Object: Shadow Puppet

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Object: Shadow Puppet of Hindu Epic Character

Accession Number: E/2004/2/001

Object: Multicolored and metallic gold painted shadow puppet made of hide with 3 controlling rods.

Location: Java, Indonesia

Date: Pre-1980

Materials: Hide (possibly buffalo), possibly horn, string

Keywords: Shadow Puppet, Wayang, Shadow Theater, Southeast Asia

 

The “Shadow Puppet of Hindu Epic Character” in the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Museum exhibits many features that identify it as Javanese. These features include the joining of the feet at the base of the figure; the combination of a front-facing perspective of the shoulders with a profile view of the face, feet, and body; and the elongated neck and arms. In comparison to other images, Javanese shadow puppets share other features, including cupped hands, wrist and sometimes ankle bracelets, upper-arm adornments, complex head shapes, and elongated noses. [2]

[2][1]

Shadow Puppet in the Sam Noble Museum’s Ethnology Collection (left) and other Javanese shadow puppets with similar features

This shadow puppet is dated as pre-1980, and it is in good condition. The cutout figure is made of thin but sturdy hide, possibly buffalo hide as this is traditionally what shadow puppets of Java are made of. [2] The rods connected to the body and each hand are probably some type of horn because this is the material that was traditionally used. There are several small bands of elastic-like material attaching the main rod to the hide body, and bright blue joints at the shoulders and elbows that may be made of plastic. The rods that control the hands are connected to the hands with a string that is still very clean. Metallic gold paint is used most extensively compared to the multitude of other colors and covers the neck, chest, arms, and legs. The other colors include red, pink, dark blue, light blue, white, dark green, yellow, and light purple. The face is painted black with red and gold details.

Pictures showing more detail of the head, face, and torso of the puppet, taken at the Sam Noble Museum

The origin of shadow puppetry, which is practiced in distinct ways throughout Europe and Asia, is unclear, however, theories include precedents to Indonesian shadow puppetry from ancient Greece and nomadic tribes. For example, Plato described plays in ancient Greece in which figures were used to cast shadows on cave walls, probably as part of religious ceremonies. Nomadic peoples of Central Asia may have used shadow puppets made of leather as part of religious rites and ceremonies as well, using firelight to cast shadows onto the tent walls that they used as screens. The use of these puppets may have been continued among the nomadic peoples because of the ease with which the small figures could be packed up to use in ceremonies in their next location. Shadow puppetry may have been brought to Java, an island in Indonesia, by Buddhist missionaries accompanying Indian kings that invaded the island in the 6th century. Despite being introduced by an outside culture, shadow puppetry rapidly became a sophisticated and complex art form in Java that was distinct from other cultures’ puppetry traditions. [1]

Traditional Javanese shadow puppet (or wayang kulit) performances would take place over a course of up to 41 days and told epic stories that communicated philosophical and moral values of Javanese culture. The master shadow puppeteer, or dalang, would start each performance with an incantation. The solo puppeteer would be accompanied by an extensive musical ensemble that helped set the tone for each scene. The ensemble also played specific tunes to announce the entrance of new characters in the play. [1]

bellaspen_106967_9644658_blog post image 7A shadow puppet master, or dalang, mid-performance (http://beta.indonesia.travel/en/post/the-riveting-wayang-kulit-shadow-puppet-shows-of-java-and-bali)

In Javanese culture, the shadow puppet exhibits multifunctionality by serving as a theatrically functional tool of Javanese shadow puppetry while also serving as a store of philosophical and religious values. The “theatrical functionality of figures” is vitally important to the continuation of the shadow puppetry tradition in Java. [1] The assembly of Javanese shadow puppets includes movable joints and controlling rods because the main component of any shadow puppet’s value is its functionality. The shadow puppet in the Sam Noble Museum’s collection exemplifies ease of mobility with operating joints and coordination rods. The puppets are viewed as tools for the trade-like tradition of shadow puppet performance. As with any other traditional trade or art form, masters of shadow puppetry mentor young Javanese citizens who are their apprentices and aim to carry on the art form for the next generation. [2] In this way, the tradition and knowledge are passed down from one generation to the next with individual variation, as is indicative of folk culture. In addition to being functional tools, puppets serve as meaningful works of art. Shadow puppets were traditionally considered sacred objects, or pusaka, in Java. [2] Although the puppets are elaborately and intricately constructed and decorated, as exemplified by the Museum’s painted shadow puppet, the puppets also store cultural values that are most clearly communicated through every performance in which the puppets are used.

Shadow puppetry in Javanese culture is used to emphasize moral and philosophical values. One tradition that relates to this function is that Javanese shadow puppet plays begin with the evil characters on the left side of the screen of the play, and noble characters on the right. [1] Another traditional custom is the use of a 2D screen for performances to separate the audience from the play and emphasize the other-worldliness of the events and characters depicted in the show, although 3D screens are among the adaptations included in some modern performances. [2] Today, shadow puppetry is used to communicate the cultural importance and value of global topics such as deforestation and climate change. This is just one example of how new stories are emerging in Javanese shadow puppet repertoire that use many traditional elements and themes but addresses modern-day concerns [3].

 

This is a short video that summarizes the Javanese practice of wayang kulit, and includes clips of actual shadow puppet performances:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfydro4X2t0

 

 

Works Cited:

[1] Chen, Fan Pen. 2003. “Shadow Theaters of the World.” Asian Folklore Studies 62

(1): 25-64. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1179080.

 

[2] Cohen, Matthew Isaac. 2007. “Contemporary ‘Wayang’ in Global Contexts.” Asian

Theater Journal 24 (2): 338-369. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27568418.

 

[3] Diamond, Catherine. 2014. “Whither Rama in the Clear-Cut Forest:

Ecodramaturgy in Southeast Asia.” Asian Theater Journal 31 (2): 574-593.

URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43187442.

 

Additional Reading:

Cohen, Matthew Isaac. 2014. “Introduction: Global Encounters in Southeast Asian

Performing Arts.” Asian Theater Journal 31 (2): 353-368. URL:

http://www.jstor.org/stable/43187430.

 

((Aspen Bell)) Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

Object: Bronze Food Bowl

E_1963_4_8Accession Number:           E/1963/4/008

Object:                                      This is a cast bronze food bowl with a lid. It has two handles and an inscription inside. It is in very good condition for being roughly 2500 years old.

Location:                                 This object comes from the Chou dynasty of ancient China.

Date:                                          Exact date unknown, but roughly 800 B.C.E

Material:                                  Cast Bronze

Keywords

Chou Dynasty, Zhou Dynasty, Bronze, Food Bowl

Object Background

This item is notable for its intricate patterns, inscription on the inner surface, and animal motifs. The intricate patterns point to the fact that the food bowls served more than a utilitarian purpose. These objects were used in a ceremonial or ritual context, so their designs had to be aesthetically pleasing. An inscription on the inner surface of the bowl is common amongst Chinese bronzes. The inscription could signify who made the bowl, who it was for, or the purpose of the bowl [1] [2]. Last, the animal motifs are commonly seen amongst other bronze objects. The taotie symbol is one that is animalistic but does not look like any one particular animal. It has feline and bovine characteristics and was a universally understood symbol at the time even though its meaning has been lost [3]. Last, a ram is seen on the handles of the bowl. Rams were often used to symbolize good luck and happiness [4].  So, this bronze food bowl could have been used in a ritual as a form of celebration of a god or deceased ancestor.

Cultural Background

The Chou (Zhou) Dynasty ruled from 1122 B.C.E – 256 B.C.E and was the longest ruling of the ancient Chinese dynasties. In addition to its long tenure, this dynasty is notable for its intricate bronze figurines, food containers, and other similar items [5]. Primarily used by wealthy and noble people as a ceremonial object, these bronze objects also served other purposes. Bronze bowls, in particular, were important for their aesthetics and their multifunctionality.

Discussion

While it is difficult to know the specific purpose of this bronze food bowl due to the large possibility of uses, it is very similar to other collected artifacts from ancient China. This helps to understand how it could have been used. It is very likely that this bronze food bowl saw use due to the fact that a white line, similar to a water line, is visible near the bottom of the interior surface. This could imply that food or drink sat stagnant in the bowl for a very long period of time. Based on this assumption, the aesthetics and symbols of the bowl, and the possible functions, it is probable that this bowl held a sacrificial offering. This offering was likely used in a ceremonial manner in which one was asking for happiness and good luck either for themselves, a god, or a deceased relative. The various symbols throughout the bowl are tied to Chinese religion, and these bowls were commonplace in rituals.

Furthermore, this bronze food bowl helps demonstrate the overall culture of ancient China. Since these bowls were used for sacrifices or rituals, it tells about the religion. For example, this shows that the religion of early China was somewhat similar to that of the Mayans with the use of sacrificial offerings. It also parallels that of ancient Egypt with the use of burial objects to provide food or other things to ancestors during the afterlife. Moreover, these objects show how a largely agrarian culture behaved and their everyday life was intertwined with their religion.

Last, it is important to note that many of these bronze vessels were reserved for nobility or the wealthy. Bronze was very expensive and valuable so it could not be purchased by all people. These items demonstrate that, as is expected, the upper class had a different way of life than the peasants. They were able to be in touch with their ancestors and provide for their deceased relatives even through the afterlife. The bronze bowls can serve many purposes in ancient China, but they were primarily used by the rich in a ceremonial context.

 

Works Cited

[1] Lippe, Aschwin. 1950. “A Gift of Chinese Bronzes.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 9(4): 97-107.

[2] Magurn, Blanche. 1945. “A Collection of Chinese Bronzes.” Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum 10(3): 87-92.

[3] Ho, Wai-Kam. 1964. “Shang and Chou Bronzes.” The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 51(7): 175-187.

[4] Von Erdberg, Eleanor, and Wen C. Fong. 1978. “Chinese Bronzes: From the Collection of Chester Dale and Dolly Carter”. Artibus Asiae. Supplementum 35: 152-153

[5] Walker, Paul. Unknown. “Bronze Food Bowl.” Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

Works Referenced

Bagley, Robert. 2006. “Ornament, Representation, and Imaginary Animals in Bronze Age China.” Arts Asiatiques 61: 17-29.

Hay, John. 1999. “Questions of Influence in Chinese Art History.” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics (25): 240-262.

Sterckx, Roel. 2013. “Food, Sacrifice, and Sagehood in Early China.” Asian Ethnology 72(2): 336-339.

Xu, Jay. 2006. “Food Vessel (Fangding).” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 32(1): 28-29.

 

((Austin Bashaw)) Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

Object: North American Arctic Coast Dolls

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E/1944/01/115

Parka

Inuit

USA: North American Arctic Coast

  1. 1890

Possible Squirrel Fur, Thread, Gingham Fabric Lining

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E/1959/08/053 a-b

Female and Male Doll

Inuit

USA: North American Arctic Coast

  1. 1920s (?)

Dolls: Carved from Wood, Painted Faces.

Clothing: Caribou Skin, Marten Hide, Rabbit Fur, Thread, and Wooden Soled Boots.

Tools: Woven Basket, Wooden Ladle, Wooden Bow & Arrow

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E/1983/02/001

Doll

Alaskan

North American Arctic Coast: Alaskan

1970s

Leather, Possibly Rabbit or Marten Fur, thread, commercial fabric, beads

This week blog post hosts a variety of dolls and doll items from the North American Arctic coast. This collection of objects shows the medley of style, dress, and make of dolls found within Western Alaskan, Inuit, and coastal communities. The dolls span the time period of 1890-1970s and you will see a great diversity in material and style between these little figures. According to the Canadian Museum of History, peoples in the Northern Arctic have practiced the skill of making dolls for over 2,000 years.

 

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An example of a waterproof gut kayak cover and parka. Photo Courtesy of the National Museum of Denmark. Licensed by CC-BY-SA 2.0

 

Inuit hunters sometimes mounted a small doll to the front of their boats to bring them luck. Additionally, the art of making dolls, as well as their miniature clothing and tools served as a valuable lesson in craft production for children. While it was not uncommon for both men and women to sew in these Northern communities, women typically took the role of tanners and seamstresses in the household. For this reason, it is likely that these dolls were made by women. Additionally, young girls were often included in the process of creating dolls and their accompanying garments. This allowed them to practice their skills at sewing by helping with the craft or observing the process.

The materials used to make dolls range from hides such as sealskin, caribou, and furs. However, dolls also include implements like ivory, wood, human hair, sinew, and even intestine and gut. This was far more than child’s play,  learning and mastering the skill of the waterproof seam and stitch was a life-saving skill in more ways than one. In the icy tundra of the far north, staying warm and dry were vital to staying alive. Learning to work with delicate materials such as waterproof intestine to make a parka needed to be practiced.

The “tunnel stitch” is the technique widely used by the Inuit people for example. This stitch ensures a waterproof seal by leaving the outside hide or layer unpunctured. Another innovation in Inuit and artic fashion was the use of waterproof parkas, bags, kayaks and more. In order to sew and wear intestine or gut garments, they must first be oiled or stored in a moist environment. That may seem counter-productive to creating a waterproof garment, but this ensured that the delicate membrane of the gut stayed malleable and would not tear during the production or wear. To see more details about working with gut and intestine to make waterproof clothing, check out this youtube video which details the process of making a Sanightaaq or ceremonial gut parka.

These lessons in tool and clothing production are seen in nearly every doll, despite the wide variety of materials and styles. Each community had a different approach to doll craft. The examples within the Sam Noble utilize a variety of materials common in doll production from as far and wide as North America, Greenland, and the Arctic coast. Dolls crafted in the arctic regions often implemented wood or ivory as the body of their dolls,  as seen in the examples of E/19598/053a-b.  Traditional and realistic clothing, like the parka (E/1944/01/115)  from the collection, would ornament these figures. Whereas the doll from the 1970s (E/1982/02/001) blends traditional and commercial materials.

While the styles, materials, and means of production for doll creation is as diverse as the communities themselves, they all share and pass down important cultural lessons. They instruct on working with a variety of tools and materials such as sinew, gut, thread, fur, hide, and more recently, the use of steel needles and waxed dental floss. Whatever they are made from, however, the dolls also represent a labor of love, each one taking hours to carefully stitch and craft. Whether a child was gifted one of these dolls, or aided in its production, they represent meaningful hours under the careful instruction of a mother, aunt, or grandmother. Ultimately, at their completion, they stand as a thing of beauty and imagination.

 

Sources and Additional Reading:

“Inuit Dolls from Pre-history to Today.” Canadian Museum of History. https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/dolls/doinu01e.shtml (Accessed April 17, 2018).

 

“Sewing and Decorating Techniques.” The Bata Shoe Museum http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/edu/ViewLoitLo.do;jsessionid=A3A1C4CF884054AA3EB7386AEE0910BA?method=preview&lang=EN&id=22868  (Accessed April 17th, 2018).

 

Bruchac, Margaret. “Baffin Island Inuit Doll: Dressed to Care.” University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. https://www.penn.museum/blog/museum/baffin-island-inuit-doll-dressed-to-care/ (Accessed April 17th, 2018).

 

((Christina J. Naruszewicz))

Object: Shipibo Pottery

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Fig 1: Shipibo Pottery Vessel. Image Credit Sam Noble Museum Ethnology Department. E/2014/003/007

E/2014/3/007

Bowl

Shipibo Culture

Peru

Unknown Date, Possibly 1960s-1970s

Clay, Paint Slip

 

This post’s object, a Shipibo ceramic vessel comes to us from the Shipibo people of Peru. The Shipibo people traditionally live near the Ucayali River, a southern tributary of the Upper Amazon in Peru.  The vessel measures 5.875” H x 5.875” W x 5.875” D.  The clay has a natural earthy red tone, which can be seen in the interior and bottom of the vessel. The exterior of the vessel is highly decorated with a cream colored base. On top of the cream base, layers of intricately woven geometric patterns are painted over the surface of the vessel in black and terracotta. There are two faces, one on each side of the vessel. The nose and ears of the face are sculpted and are part of the body of the pot.

The style of Shipibo pottery is easily identified by its geometric line patterns, and while one may believe these patterns are guided by rigid stylistic rules, each Shipibo pottery is unique. Like a fingerprint, no vessel will have the same patterning as another, and the artist is encouraged to tap into their own inspiration as they work across the surface. Another unique aspect of  Shipibo artists is that they are almost exclusively women. This tradition of women as community artists has given women today the opportunity to economically support their families through the selling of wares to tourists and collectors.

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Fig 2. A Shipibo woman shows of the distinct line patterning on a textile. Photo credit by Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR is licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

Often times, women work together on a single piece. In these instances, the women seem to have an unspoken understanding of their collaborative efforts. Where one woman may finish a layer of line work, the next steps in to add even further intricacies with only their personal interpretations to guide them. In some cases, the artist is inspired by the aid of colorfully veined plant leaves, called iponquënë . Women place these leaves on their closed eyelids in order to trace their complicated vein patterns.

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Fig. 3.  A variation of Ayuahausca brewing on the fire. Traditionally ayuahausca is used in                                 Shipibo shamanic rituals and can create vivid visions in it’s users.                “Preparación de ayahuasca con chacruna”  by Jairo Galvis Henao  Licensed is under, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

The meaning behind these intricate patterns has been a subject of hot interpretation by anthropologists, ethnologists, and other researchers. Some believe the lines represent an early form of language. Others instead insist that the patterning is derived from early attempts to map the Amazon’s winding river systems. However, according to the Shipibo themselves, these patterns are derived from their shamanic practices aided by the use of ayuahausca, and serve as a reminder of the forces that were once visible to humans.

In mythic times, patterns like the ones that decorate Shipibo pottery, textiles and clothing, covered the entire world. These patterns flowed across the sky, trees, huts, people, and animals. All things were interconnected by this system of winding patterns. But due to the misdeeds of early humans, this idyllic union was ruptured and the world was shifted into three planes: Nëtë ŝhama (the sky world), Mai (the earth world), and Jënë ŝhama (the subaquatic underworld). Simultaneously, periodicity (day and night, or time), mortality, and speciation appeared. (1)

 

 

References:

(1) Roe, Peter G.  (1980). “Art and residence among the Shipibo Indians of Peru: A Study in Microacculturation.”American Anthropologist, 82, 42–71.

Pantone, Dan James. (2004).  Shipibo Indians. Retrieved from http://www.amazon-indians.org/shipibo-indians-masters-ayahuasca-01.html

Roe, Peter and Bahuan Mëtsa. Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian. National Museum of the American Indian  Retrieved from http://nmai.si.edu/exhibitions/infinityofnations/amazon/239608.html

Object: Wedding Hat and Sash

Accession: E/2015/02/115

Name: Wedding Hat and Sash

Location: China

Materials: Ribbon, Paper, and Thread

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(E/2015/02/115 in the Sam Noble Museum Ethnology Collection)

This week’s object comes all the way from China. The hat and sash were used in wedding ceremonies. The wedding hat is a cone that resembles a dunce cap with a gold braid around the bottom and up the front. The sash is a waist belt. A red tunic was most likely worn under the sash since red represents good luck. From the Qin (221-206 BC) to the Qing (1644- 1911 AD) Dynasty China practiced feudalism and the act of marriage was important to the overall function of the society. Marriage for men meant the survival of his family lineage and for the women, it meant they were being adopted into a new family effectively becoming a guest in her own family’s home. [1]

The ritual is extensive and is often referred to as the Three Letters and the Six Etiquettes. The three letters are the betrothal letter, the gift letter, and the wedding letter which is used when the groom meets the bride at her home. The six etiquettes are as follows:

Proposing:

In those days parents would arrange a marriage between the couple and often times the couple would not meet each other until the wedding day. The groom’s parents would send over a matchmaker, often a woman, to the potential brides home in order to propose. If the proposal was successful the matchmaker would be rewarded with gifts from the families in order to show their gratitude.

Birthday Matching:

Using the bride’s full name and birthdate the groom’s family would ask a fortune teller to see if the match would make a prosperous marriage. The fortune teller would use Suan Ming (Chinese fortune telling) and they would refer to the Chinese zodiac in order to tell their future.

Presenting Betrothal gifts:

If the match was good the groom’s parents would take gifts to the bride’s family home and the process would be allowed to continue. The matchmaker would present the gifts along with the betrothal letter.

Presenting wedding gifts:

Here the bride’s family would receive a lavish array of gifts from the groom’s family like food. This was used to show off the wealth of the family and ensure the bride’s family that she would be well taken care of.

Selecting the Wedding Date:

Just as the name suggests this step is for choosing the wedding date. The groom’s family would return to the fortune teller who would pick the date according to the Tung Shing, which is a Chinese divination guide made up of the lunar calendar.

Wedding ceremony:

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A wedding procession featuring the bride in a sedan 

It is finally the wedding day and the groom would walk with his party (usually a procession including a young child to symbolize future sons). Firecrackers and drums were used to ward off evil spirits during the move from his to her house. Her family would have sent over the dowry a day before and it would be on display in the groom’s family home. The dowry represented her family’s wealth and status. Once reaching her house the friends of the bride would make the groom perform trick and stunts in order to test his worthiness. After they were presented with money in red envelopes he was then allowed to enter the home. During this time the bride would be dressed in red with her face covered by a red shall. She would cry with her mother (to show her reluctance to leave) and then carried outside to the sedan to meet her husband. The bride’s feet were never to touch the ground during the procession back to the groom’s home. Once at the groom’s home, a red mat would be placed in front of the sedan and she would step onto it. She would then step over a flame in order to ward off evil spirits. They would be lead along in a festive manner and the groom would kowtow three times to give thanks to his family, heaven, and his spouse. [1]

The actual ceremony was quite simple. The bride and groom would stand at the family altar, give thanks to heaven and earth, the family ancestors, and the kitchen god, Tsao Chun. [2]

Then tea, either served with two lotus seeds or two red dates in each cup would be served to the groom’s parents. Then the bride and groom would bow to each other. The couple is then led to the bridal chamber where they would sit on the bed. They were given two goblets linked by a red thread and made to each take a sip and then exchange cups and finish the rest. The goblets were often filled with wine and honey.

While the couple is in the bridal chamber the groom’s family would treat all of the guests to a feast. The more lavish the display the better. Leftovers showed the wealth of the family and the type of food served had deep meanings. A whole fish would be served because the Chinese word for fish, yu, meant plenty and a lotus seed desert would be served to symbolize a wish for many children. [2]

The day after the wedding the bride was formally introduced to the groom’s family and she would pour them all tea starting from the parents, then from the oldest to youngest. When accepted by the family she would be given a title based on her husband’s place in the family. On the third day, the couple would return to the bride’s family where she would be considered a guest since she is officially a part of the groom’s family.

As you can tell the ancient Chinese rituals are extensive and if anything went wrong the match would not be able to continue. Today the wedding ceremonies in China have elements from both Western and Ancient wedding ceremonies.

A short video on the Three Letters and the Six Etiquettes:

 

((Caitlyn Jones))

 

Work Cited:

  1. “Ancient Chinese Marriage Custom.” Ancient Chinese Marriage Customs, Traditional Wedding Ceremony, Groom & Bride. Accessed December 06, 2017. https://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/social_customs/marriage/.
  2. “Ancient Chinese Wedding Traditions.” Theknot.com. Accessed December 06, 2017. https://www.theknot.com/content/ancient-chinese-wedding-traditions.

 

Additional Reading:

Smith, Richard J. “”Knowing Fate”: Divination in Late Imperial China.” Journal of Chinese Studies 3, no. 2 (1986): 153-90. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44288022.

Object: Bronze dicast ballot

Accession Number: C-1956-13-001

Object: Replica, Bronze dicast ballot with pierced hub

Culture: Greek

Location: Athens, Greece

Date: 4th century B.C.

Materials: Bronze

This artifact takes us back to the Hellenistic days of Greece, sometime around the 4th century. It is a bronze replica of an original dicast ballot found in the excavations of the Agora in Athens by the American School of Classical Studies at Athen.  “Psephos Demosia” is inscribed on it and translates to “public ballot”.  As one might assume, these ballots were used by jurors to vote in civic court for anything from laws to criminal trials. Because there were usually two hundred or more jurors, these dicast ballots allowed for a more efficient and private vote. Before the ballot, pebbles were used. Jurors would drop pebbles into either the prosecution’s vase or the defense’s vase. And before pebbles, jurors wrote the name of the party on a broken pottery fragment.  However, spectators could clearly see how the jurors voted.

In this new method, jurors would be handed two ballots, one with a hollow center and one with a solid center. The hollow ballot represented a vote for the prosecution and the solid center was a vote for the defense. The juror was to hold their fingers over the axle so others couldn’t see which ballot was which. Yet the jurors, themselves, could still tell the difference between the ballots because of the axle.   When it came time to vote, they would approach two jars, one made of bronze and the other of wood. Instead of being for each party, the bronze jar would represent the vote to count and the wooden jar would be for the other ballot that you didn’t want to count.  For example, a juror wanting to vote for the prosecution would drop a hollow ballot into the bronze jar for his vote and the solid ballot into the wooden jar to throw away the defense vote. The wooden jar also served as a way to return the unused ballot while keeping others from knowing how you voted. The voting jars had slits in them that only allowed one ballot inserted at a time. This would prevent jurors from dropping both ballots into a single jar, thus throwing out their vote. This method of voting worked for the Ancient Greek jurors until they started using paper.

ballot-box1

I was surprised to find how big the ballot bronze actually was. I had pictured it being the size of a quarter, based off the pictures I saw during my research.  However, the ballots are big enough to hold one in each hand with your thumb and pointer finger covering the hollow or solid axle. It was important to hold like this so other jurors couldn’t see which way you were voting.

 

(( Calen Cline ))

Object: Roman Gravestone

Accession: C/2000/01/001

 

C_2000_1_1

C/2000/01/001 in the holdings of Sam Noble Museum

 

Name: Roman Altar Stone

Culture: Roman

Material: Marble

This week’s object is a Roman Grave marker currently in the Classic’s collection. It is 29.5” H x17”W x 12”D with a Latin inscription covering the front. The inscription though faded and chipped says,

To the shades of the departed (or) For/to the god Mercury

Plutianici

Lived 23 years

4 months 3 days

L. Plutius

Stephanus

Made this for his most sweet (dear) wife

Like other Roman gravestones, this may have been colored red although the color has faded with time. The gravestone and the body were most likely placed outside the city as it can be deduced from the inscription that the Romans were still practicing paganism and the deceased were only buried in the cities near churches when Christianity took hold of the area. The tombstone was most likely found in the “City of the Dead” or what is known as the catacombs. [1]

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Roman Mausoleum under Saint Peter’s Basilica

Since this is a grave marker it is safe to assume that the woman received the full Roman funerary rites since the Romans believed that the spirit could not move on and cross the River Styx until all of these rites were performed. The Roman funeral marked a transition from life to death in Roman culture and it was important that all of them be performed so the spirit would not haunt the living. Much of the information we have on Roman funerary rituals comes from combining information from various first-hand accounts as the rituals were either never formally written or the documents have been lost. [2]

Ancient Roman funerary rituals were very different from what we practice today. The process consists of five parts: the procession, cremation/burial, eulogy, feast, and commemoration. Each one ensuring that the spirit could move on into the next life.

The Procession:

While funerals today are typically restricted to the friends and family of the deceased the Romans paraded their dead from their homes to the necropolis or “City of the Dead” in front of the city. Anyone not a part of the city was welcome to watch and the procession served as entertainment. The more lavish the parade the better. Wealthy families would hire professional grievers and actors who wore death masks to mimic the family’s ancestors. These processions essentially showed the social status of the family and remind everyone of their importance in the city. The body would be carried on a beir, a bed like tray for all to see. [2,3]

Cremation/Burial:

The Romans took care of the body in two ways. They either cremated the body and gathered the ashes into an urn or they buried the body in a sarcophagus.  Once the body was interred it was believed that the spirit would be able to cross the River Styx.

Eulogy:

If the person was of importance to the society or within the family, someone would give a eulogy. For elite families the eulogies were given in public at the forum building. A well-known eulogy is one given by Julius Caesar for his aunt called Laudiatio Juliae Amitae or Aunt Julia’s Eulogy before he launched a career in politics.

Feast:

This is technically the final step in the funerary process and involves a sacrifice. One part is set aside for the dead, another burned and offered to Ceres, the Goddess of Agriculture, and the last piece given to the family to eat. After this the deceased is no longer a part of the living world and instead are a part of the Manes (the appeased spirits of the dead). [4]

Commemoration:

A commemoration is a form of ancestor worship. There were days set throughout the year that the people honored their dead. The final step that concluded the mourning of the dead called the novendialis or novemdialis was a funerary feast that took place on the ninth day after the death of the individual. After that, there were specific days throughout the rest of the year where the Romans celebrated the dead. These holidays took place in February which marked the end of the Roman calendar.

Overall the funerary practices of Rome were clearly extensive and much more elaborate than what is practiced by people today. These practices ensured that the dead were not trapped in the land of the living. Due to the wording of the inscription on the gravestone, I think it is safe to say that this woman’s spirit made an easy transition from the living to the Manes.

A short video on Ostia Antica that details death and burial in the Roman city:

 

((Caitlyn Jones))

Works Cited

  1. Yeomans, Sarah. “City of the Dead.” Archaeology 61, no. 4 (2008): 55-62. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41780388.
  2. “The Roman Funeral.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Accessed December 06, 2017. https://www.ancient.eu/article/96/the-roman-funeral/.
  3. Favro, Diane, and Christopher Johanson. “Death in Motion: Funeral Processions in the Roman Forum.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 69, no. 1 (2010): 12-37. doi:10.1525/jsah.2010.69.1.12.
  4. “Ceres.” Ceres, the Goddess of Agriculture. Accessed December 05, 2017. http://www.ceresva.org/Goddess/Ceres.htm.
  5. “Manes.” Merriam-Webster. Accessed December 05, 2017. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/manes.

Additional Reading

LEVISON, JOHN R. “THE ROMAN CHARACTER OF FUNERALS IN THE WRITINGS OF JOSEPHUS.” Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Period 33, no. 3 (2002): 245-77. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24669628.

Feldherr, Andrew. “Non Inter Nota Sepulcra: Catullus 101 and Roman Funerary Ritual.” Classical Antiquity 19, no. 2 (2000): 209-31. doi:10.2307/25011120.


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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