decoration, words, and images all combined to provide a final snapshot of the deceased” (Hope 2007:141).

The tombstones were also a way to show social identity in Ancient Rome. In Hope’s research, she declares that erecting a tombstone inscribed in Latin is a “Roman act” because it symbolizes “the attainment of citizenship or at least a claim that such citizenship was deserved” (Hope 1997:119). These tombstones served as a form of identity for Roman citizens to show that they were a part of the empire and belonged to Roman society when they were alive.

On the epitaph found on the tombstones, the Manes, believed to be the spirits of the dead, were commemorated with the phrase Dis Manibus, which was shortened to DM. This commemoration was exclusive to tombstone inscriptions. The Manes were celebrated in February during Parentalia, a nine-day festival commemorating the ancestors. During this time, the ancestors were honored and appeased with food, offerings, and prayers to show piety towards them by their living descendants and family members (Yasin 2005:439).

After the commemoration of Dis Manibus on Roman tombstones, the first name of the deceased was displayed, then the exact age of the person in years, months, and days. The inscriptions on the stone also usually included the occupation of the deceased and concluded with the name of the person who erected the stone in their honor. All of the information presented in an epitaph showed the identity and social status of the person so that he or she could be remembered for the years to follow. Ultimately, just like tombstones today, the tombstones of Ancient Rome served as a physical monument that gave the living a glimpse into the life of the deceased.

[Sarah Noel Rodriguez]

Further Links:

Latin Inscriptions: http://www.ashmolean.org/ashwpress/latininscriptions/tag/latin-tombstones/

Latin Funerary Inscriptions: http://archaeologicalmuseum.jhu.edu/the-collection/object-stories/latin-funerary-inscriptions/

Roman Inscriptions: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/insc/hd_insc.htm

Sources:

Hope, Valerie M. 2007. Death in Ancient Rome: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge.

Hope, Valerie M. 1997. Constructing Roman Identity: Funerary Monuments and Social Structure in the Roman World. Morality 2(2):103-121.

Meyer, Elizabeth A. 1990. Exploring the Epigraphic Habit in the Roman Empire: the Evidence of Epitaphs. The Journal of Roman Studies 80:74-96.

Yasin, Ann Marie. 2005. Funerary Monuments and Collective Identity: From Roman Family to Christian Community. The Art Bulletin 87(3):433-457.

Object: Maya Mask

Figure 1    Maya "Wolf" Mask from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Maya “Wolf” Mask from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/1992/3/8
Mask
Cakchiquel (Kakchiquel) Maya
Chimaltenango: San Andrés Itzapa, Guatemala
Materials: Painted wood

This wooden face mask has been painted red, with green polka dots, black eyes, and black and white detail behind the ears. This particular mask shows a face with an open mouth displaying carved wooden teeth. The eyes of the mask have been made by carving holes and surrounding the eyes with black paint. The eyebrows are also painted black, and the ears are carved and painted just above the eyebrows. On the sides of the mask are wooden flaps painted black and white, a striking color difference from the mostly red background and spotted green on the rest of the mask. On the forehead of the mask, there is a small hole, probably for hanging the mask.

The mask is sized to fit on a human face. It is 8 ¾ inches long, 7 inches wide, and 4 ¼ inches thick. It was accessioned into the Sam Noble Museum’s Ethnology Collection with only a few scratches in the paint on the nose, forehead, and ears – overall, in good condition. When accessioned, it was determined that the animalistic features on the mask were meant to resemble a wolf. It seems like an unsuitable animal inspiration for the Chimaltenango region of Guatemala (where wolves are not native), possibly meaning that it takes its likeness from another predator.

Instead of a wolf, which does not live in the region this mask was made, the mask may actually be meant to resemble a jaguar. Jaguars have always had important significance to Maya culture, playing an integral role in the Maya creation story. Many successful Maya kings and leaders were known for having the same feline characteristics associated with the jaguar. The jaguar is often the symbol for life and fertility. It is also seen as existing outside of the human realm, giving it associations with the underworld. In the Chimaltenango region specifically, jaguars can be black or yellow with black spots. While the mask in the Ethnology Collection at the Sam Noble Museum is red with green spots, the jaguar seems like a more likely option for inspiration than the wolf.

In order to understand why these seemingly odd paint choices might have been made, it is useful to look at the significance of these colors in Maya culture. Traditionally, red and black were popular in Maya cave art. Red pigment was originally made from the red clay dirt found in or near the caves themselves. In ancient times, Maya temples were painted in red and white colors. The red, white, and black paint on this contemporary mask follow along with this long-standing tradition.

Without speaking directly to the artist, of course, the intentions and inspirations behind this particular mask cannot be known for certain. However, it seems safe to say the original identification of the mask as “wolf-like” is most likely incorrect. Because this mask follows Maya tradition in paint colors, it seems more likely that the artist chose the more traditional jaguar native to the Chimaltenango region to inspire this mask.

[Caitlin Doepfner]

More sources:

Fischer, Edward F., and R. McKenna Brown. 1996. Maya Cultural Activism in Guatemala. Austin: University of Texas Press.

National Geographic. N.d. Jaquar: Panthera Onca. National Geographic. Accessed February 15, 2015.     http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/jaguar/

Lovgren, Stefan. 2004. Masks, Other Finds Suggest Early Maya Flourished. National Geographic. Accessed June 16, 2015. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/05/0504_040505_mayamasks.html

 

 

Object: Sarangi

E_1954_9_3

E/1954/9/3 a-b
Sarangi musical instrument
Hindu
Asia: India
Early 20th Century
Materials: wood, metal, leather, sinew

This sarangi is a 26-stringed musical instrument made of dark stained cedar wood with a long wide neck and a short wide body. It has a white leather sounding platform and metal and gut strings. It is meant to be played with the accompanying bow, and it traditionally was used in Hindu classical music. This instrument has multiple internal chambers, typically 3-4 hollow chambers that help perpetuate the sound.

Musical tradition is very important in India. Children can learn musical tradition from a young age, becoming an apprentice to a master player. These musicians are respected in the broad public community as well as the religious sector.

The sarangi has been in India for as long as musical traditions have been present in the region. The instrument has deep-rooted cultural and religious significance. For instance, the sarangi is valuable to the Indian tradition of meditation, as its sound induces human concentration and religious thought. Vocal harmonies are extremely important in Hindu prayer in some regions of India, and the sound produced by the sarangi complements the human voice during religious performances, creating a more complete sound of praise.

While it is possible to make a sarangi out of gourds, the stringed instrument is traditionally crafted from cedar wood. The sarangi is analogous to the Western violin, as it is also a stringed and bowed instrument. One of the biggest and most obvious differences between the sarangi and the Western violin are the numbers of strings. The Indian sarangi usually contains thirty five to thirty seven strings (even though the example from the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History only has 26 strings) while the Western Classical violin contains only four strings. This instrument can be played standing up, but traditionally, the sarangi is played while sitting down on the ground cross-legged.

To learn more about the sarangi, take a look at this interesting video:

[Brady Leach]

References:

The Indian Sarangi: Sound of Affect, Site of Contest, Regula Burckhart Qureshi Yearbook for Traditional Music, Vol. 29 (1997), pp. 1-38

Napier, John. “The Distribution Of Authority In The Performance Of North Indian Vocal Music.” Ethnomusicology Forum 16.2 (2007): 271-301. Music Index.

 

Object: Aryballos

Figure 1    Arybollas with incised lion, bird and rosette pattern from the Classics Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Aryballos with incised lion, bird and rosette pattern from the Classics Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

C/1945/3/1
Aryballos with incised lion, bird and rosette
Greece: Corinth
Unknown Date, Late Corinthian
Materials: Terracotta

This jar, or aryballos, from the Classics Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History measures 2 5/16” high with a circumference of 6 1/2”, the lip of the vessel is 1 1/4” wide while the handle is 1” L X 1/8” wide. The images on this vase include (from left to right) a lion, a bird (perhaps a goose or swan), and rosettes (flower shapes).

An aryballos is an oil jar used by Greek athletes during bathing. This type of jar could be carried on the wrist using a string looped through the small handle.[i] This usually spherically-shaped vessel originated in Corinth, Greece. However, other aryballoi jar shapes include oval, animal or even human-shaped vessels.[ii]

Corinth became the leading center for ceramic production in Greece during the Orientalizing period of the 7th century BCE. The term “Orientalizing” refers to the spread of Near Eastern or Egyptian themes to Greece during a time of intensive trade. The Near East and Egypt inspired both the shapes and designs of this type of pottery as well as the images painted on the vessels. Corinth experienced great success in the production of containers and through the invention of the black-figure firing technique. In this technique, incisions and color highlights were added to existing black silhouettes of figures.[iii]

Corinthian style vessels may be recognized by their yellow or beige-colored clay as well as by their decorations. Orientalizing period vessels, such as this aryballos, display floral decorations along with images of animals surrounding the body of the jar. Images of vegetation and animals spread from the Near East and Egypt, most likely through trade, and heavily influenced the themes of Greek vase decoration.[iv]

The aryballos from the Classics Collection, is an example of a Late Corinthian vessel style and most likely dates to around 600 BCE. The date may be assumed to be around this time because earlier vessels tended to be more precisely painted, sometimes with miniature figures. Because this aryballos does not appear as detailed, it was most likely created towards the end of the Corinthian period. Earlier Corinthian aryballos often featured one large figure, while animal images and small fillers like the rosettes are seen in later examples. [v] This aryballos therefore presents an interesting example of a Corinthian oil jar used by Greek athletes that was heavily influenced by Near Eastern and Egyptian design elements.

[Cacie Thomas]

Notes:

[i] Clark, Andrew J., and Maya Elston. 2002. Understanding Greek Vases: A Guide to Terms, Styles, and Techniques. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum.

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Harvard Art Museum Aryballos Collection. http://www.harvardartmuseums.org/collections, accessed February 14, 2015.

[iv] Boardman, John. 1998. Early Greek Vase Painting: 11th-6th Centuries BC : A Handbook. New York City: Thames and Hudson.

[v] Boardman, John. 1974. Athenian Black Figure Vases. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Object: Tomahawk Pipe

 

Figure 1    Tomahawk pipe from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Tomahawk pipe from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/1973/7/15
Tomahawk Pipe
Cheyenne
North America: Plains
c. 1880’s
Materials: Wood and iron alloy

This tomahawk pipe from the Ethnology Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History has a wooden handle and a head made from an iron alloy. The pipe shaft is 22 5/16” long, 1 3/8” wide, and 15/16” high. The axe head is 9 1/8” long, 3 9/16” wide, and 1 1/4” high. The shaft is incised with both small pinpoint impressions and larger dark spots likely created with a heated tool. The small hole with the bit of string looped through it would have contained a leather strap at one time. This tomahawk pipe has a very interesting history and is an excellent example of how a seemingly simple item can tell a story about the people who collect and donate objects to museums.

When a thoughtful woman named Frances Surr from California donated twenty-two cherished family heirlooms, including this tomahawk pipe, to the Stovall Museum (now named the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History) in the early 1970s, she did so without any apparent personal connection to the University of Oklahoma or to the state itself.[1] So, why did she send her treasured items halfway across the country to reside in a museum she had never previously visited? For her the answer was simple: Place.

Figure 2    Darlington Agency, 1878. Courtesy, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma.

Figure 2 Darlington Agency, 1878. Courtesy, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma.

Surr’s father, Dr. Vernon W. Stiles, had collected the tomahawk pipe as a young pharmacist plying his trade at the Darlington Agency on the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian Reservation between September 1883 and September 1885. The agency, established in 1870, sat on the northern bank of the Canadian River’s northern fork, just opposite a bustling U.S. Army outpost named Fort Reno (now El Reno, OK). Stiles worked for Hemphill & Woy, a pair of traders, and he interacted with Native Americans on a daily basis.[5] So, when Surr contemplated an appropriate new home for her presumably Cheyenne artifacts, she felt an obligation to “send the things back to their source.”[6] In this sense, “source” meant place of origin. For Frances Surr, a meaningful connection existed between her items and the history of the Cheyenne people, the history of her father, and the history of lives lived in Indian Territory (modern day Oklahoma).

What then can this tomahawk pipe tell us about life in and around the Darlington Agency during the late nineteenth century? What did it mean for the various people who possessed it? Did it function as an actual axe, as a pipe, as both, or did its owners give it an altogether different purpose?

While Vernon Stiles probably procured the tomahawk pipe in Oklahoma, its original place of creation is less certain. Considering that Stiles worked on the Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation, museum officials originally assumed that the artifacts in the collection must be Cheyenne. The Cheyenne, however, sustained exchange networks across a wide expanse of the Great Plains from Montana to Texas. They traded goods and ideas with people from various Native American groups such as: the Osage, Ponca, Plains Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribes.[7] Indeed, the Cheyenne often proved to be “highly effective middlemen” when it came to trading. [8]

Figure 3    Map of Indian Territory, 1866-1889.

Figure 3 Map of Indian Territory, 1866-1889.

Within those trade networks, similar tomahawk pipes were a common ceremonial gift across the continent during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The earliest examples appeared in the first half of the eighteenth century, and scholars generally agree that the first tomahawk pipes drew influence from both Native American and European technologies.[9] People typically used tomahawk pipes for ceremonial and display purposes, but there is some historical evidence of their use as functional tools.[10] Native peoples and European Americans exchanged tomahawk pipes to symbolically seal treaties and to acquire other goods. For instance, in 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s Corps of Discovery brought 50 tomahawk pipes along on their famed journey of exploration and diplomacy.[11] Since the Cheyenne also used the reciprocal exchange of gifts to show respect for allies and to solidify agreements, this particular tomahawk pipe might very well have originated with a different group of people altogether.[12] Still, even if the Cheyenne did not produce the artifact, it is of a type that they would have found familiar. In fact, in 1996, a team of Cheyenne experts in consultation with Museum staff determined that the “[pipe] was not made by a Cheyenne.”[13] Yet, they permitted it to “be on display with Cheyenne [red pipe stone] pipes because of [its] trade metal.”[14]

Stiles lived at Darlington during a time of flux for the Native American inhabitants of the Cheyenne and Arapaho reservation. Many Cheyenne did not readily adapt to farming after being forcibly removed to Indian Territory from their ancestral homelands in Minnesota. Instead, the local agent, John D. Miles, established the Cheyenne-Arapaho Transportation Company which employed willing men as teamsters (wagon drivers) who freighted goods to Kansas railheads in Arkansas City and Wichita.[15] The Chisolm Trail, a great cattle-moving corridor between Texas and Kansas passed through the reservation, and many Cheyenne made a living from the cattle industry.[16]

As a clerk for Hemphill and Woy, Stiles had direct contact with prominent Cheyenne tribal members. Frances Surr attributed three of the artifacts in the collection, including the tomahawk pipe, to Chief Wolf Robe, as related to her by her father. One of the other artifacts, a war club, contains the initials W.R. etched into its handle. Without direct documentary evidence to prove an exchange took place between Stiles and Wolf Robe, we cannot say for certain that the items in question belonged to the Cheyenne chief. However, the two men almost certainly knew each given that Stiles held a conspicuous position at Darlington. Furthermore, the three items (the tomahawk pipe, the war club, and a headdress) would all be items a chief like Wolf Robe could have possessed. Wolf Robe frequently engaged in diplomatic encounters, and even traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet President Benjamin Harrison, who gifted the Cheyenne leader with a peace medal.[19] A chief accustomed to such diplomatic encounters could have easily received a tomahawk pipe like the one in the Stiles collection.

Figure 4    Chief Wolf Robe wearing the peace medal given to him by Benjamin Harrison. Wolf Robe holds a ceremonial pipe often called a calumet or “peace pipe”.  Courtesy of Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Library.

Figure 4 Chief Wolf Robe wearing the peace medal given to him by Benjamin Harrison. Wolf Robe holds a ceremonial pipe often called a calumet or “peace pipe”. Courtesy of Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Library.

Ultimately, regardless of the tomahawk pipe’s potential connections to Wolf Robe, the artifact itself offers fascinating insights into the complex nature of trade and reciprocal giving by people who lived in Indian Territory and throughout the Southern Plains. It also speaks to the social and economic transitions that occurred in the Southern Plains during the 1880’s. When Frances Surr felt the need to return the tomahawk pipe and other items to Oklahoma, she did so because she knew that they had much to say about life in Indian Territory in the late 19th century. Additionally, Darlington Agency’s place within Indian Territory shaped its history. Its proximity to railheads in Kansas, its position relative to other Native American lands, and its location on the Chisolm Trail all combined to frame life for the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and European Americans who lived there. Darlington Agency and Indian Territory shaped Vernon Stiles too, and he passed the memories of that place down to his children. The University of Oklahoma: a place that Frances Surr had never been, and yet the place that seemed most appropriate to deposit the material expressions of her precious memories of her father.

[Bryan Nies]

Notes:

[1] According to the Kansas Historical Society, the word tomahawk “is a combination of tribal and English words. Algonquin and [Powatan] Renape peoples called their lightweight axes ‘tamahak,’ ‘tamahakan,’ or ‘tamahagan.’ European Americans pronounced these words as ‘tomahawk.’” See: Kansas Historical Society, “Cool Things – Pipe Tomahawk,” Kansapedia (September 2008, Modified December 2014) https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/cool-things-pipe-tomahawk/10379 (accessed 20 March 2015).

[2] Letter from Frances Surr to Dr. Bell of the Stovall Museum, dated 5 November 1973.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Letter dated 7 September 1885, signed Hemphill & Woy. Held in the tomahawk pipe’s accession file.

[6] Letter from Frances Surr to Dr. Bell of the Stovall Museum, dated 5 November 1973.

[7] David LaVere, Contrary Neighbors: Southern Plains and Removed Indians in Indian Territory (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000), 222; K.N. Llewellyn and E. Adamson Hoebel, The Cheyenne Way: Conflict and Case Law in Primitive Jurisprudence (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1941), vii; See also, Donald J. Berthrong, The Cheyenne and Arapaho Ordeal: Reservation and Agency Life in the Indian Territory, 1875-1907 (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1976).

[8] Pekka Hämäläinen, “The Western Comanche Trade Center: Rethinking the Plains Indian Trade System,” The Western Historical Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 4 (Winter, 1998): 506-507.

[9] Kansas Historical Society, “Cool Things – Pipe Tomahawk,” Kansapedia (September 2008, Modified December 2014) https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/cool-things-pipe-tomahawk/10379 (accessed 20 March 2015).

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Loretta Fowler, Tribal Sovereignty and the Historical Imagination: Cheyenne-Arapaho Politics (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2002), 4.

[13] NAGPRA findings 9/23/1996-9/25/1996, reported in Jethro Gaede, “A Time of Transition: Darlington Indian Agency and the Vernon W. Stiles Collection, 1883-1885 (Unpublished report compiled and held in artifact accession file, 2005-2006), 30.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Stan Hoig, Fort Reno and the Indian Territory Frontier (Fayetteville, AR: The University of Arkansas Press, 2000), 55-56; Stan Hoig, The Cheyenne: Indians of North America (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2006), 86.

[16] Hoig, Fort Reno and the Indian Territory Frontier, 128-134.

[17] Ibid., 104-105, 139.

[18] Letter dated 7 September 1885, signed Hemphill & Woy. Held in the tomahawk pipe’s accession file.

[19] Francis Paul Prucha, Indian Peace Medals in American History (Bluffton, SC: Rivilo Books, 1994), 67-68; Stan Hoig, The Peace Chiefs of the Cheyennes (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980), 81.

 

Works Consulted:

1. Berthrong, Donald J. The Cheyenne and Arapaho Ordeal: Reservation and Agency Life in the Indian Territory, 1875-1907. Norman:University of Oklahoma Press, 1976.

2. Fowler, Loretta. Tribal Sovereignty and the Historical Imagination: Cheyenne-Arapaho Politics. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2002.

3. Gaede, Jethro. “A Time of Transition: Darlington Indian Agency and the Vernon W. Stiles Collection, 1883-1885. (Unpublished report compiled and held in artifact accession file, 2005-2006).

4. Hämäläinen, Pekka. “The Western Comanche Trade Center: Rethinking the Plains Indian Trade System.” The Western Historical Quarterly 29, no. 4 (Winter 1998): 506-507.

5. Hoig, Stan. The Cheyenne: Indians of North America. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2006.

6. ——. Fort Reno and the Indian Territory Frontier. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 2000.

7. ——. The Peace Chiefs of the Cheyennes. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.

8. Kansas Historical Society, “Cool Things – Pipe Tomahawk,” Kansapedia (September 2008, Modified December 2014) https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/cool-things-pipe-tomahawk/10379 (accessed 20 March 2015).

9. LaVere, David. Contrary Neighbors: Southern Plains and Removed Indians in Indian Territory. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.

10. Llewellyn, K.N. and E. Adamson Hoebel. The Cheyenne Way: Conflict and Case Law in Primitive Jurisprudence. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1941.

11. Prucha, Francis Paul. Indian Peace Medals in American History. Bluffton, SC: Rivilo Books, 1994.

12. Surr-Stiles Collection. Accession No. E/1973/7/15, Ethnology Collection, Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, Norman, OK.

Object: Creek Pottery Jar

Figure 1  Creek Pottery Jar from the Ethnology Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Creek Pottery Jar from the Ethnology Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/1947/3/26
Pottery Jar
Creek (Muskogee)
North America: Southeast
Mid 1800’s
Materials: Clay

This Creek clay pot is almost entirely undecorated except for a few minor incisions along the mouth. Approximately 10 inches high, and 8.5 inches in diameter, the jar has a globular body with a relatively short neck upon which are 46 incisions, slightly marred by a broken shard on one portion of the neck. The mouth of the pot is 5.88 inches wide. The pot is predominately brownish-gray with a large number “3” painted in red on the outside, most likely by the donor rather than the original potter. The pot has striations all along the outside, suggesting that it was roughened in the traditional Creek style, most likely accomplished through brushing with grass or corn cobs[1]. The pot was likely made in the mid-19th century, somewhere around the 1840’s.

Donated as part of an extensive collection upon the death of Robert B. Selvidge, a translator for the Muskogee Creeks and a long-time resident of Oklahoma, this pot and its sister piece were acquired in 1948 by the University of Oklahoma. Selvidge himself claimed to have moved to what was then Indian Territory in 1882 with his parents when he was young and wrote that they “settled among the full-blood Muskogee Indians…I was nine or ten years old before I can remember playing with a white child outside of my own brothers and sisters” thus having the opportunity to learn “the Indian language right along with the English language.”[2] Due to his interactions with numerous Native Americans during his job as a court translator for the Creeks, Selvidge acquired his extensive collection of Native American objects.

 

Figure 2   Two Creek pots from the Selvidge Collection in 1950, soon after their acquirement by OU from Selvidge’s estate in Eufala, OK. The one primarily discussed in this post is on the left in this image, figure A. Taken from Schmitt's article. Figure B, a close-up picture found between the two images of the pots, demonstrates the brush-marks, striations, found on the exterior of both of these pots.

Figure 2 Two Creek pots from the Selvidge Collection in 1950, soon after their acquirement by OU from Selvidge’s estate in Eufala, OK. The one primarily discussed in this post is on the left in this image, figure A. Taken from Schmitt’s article. Figure B, a close-up picture found between the two images of the pots, demonstrates the brush-marks, striations, found on the exterior of both of these pots.

Selvidge claimed that this pot was made in Alabama in the late 1830s or early 1840s and brought to Oklahoma, then Indian Territory, by the Creeks during the Indian Removal. While it is quite common to hear claims of objects being brought to Oklahoma during the Indian Removal of the late 1836-1837, these claims are nearly impossible to verify. Despite Selvidge’s assertion about this pot, it seems more likely that it was created in Oklahoma after the Removal. Making this distinction can be complex, as, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society, the types of Creek pottery made in Oklahoma, in general, “are indistinguishable from Okmulgree Fields Plain and Chattahoochee Brushed”, the two categories of pottery found in the historic Georgia homeland of the Creeks before the 1830s.[3] Despite this complexity in identification, an early analysis by Karl Schmitt of the particular Creek pots acquired by OU suggests similarities with two categories of Chickasaw pottery from south-central Oklahoma, developed in the 1840s and 1850s.[4] These two categories, Rock Creek Brushed and White Brushed, have similar tempers to that of this Creek pot, consisting of sandstone and fine-grained sand, and possess similar brushed surfaces to the two pots in the Selvidge collection. It is significantly more likely that the Selvidge pot was created in Oklahoma by Creeks who had traveled from Alabama and Georgia and thereafter intermingled with the Chickasaw and other Native American tribes, learning some of their pottery-making techniques.

While the Creeks understand themselves to be the descendants of a culture which spanned across almost the entire Southeastern United States before 1500 A.D. and the arrival of European settlers, their traditional homeland lies primarily along the river banks of parts of Alabama, George, Florida, and South Carolina.[5] The Creek are often mistakenly considered to be a single, unified tribe, when in fact they can be better understood as a union of several different tribes, a confederacy of sorts, in which each town, or talwa in Muscogee[6], consisted of members of similar kinship and cultural backgrounds which exercised relatively autonomous political authority[7]. Adding to European misconceptions, the very name “Creek” was given to the confederacy by English traders as a convenient label for the residents of the various towns.[8]

Figure 3    Names taken from the Creek tradition for county and city names demonstrate the continued importance of the Creeks in what is today their territory, just south of Tulsa. Taken from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Official Website.

Figure 3 Names taken from the Creek tradition for county and city names demonstrate the continued importance of the Creeks in what is today their territory, just south of Tulsa. Taken from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Official Website.

The Indian Removal Act of Andrew Jackson was enforced for the Creeks through a removal treaty, signed in 1832, which moved approximately 20,000 Creek Indians between 1836 and 1837 from their historic homelands in Georgia and Alabama to the newly established Indian Territory in what would become Oklahoma.[9] During this forced migration, the tribes known as the Lower Creeks, who had been significantly more Europeanized due to their proximity to English peoples, established farms and plantations along the Arkansas and Verdigris Rivers while the two provincial groups known as the Upper Creeks established smaller towns along the Canadian River and its northern branches, most prominently along the Deep Fork area.[10]

For Native Americans during the Removal period, pottery was a dying art, but there remains evidence that the Creeks were among the only three tribes in Oklahoma which continued to make pottery in what is known as the “historic period”, after the arrival of the Europeans: the Chickasaw, Creek, and the Choctaw.[11] These three tribes continue to make pottery today. The pot from the Selvidge collection was, almost certainly, used for cooking and food storage rather than artifice or sale, considering its lack of decoration. While it is almost impossible to know the definite origin of the Selvidge pot, the most likely explanation is that it was created in the 1840s after the Creek’s arrival in Oklahoma. Despite the lack of decoration on the pot, it remains a fascinating piece in the collection due to its age and obviously utility.

[Sarah Miles]

Notes:

[1] Karl Schmitt “Two Creek Vessels from Oklahoma” The Florida Anthropologist 3, no. 1-2 (May 1950): 4.

[2] Robert B. Selvidge, Untitled Text accompanying collection likely written some in the early 1940s.

[3] Marshall Gettys, “Pottery, American Indian,” Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culturewww.okhistory.org. Accessed March 20, 2015.

[4] Schmitt “Two Creek Vessels from Oklahoma”: 6.

[5] “Muscogee (Creek) Nation History,” Muscogee (Creek) Nation Official Website, 2013, http://www.muscogeenation-nsn.gov/index.html. Accessed March 18, 2015.

[6] Steven C. Hahn “Creeks in Alabama,” Encyclopedia of Alabama, March 8, 2007, http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1088. Accessed March 22, 2015.

[7] “Muscogee (Creek) Nation History,” Muscogee (Creek) Nation Official Website.

[8] Hahn “Creeks in Alabama.”

[9] “Muscogee (Creek) Nation History,” Muscogee (Creek) Nation Official Website.

[10] “Muscogee (Creek) Nation History,” Muscogee (Creek) Nation Official Website.

[11] Gettys “Pottery, American Indian.”

 

Works Consulted:

1. “Ceramics” Mississippi Archeology Trails, Mississippi Department of Archives and History. http://trails.mdah.ms.gov/ceramics.htm. Accessed March 5, 2015.

2.  Foster II, H. Thomas. “Evidence of Historic Creek Indian Migration from a Regional and Direct Historic Analysis of Ceramic Types” Southeastern Archaeology 23, no. 1 (Summer 2004): 65.

3.  Gettys, Marshall. “Pottery, American Indian,” Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, www.okhistory.org. Accessed March 20, 2015.

4. Hahn, Steven C. “Creeks in Alabama,” Encyclopedia of Alabama, March 8, 2007,             http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1088. Accessed March 22, 2015.

5. Hopper, E.C. E.C. Hopper to J. Willis Stovall, Eufala, OK, April 8, 1948.

6. “Muscogee (Creek) Nation History,” Muscogee (Creek) Nation Official Website, 2013, http://www.muscogeenation-nsn.gov/index.html. Accessed March 18, 2015.

7. “Oklahoma Lakes, Rivers, and Water Resources,” published by Geology.com. http://geology.com/lakes-rivers-water/oklahoma.shtml. Accessed March 20, 2015.

8. “Our Nation: Geographic Information” Chickasaw Nation Official Website, updated February 10, 2015. https://www.chickasaw.net/Our-Nation/Government/Geographic-Information.aspx. Accessed March 22, 2015.

9. Quimby, George I. and Alexander Spoehr “Historic Creek Pottery from Oklahoma” American Antiquity 15, no. 3 (January 1950): 249

10. Selvidge, Robert B. Untitled Text accompanying collection likely written some in the early 1940s.

11. Schmitt, Karl. “Two Creek Vessels from Oklahoma” The Florida Anthropologist 3, no. 1-2 (May 1950): 4.

12. Stovall, J. Willis. J. Willis Stovall to E. C. Hopper, Norman, OK, February 25, 1947.


Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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