Archive Page 2

Object: Buddha and Halo

Figure 1 Statue of Buddha with Halo from Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Statue of Buddha with Halo from Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/1955/18/245
Buddha and Halo statue
Asia: India/Nepal
Brass

This Buddha statue with flaming halo is roughly 29 ¾” tall, 18” wide, and 8 ½” deep. It features a Buddha figure on a lotus flower pedestal, with a halo of flames and Hindu deities surrounding him.

Buddhism is a widely practiced religion based on the teachings of Siddartha Gautama, an ancient prince who is believed to have given up all his worldly possessions and achieved the highest spiritual freedom: enlightenment. Different traditions of Buddhism have different beliefs about Buddha. Some believe he was an actual prince, others believe he was a reincarnation of a Hindu god, while still others believe there was no man at all, but simply the development and spread of an ideological belief system.

The hand symbols of any Buddha statue are significant in understanding the meaning of the statue’s presence. The hand positions are called “mudras” or “mark of identity” in Sanskrit. They are used in both Hinduism and Buddhism as a kind of language to evoke certain ideas or principals. This particular statue has the right hand in the position of charity and generosity, while the left hand appears to be in the position of wisdom.

The lotus throne that the Buddha is sitting on is a common theme in Asian religions, representing the path to enlightenment. The lotus flower is firmly grounded in the earth, yet is able to grow above the murky water of earthly suffering to enlightenment. The Buddha is commonly depicted with a lotus flower, or some kind of lotus reference, as seen here with his pedestal.

The Buddha is surrounded by Hindu deities in this statue, which helps contextualize the way Buddhism was received and adapted into cultures as it spread throughout Asia. Buddhism’s basic tenets speak to the basic tenets of many ancient and modern religions. To be a good Buddhist is to be morally right in knowledge, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration. These tenets are then further identified in each regional interpretation of Buddhism. In this Buddha statue, we see that the ideas of reincarnation and a pantheon of gods are incorporated into the Buddhist framework of Indian and Nepalese beliefs.

To learn more about Buddhism, take a look at this BBC documentary:

[Anna Nowka]

Other Resources:

https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/budd/hd_budd.htm

http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/beliefs/purpose.htm

http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/study/history_buddhism/general_histories/spread_buddhism_asia.html

http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/approaching_buddhism/teachers/lineage_masters/who_was_shakyamuni_buddha/transcript.html

http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/symbols/lotus.htm

Harvey, Peter. 2013. An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices. Cambridge University Press: New York.

Object: Ceramic Bird House

Figure 1 Ceramic bird house from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Ceramic bird house from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/2003/13/1
Catawaba Valley
North Carolina
Catawba Valley pottery tradition, North Carolina
Material: Unglazed ceramic

This ceramic bird house was made by Burlon B. Craig (1914-2002) in 1987. Craig was famous as a potter in the Catawba Valley tradition of rural Lincoln and Catawba Counties in western North Carolina. He began training as a potter under his neighbor Jim Lynn at the age of fourteen. He also learned from local potters Enoch and Harvey Reinhardt as well as from master potter Ernest Auburn Hilton. Craig served in the Navy during World War II and worked in a furniture factory upon his return, making pottery on the side. By the late 1950’s, he was the only traditional potter left in the Catawba Valley area.

Craig primarily made utilitarian wares until academic and collector interest in folk art arose in the 1970’s. Gaining national attention for his work, he transitioned to more decorative pieces. The worth placed on Catawba Valley pottery rose dramatically. Craig gained apprentices such as Charlie Lisk (b.1952) and Kim Ellington (b.1954), who in turn have passed down the Catawba pottery tradition to others. The tradition is once again vibrant in the area, with a network of potters who host kiln openings, participate in local arts festivals, and continue to teach others the craft.

The Catawba Valley tradition itself entails hand-digging clay from Catawba Valley sources, creating traditional vessel forms, using an alkaline glaze, and firing the vessels in a wood-fueled groundhog kiln. The first potters in the area used a lead-based glaze in the late 18th century but switched to an alkaline glaze, first created in the Edgefield District of South Carolina, around 1830. Craig’s line of tradition can be traced directly back to one of the early potters active in the Catawba Valley, Daniel Seagle (1805-1867). Historically, Catawba Valley ceramic forms have been utilitarian with only some decoration. The decoration varied from melted glass in the glaze to, later, swirls made from different colored clays. The face jugs and other decorated vessels now so popular with collectors were only created beginning in the 20th century, specifically to sell to tourists and others who see the pottery as art rather than as functional pieces.

Figure 2 An example of an alkaline-glazed face jug, created by Charlie Lisk; "Lisk facejug" by Dfuse180 - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lisk_facejug.jpg#/media/File:Lisk_facejug.jpg

Figure 2 An example of an alkaline-glazed face jug, created by Charlie Lisk; “Lisk facejug” by Dfuse180 – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lisk_facejug.jpg#/media/File:Lisk_facejug.jpg

 

The video below provides a demonstration of the Catawba Valley technique of throwing a pot given by Mike Ball, who apprenticed under Kim Ellington.

[Susanna Pyatt]

 

References:

Betts, Leonidas

1994    Burlon Craig: An Open Window into the Past, April 15, 1994 – July 8, 1994.

Visual Arts Center, North Carolina State University.

Harpe, Jason and Brian Dedmond

2012    Valley Ablaze: Pottery Tradition in the Catawba Valley. Conover, NC: Lincoln

County Historical Association by Goosepen Studio & Press.

Zug, Charles G. III

1986    Turners & Burners: The Folk Potters of North Carolina. Chapel Hill: University

of North Carolina Press.

Object: Replica of Phaestos Disk

Figure 1 Front of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

Figure 1 Front of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

Figure 2 Back of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

Figure 2 Back of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

 

C/1985/9/1
Replica of Phaestos Disk
Minoan
Crete
Late Minoan Period
Materials: Plaster

This Phaestos Disk replica is a modern cast of the Late Minoan Period original. It measures 16.5 centimeters in diameter and 1.5 centimeters in width. It was originally on loan from Dr. Allen C. Johnson, former professor of the Department of Classics at Princeton University, but since his death has become a permanent part of the Classics Collection at SNOMNH.

Figure 3 A view of the site of excavation of the Phaistos Disk; Photo "Festos1(js)" by Jerzy Strzelecki - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Festos1(js).jpg#/media/File:Festos1(js).jpg

Figure 3 A view of the site of excavation of the Phaistos Disk; Photo “Festos1(js)” by Jerzy Strzelecki – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Festos1(js).jpg#/media/File:Festos1(js).jpg

The original Phaestos (or Phaistos) Disk was unearthed on the island of Crete by Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier in 1908. The excavation took place on the south coast of the island, and the disk gets its name from the ancient region and palacewhere it was discovered. Experts date the disk to the Minoan Neopalatial (New Palace) Period, about 1600-1450 BCE [1]. Currently, the original Phaistos Disk resides in the Heraklion Museum in Crete, along with other extremely well known objects from the Minoan time period. The Minoan people are known for their unique advancements in religion, art, and technology [2].

Figure 4 This map depicts the island of Crete during the Minoan period. Photo "Map Minoan Crete-en" by User:Bibi Saint-Pol - Own work (data from http://metamedia.stanford.edu/imagebin/minoan%20crete%20map.JPG, map background from Image:Map greek sanctuaries-fr.svg).. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg#/media/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg

Figure 4 This map depicts the island of Crete during the Minoan period. Photo “Map Minoan Crete-en” by User:Bibi Saint-Pol – Own work (data from http://metamedia.stanford.edu/imagebin/minoan%20crete%20map.JPG, map background from Image:Map greek sanctuaries-fr.svg).. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg#/media/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg

The most fascinating thing about the Phaistos Disk is its mysterious symbols and figures that are inscribed in a circular spiral on both sides. Archaeologists are still unsure as to what the markings mean, or even the original purpose of the disk itself [3]. In recent years, however, scholars have claimed to make significant strides in cracking the code of the disk, translating the text, and determining its purpose and significance. Yet the fact that we still don’t know for sure the meaning of the text or reason it was used has caused some critics to question the authenticity of the disk [4]. Despite such controversy and confusion, the fact that classical archaeologists and scholars have spent so much effort over the past 107 years trying to interpret the nature of this small circular object suggests that when we ultimately and definitively crack the Phaistos Disk code, we will be able to understand much more about the Minoan culture, and the ancient world as a whole.

In this TEDtalk, Dr. Gareth Owens shares the progress he and his colleagues have made in deciphering the Phaistos Disk.

[Elizabeth Rischard]

Object: Bison Skull

E/1947/1/9
Bison Skull
Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe
Watonga, Oklahoma, USA
Unknown date
Materials: Bone and horn

This bison skull was found in Watonga, Oklahoma at the Cheyenne-Arapaho Opening by Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History donor, William H. Munger. The city, Watonga, is located in Blaine County and is 70 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.

The measurements of the skull are: 2’ long, 13” wide, and the horns are each 9” long. The skull measurements indicate that it is a North American species known as Bison bison, or the American bison. The primary traditional uses of a bison included consuming the meat and fat for food, and utilizing the bones and hides in making tools and clothing.

The Cheyenne-Arapaho Opening was an event where thousands of non-native people poured into Oklahoma to claim a portion of the 3.5 million acres of former Cheyenne-Arapaho land that had been confiscated by the federal government. These non-native people ventured into Oklahoma in carriages, wagons, and on horses in order to line up and run for land at noon. This Opening occurred on April 19, 1892, consisted of approximately 25,000 people, and it resulted in six new counties being formed in Oklahoma.

Food and water were scarce in the region, and people would find and sell bleached bison bones in order to survive. Not much is known about this skull, but it may have been bleaching in the sun when it was found by Mr. Munger.

Another bison skull found in Oklahoma is much older and is called the Cooper Skull, found in Harper County. It is currently on display at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in the Hall of the People of Oklahoma. It is the oldest painted object found in North America and is considered to be a part of the Folsom tradition. The skull is from a now-extinct bison and is around 10,000 years old. It has a red lightning bolt painted across the front. The paint symbolizes that the bison had a greater purpose in rituals, instead of being solely used for food, tools, or clothing purposes.

Although unsure of the original purpose for the bison skull found in Watonga, it is evident that bison have a long history of being used by people ranging from thousands of years ago through today. They serve multiple functions and have been a large part of Oklahoma history, whether through land runs such as the Cheyenne-Arapaho Opening or through Native American culture and rituals.

[Jaden Edwards]

 

Object: Egyptian Amulet

Figure 1 Amulet of Egyptian God Bes from the Classics Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Amulet of Egyptian God Bes from the Classics Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

C/1987/7/15
Amulet of Bes
Egyptian
Unknown Date
Materials: Faience (fused glass)

This small amulet depicts the Egyptian God Bes. In ancient times, Bes was very important to pregnant women, mothers and children. He was a god of protection against evil spirits and creatures that wanted to do harm to families.

The god Bes is unlike many of the other Egyptian gods in several ways. He is usually shown as forward facing, which is a very rare trait to see in Egyptian art. Most Egyptian art illustrating humans or gods depicts their subjects in profile view, where the shoulders and upper body of the person or god is shown from the front, the nose is easily distinguished, and both feet can usually be seen. Ancient Egyptians painted in this manner so they could be as accurate as possible when recreating the likeliness of an individual as well as emphasizing what were seen as the most important features of a person or god.

Figure 2 Cosmetic Jar with Egyptian God Bes, photo courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Figure 2 Cosmetic Jar with Egyptian God Bes, photo courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Bes was one of the only dwarf gods worshiped in ancient Egypt. He was very ugly in appearance, with bulging eyes and his tongue sticking out. This strange depiction was in order to scare away evil and poisonous creatures. His legs are commonly shown as being bowed outward, and he is often shown wearing the skin of a large cat such as a panther or a lion. He also always wore a feather headdress, which is another uncommon trait to see in images of Egyptian gods. By being a dwarf, wearing his unique outfit, and being shown as facing forward, some scholars believe he originated from a culture other than Egyptian. Before being incorporated into the Egyptian pantheon of gods, it is guessed that he may have been an African deity of some sort.

Ancient Egyptians believed amulets had to be made in a specific way in regards to the material and the shape. Magic contained in an amulet could be figured out from the form, the materials, what colors were used, and several other attributes. By creating the amulet based on these specifications, the amulet was supposed to grant the wearer’s wish when using it. Amulets could be carried or be worn in many different ways such as on a bracelet, a necklace or a ring. Similar amulets were often also included on the mummified bodies of ancient Egyptians to assist the deceased and guide them into the afterlife.

This amulet from the Classics Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History provides some interesting insights not only into the origin of the Egyptian God Bes but also into the use of amulets in ancient Egypt.

[Katelyn Williams]

Resources:

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/art/whatisaeart.html

http://www.livescience.com/507-ancient-egyptians-held-dwarves-high-esteem.html

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/egam/hd_egam.htm

Object: Knife and Sheath

Figure 1    Crooked Knife and Sheath from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History
Figure 1 Knife and Sheath from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/1959/7/26
Knife and Sheath
Inuit
North America
Materials: Iron, hide, wood

This particular object is a small curved iron knife approximately 8 3/4 inches in length and 1 1/4 inches in width at its widest point on the wooden handle and resides in the Ethnology Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. According to Museum records, this knife is believed to have come from the North American region and was used by the Inuit.

Figure 2   Map of the Inuit peoples, photo courtesy of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada’s National Inuit Organization.

Figure 2   Map of the Inuit peoples, photo courtesy of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada’s National Inuit Organization.

The term “Inuit” refers to native peoples of the Arctic and Sub-Arctic regions when specific tribal affiliation cannot be determined. Based on research, however, one can see the similarities that this knife shares with quite a few different, regional tribal locations. First, this knife shares a similar form, including a curved blade attached to a straight handle, with the Yupik people. This same knife style, however, was also emulated by a tribe much farther to the southeast, the Tahltan of British Columbia. Second, Native Alaskans made and continue to make many different types of knives. These curved blades are primarily employed in the carving of wood or bone in order to make tools, wearable items, or artwork. A curved, long blade would be much easier to use for carved items because of their ability to make precision cuts, rather than the Ulu knife, which is normally associated with the term “Alaskan knife.” Ulu knives are better suited to chopping and don’t have the carving power of a curved blade, such as the one in the Ethnology Collection would have.

Figure 2    "Inuit Ulu", Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inuit_Ulu.JPG#/media/File:Inuit_Ulu.JPG
Figure 3 “Inuit Ulu”, Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inuit_Ulu.JPG#/media/File:Inuit_Ulu.JPG

The knife in the Ethnology Collection also has a crooked sheath to go with the curved blade. The sheath is made out of leather, although it is unclear what animal hide was used to make the leather. Most similar blades either do not have their original sheath, or the sheath is made from another material such as wood or ivory.

While the specific identification of this knife is unknown, it is without a doubt from the Inuit peoples of the Arctic and Sub-Arctic regions of North America. It also illustrates an excellent example of how the form (the curved blade) of an object can directly relate to the function (precise carving).

[Connor Daggett]

 

Resources:

Museum of Inuit Art:

http://miamuseum.ca

British Museum, Arctic Peoples: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/cultures/the_americas/arctic_peoples.aspx

Canadian Museum of History, First Peoples:

http://www.historymuseum.ca/exhibitions/online-exhibitions/first-peoples

The Dennos Museum Center, Inuit Gallery:

http://www.dennosmuseum.org/exhibitions/inuit/ 

 

 

Object: Chi Wara Headdress

Figure 1    Chi Wara headdress made by the Bamana people of Mali, Africa from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Chi Wara headdress made by the Bamana people of Mali, Africa from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/2014/3/5
Chi Wara Headdress
Bamana
Africa, Mali
Materials: Wood, metal, fabric

This wooden African headdress was made by the Bamana people from Mali. It is 43.25″ tall, 12.25″ long, and 2.75″ wide. The headdress represents a stylized antelope with elongated curved horns and open mane. Red cloth and metal trim are attached to the face, and a dark brown patina covers the surface. There are four holes on the base of the headdress used for attaching the headdress to a raffia covered basket and the head of the wearer.

The word chi wara translates to “farming beast” and is an extension of the Bamana deity associated with creation. For the Bamana (also known as the Bambara) who live in the dry savanna of west central Mali, farming is held in high esteem as the noblest profession. Tyi wara, or chi wara (also tyi ouara) is a dance for a supernatural being that is half man and half antelope. Tyi wara is the one who taught Bamana people about agriculture. Tyi wara was the son of the first woman and tilled the soil even as a baby, transforming weeds into millet and corn. He helped man to be prosperous farmers, but man became wasteful and careless in their farming. So, Tyi wara left them and buried himself in the ground. The Bamana are agrarian, and they are dependent on the success of their harvest. Now the headdresses are worn to call on Tyi wara’s aid for a successful harvest, and the name chi wara has come to be associated with an exceptional farmer.

The headdresses are worn during performances that depict male and female antelopes that symbolize the relationship between man and woman and between the earth and the sun. Art in Africa consists primarily of wood sculpture, with the majority being less than 200 years old since wood deteriorates easily from exposure or destruction. The chi wara sculpture is a zoomorphic headdress made of wood carved into a stylized antelope whose head and horns are exaggerated while the body is minimalized. It is also comprised of metal and segments of cloth. The unique chi wara headdress comes in variations depending on time and place created. Masks are worn during agricultural ceremonies when there is need of water for the crops to grow.

References to the Bamana are seen as early as the 18th century, and Bamana is identified as an ethno-linguistic group of the Mande people of Mali. Islam has encroached on the traditional religions in many areas of Africa, but the chi wara headdresses are still in use today. Bamana age-based fraternities, called tons, structure much of community life. Overall, this Chi Wara headdress made by the Bamana people of Mali provides insight into an interesting cultural tradition and a fascinating group of people.

Take a look at this video to see a Chi Wara dance:

[Samantha Hayes]

References

Azeez, Olaomo A. 2011. Indigenous Art of West Africa in Wood Global Journal of Human Social Sciences 11(2) Global Journals Inc. USA

Bickford, Kathleen E. and Cherise Smith. 1997. Art of the Western Sudan. African Art at The Art Institute of Chicago 23(2): Pp. 104-119+196 The Art Institute of Chicago

Crowley, Daniel J. 1976. Images from the Ancestors African Arts 9(4):73-74 UCLA James S. Coleman, African Studies Center

Dombrowsky-Hahn, Klaudia. 2012. Motion Events in Bambara (Mande) Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 33(1): 37-65 De Gruyter

Goldwater, Robert. 1960. Bambara sculpture from the Western Sudan Museum of Primitive Art University Publishers : N.Y.

Hanna, Judith Lynne. 1973. African Dance: The Continuity of Change Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council 5: 165-174

Imperato, Pascal James. 1970. The Dance of the Tyi Wara African Arts 4(1) Pp. 8-13+71-80 UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center


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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