Posts Tagged 'history'

Object: Brass Lamps

Object: Brass Temple Lamps (2)

E/1955/18/272-a-b

Nepal

12 Century A.D.

Brass (metallic alloy of copper and zinc)

Hinduism, Nepal, Brass, Lamp, Durga

This set of oil lamps (that belong with a set of bases) was donated to the Sam Noble Museum by a Mr. Richard Gordon Matzene in 1955. Both the lamps and bases are currently housed in the ethnography collection. The set originally came from a Hindu temple in Nepal. The lamp height is approximately 39” and it is crafted entirely out of brass. The set dates back to 12th century A.D. Depicted on each lamp is the Hindu goddess Durga; she is distinguishable by the multitude of symbolism surrounding her.

Nepal is land-locked by both China and India; due to the country’s geographical location and its history of migration, conquest and trade, Nepal has a blending of Indo-Aryan and Tibeto-Mongolian influences. Hinduism is the most widely practiced religion 1. Within Hinduism, Durga is the mother goddess and protector of the universe.

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Durga stands for all that is good in the world and constantly fights the forces of evil.  She has eight arms, each holding a symbolic object/weapon given to her by other beings 2. Such objects include, but are not limited to: the sword, the bow and arrow, the lotus flower, and the conch shell. Each object symbolizes different concepts. For example, the conch represents happiness, the club represents devotion, the bow and arrow represent character and the lowered right hand represents forgiveness. Durga is often depicted with a lion or tiger. The lion represents the control of tendencies such as anger, arrogance, and greed, while the tiger represents unlimited power 3.

Hinduists believe that objects “contain the essence of the deities they represent” 1. The depiction of the goddess is in the center while the remainder of the lamp expands around her. Since we know Durga is symbolic for being motherly and universal, we can conclude this is a very deliberate aesthetic decision. Durga is the centerpiece because she is the universe. The expansion of the universe is a fundamental concept built into the culture of the Hindu people of Nepal.

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The object originates from a religious setting and there are Hindu symbols within the design of the lamp. Durga is depicted in the lamps holding a sword as well as a bow and arrow, signaling with her lower hand, and with both lion and tiger figures at her feet. When combined, these symbols represent eradication of evil qualities, righteous values, forgiveness, ultimate power and control of wicked tendencies.

Durga is a mascot for all that is good and pure in the world; thus, it is her duty to fight to expose and eradicate evil. In this context, the goddess Durga (when depicted on the lamp set) provides light through witch her followers may use to see the goodness and truth in the world. The artifact directly communicates its significance to the observer. Not only is it a lamp, but it is symbolic for the goddess herself.

This lamp set would have been used in a functional way, along with the religious connotation it expresses. It is still unclear whether the lamp was used continuously or only during specific celebrations or seasons. If it was the latter, it could have possibly been used in rituals or ceremonies concerning the Living Goddess of Nepal. Click on the link to learn more about this custom: https://www.thoughtco.com/the-living-goddess-of-nepal-1769500 5.

((Shannah Will))-Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

 

Works Cited:

Nepal

Countries and Their Cultures. http://www.everyculture.com/Ma-Ni/Nepal.html#ixzz58RM6B5F4, accessed February 17, 2018.

Marchand, Peter

Durga. Hindu Goddesses: Durga – Hindu goddess that kills your demons. http://www.sanatansociety.org/hindu_gods_and_goddesses/durga.htm#.WpcSCpPwYxg, accessed February 17, 2018.

Self-Development and Happiness e-Newsletter

Path To Anandam. https://www.pathtoanandam.org/symbolismsignificance-of-goddess-durgas-8-hands-with-weapons-and-her-teachings, accessed February 17, 2018.

Masselos, Jim

2006 Goddess: Divine Energy, ‘A goddess for everyone: the mass production of divine images’, Sydney, 148 ( colour illus.), https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/ collection/works/105.2011/,  accessed March 8, 2018

Das, Subhamoy

2017 The Living Goddess in Nepal: How Nepalese Girls are Worshiped as Deities. ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-living-goddess-of-nepal-1769500, accessed March 8, 2018.

Object: Jade Carving

willshannah_124974_9597796_28275482_1964890397172609_176426160_oAccession Number: E/1995/18/041

Object: Jade Carving: This object is made up of a water buffalo, two female figures, a bird, and a ‘mysterious’ figure

Location: China

Date: Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 C.E.)

Materials: Jade (nephrite)

Keywords: China, Jade, Ming Dynasty, water buffalo, symbolism

It is important to know what exactly is being talked about in order for the whole symbolism of the piece which is so important to be understood. With that being the case, the two female figures are stood at the front of the piece, the one on the left as you look at the piece front on, seemingly more elderly than the other. Behind them, on a podium, stands the water buffalo. On this creature’s back is the bird, seemingly holding a branch of some sort. Covering the bird almost entirely from the front, but above the more elderly woman, is what has been dubbed the ‘mysterious’ figure for reasons that will be discussed later. This piece is carved from jade, giving it a primarily pink color, though there is brown in the stone on the bottom of the podium, and green on the bird’s head and the front of the ‘mystery’ figure. This use of jade also gives it a very smooth feel. All of this can be seen in Fig. 1.

For the discussion of this piece, it is also imperative to have some background knowledge on the culture and time it is coming from. It is known that this piece came from the Ming Dynasty (1) which ran from 1368-1644 C.E. this being the time between the Yuan and Qing Dynasties. While both of these have important connotations politically for China, the Yuan is better known for its founding by Genghis Khan and his regime. It is after the Qing Dynasty that the current politics of China were founded, putting the Ming Dynasty right at the end of dynastic rule in China. Culturally, this piece is also significant for what the figures symbolize for the Chinese people, as will be discussed in depth in the rest of this post.

When discussing the symbolism of this piece it is simpler and easier to break down into three sections; the buffalo figure, the bird figure, and the jade material. These then are used in combination in this piece to create a whole new meaning and give more insight into what this particular piece may have meant for the Chinese people and also what we can learn about them from it.

Beginning with the buffalo figure, this piece has layers of meaning. The first layer comes from early Chinese history, just like every other civilization, China was founded on agriculture. In agriculture, water buffalo were very important for the Chinese people as they were used for plowing the fields. The second layer comes later in history, c.11th-12th century C.E. At this time the buffalo/ox figures had a kind of revival due to the publication of a series of songs, Ten Oxherding Songs, that talked about the path to enlightenment. This path is by finding, sighting, and herding an ox/buffalo (2).

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The next figure to examine is that of the bird. There are multiple variations of what exactly a bird means but they are all centered around the idea of death and the soul. They were considered to be the guide into the afterlife for a person’s soul for many years in China (3). This may also give an explanation for the ‘mystery’ figure; it may be that this non-descript figure is meant to be a soul that is being guided by the bird behind it, the seeming face on this figure also gives credence to this idea.

Finally, the material used must be considered. Jade, or nephrite specifically, was commonly seen in China as a precious stone, with connotations to heaven (4). It has also always been a very hard stone to work with and shape due to its structure (5). These combined have meant that jade has formed connotations with rich elites as they were the only ones with the means to buy anything so costly. We also know that jade has always had ceremonial connotations (6), specifically with funerals, from early dynasty tombs holding simple jade discs, to later tombs holding intricately carved pieces similar to one in this project.

When all these elements are combined a whole new meaning to the piece as a whole is presented. What becomes clear is that this piece is a rare and precious ceremonial piece, likely from an elite’s tomb, possibly with the goal of showing how the deceased wishes to go to heaven, showing they are worthy of such a thing through their enlightenment and respect for their origins.

Another possible conclusion of fusing these sub-categories is mentioned in the donor file document, “this carving represents the source of life” (1). This is also a suitable conclusion to draw when taking the symbolism into account; the buffalo means the source of agriculture and therefore life, the bird guides the spirits into the people, and the ‘mystery’ figure is still representative of the souls being guided. In fact, this conclusion may even account for the two female figures in the foreground of the carving (as seen in Fig. 2), although I have not mentioned previously them due to lack of information, one could make the argument for them possibly being mother figures and nurturing the animals and/or souls, or possibly having some other similar kind of role.

For more information on the value of jade throughout history, as well as more modern uses for jade please watch the following short video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnBY6JfuUM0

((Shannah Will))-Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

Bibliographic references:

  1. Matzene-Wentz donor file. Sam Noble Museum.
  2. Pik, Chan Lai. 2011. “Jade spiders and praying mantises of the Western Zhou Dynasty: Reconstructing an ancient cultural mindset.” Ars Orientalis 41: 165-185.
  3. Leidy, Denise P., Sui, Wai-fang Anita, and Watt, James C.Y. 1997. “Chinese decorative arts.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum.
  4. de Groot, J.J.M. 1897. The religious system of China: its ancient forms, evolution, history and present aspect, manners, customs, and social institutions. Leiden: Brill.
  5. Meeks, Nigel D., Michaelson, Carole, Middleton, Andrew P., and Sax, Margaret. 2004. “The identification of carving techniques on Chinese jade.” Journal of archaeological science 31 (10): 1413-1428.
  6. Boy with water buffalo statue, accession no. 02.18.438. The Metropolitan Museum.

 

Object: Feather Bonnet

Accession Number: E/1944/1/047

Object: Feather Bonnet

Culture: Cherokee (Yuchi?)

Location: North America – Southwest

Date of Origin: Unknown

Materials: Turkey Feathers, Leather Straps, Colored Yarn, Blue Wool, White String, Red Feathers, Cloth Cap

Keywords: Bravery, Feathers, War, Ceremony, Plains

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The material object for this blog post is a feather bonnet that was made by a member of the Cherokee or possibly Yuchi tribe. The feathers on the bonnet are in bad condition, some torn or falling apart. There is blue wool that wraps around each end of the feather and they are fastened to the cap with leather straps. The feathers are held upright with a white string running around the middle of the feathers. There are two red feathers flanking the sides of the bonnet, and on the front there is a multi-colored pattern in yarn, possibly to mimic bead work.

The entry in the Ethnology database says that the object is either Cherokee or Yuchi in origin, but in this blog post I focused mainly on the Cherokee culture. For the Cherokee people, it was important to use every part of the animal that they killed and incorporated parts of the animal into everything they used.[i] With turkey feathers, the Cherokees mainly used them for feather wands and in capes, but during the reservation period and the Cherokees adopting the Plains style headdress, they could easily have added feather bonnets to their list of uses for turkey feathers.

With a plains style feather bonnet, or war bonnet, the main purpose of them was for war. In order for a warrior to receive one, he had to have demonstrated his bravery in battle. In a process known as counting coup, a warrior collected a golden eagle feather that symbolized a specific deed of bravery. Once enough coup was collected, a warrior could make himself a bonnet. In some tribes, all the warriors would get together to help make the bonnet, and with every feather that was wrapped and attached to the bonnet, the warrior would relate the heroic deed of how he received the feather and pass on his story to the rest of the tribe.[ii]

War bonnets were not restricted to the battlefield. By them wearing a war bonnet during dancing, they were honoring the warriors of the tribe. This custom is still true today, especially during Armed Forces Day or Veterans Day.

The feathers also held special meaning themselves. The most prestigious feathers for bonnets were Golden Eagle feathers.[iii] With each feather signifying a specific act of bravery, a warrior would wear them proudly for the whole tribe to see. Today they would be equivalent to medals awarded by the armed forces. The feathers and other parts of the animal that adorned the bonnet was also thought to pass on the animal’s powers to the wearer. For instance, the feathers on the bonnet were thought to protect the wearer from being hit by bullets.[iv]

Feather bonnets held many functions. They are a badge of honor, showing the bravery of the warrior on the battlefield. They are a ceremonial peace used to honor warriors during dances and celebrations. And they are also a story telling device. The materials used in creating these objects mean something very personal and important to the person making it. These bonnets pass on the story and the culture of the tribe associated with them and remind us that there is meaning behind the beauty of feather bonnets.

washambrian_112566_9634254_war bonnet 3

((Brian Washam))-Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

[i] Perdue, Theda. 2005. The Cherokees, Indians of North America. Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House Publishers.

 

[ii] Hardin, Barry. 2013. The Plains Warbonnet, Its Story and Construction. Pottsboro, TX: Crazy Crow Trading Post.

 

[iii] Klapstova, Rajchard, and Jan Prochazka. 2015. “Species Determination of the Feathers on Native American Warbonnnets and other objects from the Collections of the National Museum- Naprstek Museum.” Annals of the Naprstek Museum 36/2: 67-80.

 

[iv] Klapstova, Rajchard, and Jan Prochazka. 2015. “Species Determination of the Feathers on Native American Warbonnnets and other objects from the Collections of the National Museum- Naprstek Museum.” Annals of the Naprstek Museum 36/2: 67-80.

 

Object: Cradleboard

sverrisdottirannamargret_51021_9646183_Appendix picture 3 Object: Cradleboard Null

Accession Number: E/1952/4/069

Object: An elaborately beaded Kiowa cradleboard.

Location: USA, North American Plains

Date: Unknown; ca. late 19th century, early 20th century.

Materials: Pine Wood, Leather, Beads, Cloth, Paint, Thread, Brass Tacks

Keywords: North American Tribes/Cultures’ Category; Beadwork; Material

Blog post

 

sverrisdottirannamargret_51021_9646181_Appendix picture 1            This cradleboard is 112 centimeters long, 34.5 centimeters wide and 23 centimeters deep. It is made with a frame of two, pointed, pine wood boards attached to one smaller board around 1/3 of the way down the two larger boards (appendix picture 1). The boards are attached to each other with a thick leather thong. Attached with the same thongs is a “canvas sack with rawhide sheet inserted at the head end to form a hood” [1] (appendix picture 2). Attached to the canvas is soft skin that is elaborately decorated and fully covered with white, dark and light blue, pink, red, yellow and green, beads (appendix picture 3 and 4). The only part not decorated with beads is the bottom of the canvas sack where the leather has been dyed ochre and cut to a fringe (appendix picture 5). The inside of the bag has been lined with dotted, red, printed fabric (appendix picture 2). Above the hood there is a leather slab decorated with blue, yellow, red and white beads. “The tips of the slats have crosses made of brass tacks” [1] (appendix picture 6).

sverrisdottirannamargret_51021_9646186_Appendix picture 6            The Kiowa tribe originates from Western Montana, as a nomadic tribe they migrated southwest towards the Rocky Mountains in the late 17th and early 18th century. They later traveled further south towards the southwestern plains in the 19th century. The plains provided to be great hunting ground for buffalo and with large feral horse herds, which encouraged Kiowa development towards an equestrian, bison hunting culture. In 1865 the Little Arkansas Treaty forced the Kiowa and Comanche, a tribe whom they had formed an alliance with after a troubled history, off their homeland in Kansas and New Mexico. Two years later, in 1867, the Medicine Lodge Treaty was signed which established a 2.8-million-acre reservation for the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache tribes in southwestern Oklahoma [2].

sverrisdottirannamargret_51021_9646185_Appendix picture 5The Kiowa cradleboard stems from a longstanding tradition and need of Kiowa women having to keep their hands free to execute everyday tasks, such as preparing hide for clothing and household articles, whilst still having their children near to take care of them [3]. Not only did cradleboards offer women an opportunity to move more freely about, it also served a purpose to both protect and socialize the tribe’s children. The Kiowa cradleboard is strongly constructed, having the top and bottom of the cradle enforced with rawhide, to better keep the shape of the cradle and to provide protection if a cradle was to strike the ground [3]. The reason for the cradleboard being carried on a woman’s back, with the child’s face facing away from the mother, yet at eyelevel, was so the child could get used to being at the same level as the older members of the tribe. This was not only done so the child could physically be closer to the older members of the tribe but also, so it could gain a sense of community and belonging [4].

A child’s importance was not only shown through the level at which it was carried but also through the very elaborate beadwork and decoration of the cradleboard. Looking at the beadwork at the cradleboard researched it is very clear that countless hours would have been spent on making the elaborate patterns and the white background. Not only would the beadwork have taken a long time, but the materials would have to have been traded, with European tradesmen as well as non-local tribes [5]. This would make the cradleboard a time consuming and expensive investment for a family to make.

A cradleboard such as this one displays a great deal of mixture between tradition and innovation. Materials both locally sourced and traded in showcase an assimilation and appreciation of newer materials and how they were adapted to fit the needs of the tribe. The patterns found on the board are part of a longstanding tradition of patterns going down in families, with each beadmaker adding her own personal touch to it. Not only are the patterns traditional but also the color and the division of the patterned plains of the cradleboard.

Research of this cradleboard and comparisons of it to other cradleboards and the traditions around them showcase a deep respect and appreciation for children within the tribe. The importance of the children being socialized within the tribe from a young age and the time and commitment spent to build them a cradle serve as proof for this. The cradleboard also showcases a need to display talented bead workers work among the tribe’s other members and other tribes, as well as a sense of pride in a family tradition of keeping the patterns recognizable from generation to generation [2]. As seen through the Kiowa’s traditional artifacts it is also clear that they were not a people afraid of stagnation, they gladly took up new materials and incorporated them within their traditions, as is seen with how trade impacted the decoration of cradleboard, with more colors becoming available for beads and new fabric options.

 

Recommended readings and videos for more information:

An Evening with Vanessa Jennings: Kiowa Cradleboards, Culture, and Tradition

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yk9A-uQh4EY  (discussion with contemporary Kiowa cradleboard makers at Brown University)

Gifts of Pride and Love: Kiowa and Comanche Cradles by Barbara Hail (book)

Kiowa and Comanche Baby Carriers by M. J. Schneider (scholarly article)

 

((Anna Sverrisdottir))-Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

Sources:

[1] Greene, C. (1952). Item Card. Museum of the University of Oklahoma.

[2] Kratch, B. R. (2009). Kiowa (tribe). Retrieved February 20, 2018, from The Encycopedia of Oklahoma Histroy and Culture: http://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=KI017

[3] Schneider, M. J. (1983). Kiowa and Comanche Baby Carriers. Plains Anthropologist, 305-314.

[4] Hail, B. A. (2000). Gifts of Pride and Love: Kiowa and Comanche Cradles. Bristol, Rhode Island: Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology.

[5] Alden, J. (1999). Contemporary American Indian Beadwork: The Exquisite Art. Millwood, NY: Dolph Publishing Inc.

 

 

 

Object: Beaded Moccasins

Object: Pair of fully beaded Moccasins

Accession: E/1982/11/017

Name: Pair of fully beaded Moccasins

Location: North America, Plains USA

Date: Early 20th Century

Materials: Rawhide, seed beads

riderdunstonebrittany_124935_9643543_IMG_0522

Keywords: Lakota, Teton, Sioux, Moccasins, Calf-Hide, Rawhide, Beaded, Native American, Lazy-Stitch, Sinew

This artifact, a pair of Lakota Indian Moccasins, comes from the Plains USA. The moccasins are made of rawhide. Typically moccasins are made of some kind of calf, buffalo, antelope, or elk (1). The artifact has multiple geometric designs including crosses and triangular shapes. The pair is fully beaded containing seed beads in the colors green, red, blue, and white. The beads are assorted in a “lazy stitch” technique. These moccasins have worn soles indicating usage, possibly for ceremonial practices.

 

The Lakota Indians come from the Plains lands of Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota. The Lakotas, through beadwork culture, contain images and designs specific to the artist. The culture focuses on the individuality and imperfection of the beadwork at hand. Throughout time the usage of beadwork has changed. In the 1840s-1870s Lakota beadwork contained block images, simplistic triangle images and the beadwork they created were used in daily life. Typically the background contained a white base and kept to older block designs. Beading reached its height in the 1870s as the Lakotas were forced into reservations. As the decade continued more complex designs were introduced, such as geometric designs. In the 1940s-present the Lakotas began using multiple techniques, including the lazy-stitch, to introduce more intricate designs. As WWII ended veterans began coming back to the reservations and Powwows were used to celebrate their return. During this time beadwork became not only more complex but became great pride regalia for the Lakotas Indians. (2)

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In the artifact, the observant can identify the unsymmetrical pattern between the left and the right moccasin. This is a traditional value in Lakota beadwork. For the artist, it is not about making the pieces perfect but rather metaphorically showing the imperfection of a piece of craftwork. The Lakotas wanted to show how the imperfect is still beautiful. It was also believed that the irregularity was a “visual pun”, among the craft workers. (3) Usually, this imperfection would be seen as a mistake but in Lakota culture, this is a treasured value. Lakota Indians believed/believe that the imperfect is beautiful and the imperfect is just a fact of life.

The stitching in the moccasin is also a very prevalent tradition in Lakota culture. The “lazy-stitch” is a commonly used technique in beadwork among many Indian pieces. In identifying the difference, observers look at bead color, style, and how the piece is made. The Lakota Indians typically use white as the background with red, green, and blue as some of the main coloration. In the moccasins observed above, the observer can see these identifications present with the white background and red, blue, green coloration included. The piece also includes the lazy stitch technique throughout the beading. The stitch creates a sense of commonality and connection among the Lakota Indian beadwork. The technique has held up throughout Lakota Indian culture and shows the ability to replicate the technique. The coloration and stitching is a treasured past that holds significant value currently in Lakota culture.

 

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((Brittany Rider-Dunstone))-Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

References:

(1)Wallaert, Hélène
2006
Beads and a Vision: Waking Dreams and Induced Dreams as a Source of Knowledge for Beadwork Making. An Ethnographic Account from Sioux Country. Plains Anthropologist 51(197): 3–15c

(2)Dean, David

2002

Beading in the Native American Tradition. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press

(3) Green, Richard

1997

An Aspect of Irregularity in Teton Sioux Beadwork.  Whispering Wind 28(5) 9

Object: Wooden Mask

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Accession Number: E/2014/3/012

Object: Wooden Mask created in the 1970’s donated to the Sam Noble Museum in 2014.

Location: The continent of Africa in the country of Liberia from the tribe of Dan (Gio).

Date: 1970’s (Exact date unknown)

Materials: Wood, Camel Teeth, Clay

Mask, Africa, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Dan

 

Description of the Mask

This mask, which was donated to the museum in 2014 by the McGee foundation, comes from the country of Liberia from the Dan tribe. This mask is about 19 inches tall and 7 inches wide. A long forehead, prominent lips, and scarification all stand out to make this mask unique. Materials used to make this mask include wood, camel teeth, as well as clay for detailed decorations. Most ‘Bimbo’ masks were made out of metal and had some from livestock hair which makes this specific mask unique. This mask was made in the 1970’s with the exact date unknown. This mask was used in many traditional ceremonies by the people of Dan.

Who were the Dan?

This mask was created and used by the Dan tribe of Liberia. The people of Dan migrated to present day Liberia from Northern Africa in the 1800’s. The people of Dan are known for their warlike society. Power is very important to the people of Dan (4).  Most of the people belonging to this tribe were farmers. Hunters and owners of guns were usually seen as the most powerful to these people. Materials acquired to survive were mostly obtained through trade. Family is an important aspect of their culture as well as art. Dan people used art to express themselves (1).  Masks like these were very popular to uniquely identify a person behind it based on things such as economic class.

More, More, and More!

Like stated earlier, the people of Dan had a strong cultural emphasis on power. Their political system functioned similarly to that of a caste system. Families in the tribes were separated into quarters based on economic status in the tribe. Settlers and traders were the main two classes of the Dan people in the 1970’s. Hunters who owned guns were seen as very powerful in the society. Beneath chiefs and people in political power within the tribe, hunters were seen as necessary providers (4).  Food and other materials needed to survive could not be obtained without the confidence, courage, and strength of a hunter. Although people still feel that the country of Liberia’s political system as a whole is corrupt, many progress has been made in an effort to bring this social system to modern times.

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An example of a contemporary Gle Mask. Photo courtesy of Andrew Scott, licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0.

During the 1970’s in Liberia, art was a big part of the culture in Africa. Art was used as a form of self-expression during war times in Liberia (1).  These Dan masks were made and worn only by males. Although it seems as though this would not be a complicated task, many steps were needed in order to even begin the carving process of the mask. Cleansing of the carver/performer and a journey into the woods to find a perfect piece of wood were some of the necessary steps needed to begin the ceremonial process. Once the ceremony that the mask is needed for is completed, it will no longer be used again. The mask that the man makes is seen as a sacred piece of art and is kept in his family from generation to generation (3).

Not only is this mask is well known for aesthetic reasons, but the Dan people had a strong religious connection to this mask. Although the people of this tribe did believe in a supreme god (their religious affiliation can be most closely associated to the Islamic or Christian religion), they did not think that human beings could reach them on their own. They put on ceremonies to awaken the ‘Du’ which they used to communicate with their god (3).  The mask was the center of these ceremonies accompanied by elaborate clothing items and headpieces (1). A lot of time, detail, and effort was put into creating this mask. Little things that were observed about this object such as holes in the sides so that it could be secured to a performers face confirms the authenticity of this mask (2).

((Kelly Jones))- Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

 

 

References

 

  • Duerden, Dennis

2000

The “Discovery” of the African Mask. Research in African Literatures 31(4): 29–47. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3821076

 

  • Leach, Melissa

2000

New shapes to shift: war, parks and the hunting person in modern West Africa. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 6(4): 577–595. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2661031, accessed February 20, 2018

  • Maxwell, David

2012

What Makes A Christian? Perspectives From Studies Of Pneumatic Christianity. Africa: The Journal of the International African Institute 82(03): 479–491

  • Putnam, Aric

2006

Modern Slaves: The Liberian Labor Crisis and the Politics of Race and Class. Rhetoric and Public Affairs 9: 235–256. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41940051, accessed February 20, 2018

 

Object: Bronze Incense Burner

Accession: E/1955/18/139

Name: Bronze Incense Burner

Location: Asia: Dynastic China

Date: Dynastic China

Materials: Bronze

Key Terms: Incense, Burner, Bronze, Dynastic China

This bronze incense burner from the Ethnology Collection at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History is a three-piece artifact dating back to Dynastic China. The base consists of an elephant with three attachments that sit on top of the back of the elephant; the top tier is missing, however, there are holes on the top attachment of the elephant where this piece would connect. The burner stands 24” high when assembled. It is made from bronze and each piece is hand painted in multi-color designs, including light blue, dark blue, teal, light green, dark green, purple, yellow and white. The incense burner was used to burn incense as remnants of this process are evident because you can hear the remaining fragments moving around inside the elephant as you lift the object. There is also proof of aging in the form of green discoloration on the insides of the attached tears as well as the top of the elephant, which is a result of the bronze oxidizing.

 

The period of the Shang and Zhou dynasties is generally known as the Bronze Age in China. During this time in China rituals that centered on incense burners like this one had an important social function, because these were so important for creating societal cohesion. Since these rituals were so valued most objects used were made from bronze, which represented the superior sectors of society, as bronze was highly valued. Therefore, the material used to create this burner leads us to its cultural significance, as bronze burners are the most precious. The rituals this burner was used in became increasingly religious over time and were used to communicate with gods, spirits, and deceased ancestors. [1, 3]

Shang_Dynasty_1600_BC_-_1046_BC

Map courtesy of Arab Hafez licensed by CC-BY

Although we cannot pinpoint the exact date this incense burner was created, I am led to believe that it was likely constructed sometime during the Bronze Age (Shang and Zhou dynasties). Research shows that excavated Han Dynasty tombs had depictions of incense burners and elephants, therefore, the significance of these symbols in this culture was created before the Han Dynasty. This incense burner was likely to have been constructed in the orange/yellow region of the map on the right because that is where bronze paraphernalia used for rituals was being created at the time of the Bronze Age. The remnants found in incense burners excavated from tombs also prove that China was engaged in the global economy through international trading at the time these burners were being used because some of the spices found in the remnants were not grown in China. [2]

 

These burners were historically used to burn incense and spices for religious purposes and are contemporarily used for the same reasons; however, the religious symbolism has evolved over time. Earliest documented scent culture emphasizes simplicity and the belief that complex aromas were inherently suspicious because of the extravagance the original purity of virtues is lost. The original simple scents and spices used were intentionally unpleasant to avoid the corruption the pleasant but complex scents were thought to bring. Over time a change occurred and the idea of antique simplicity died off. Today, diverse incense and spices are used in combination with different religious ceremonies or rituals. [3]

 

The authenticity of this bronze incense burner is affirmed in its physical structure and visual signs of aging. Feet elevate the burner above the table surface, which is a requirement of an authentic incense burner, as without them the object would not be able to function correctly. The green discoloration on the top of the elephant also exemplifies its age as bronze greens from oxidation. This burner was undoubtedly handmade as the intricate designs that appear throughout the artifact are hand painted. Although the process for molding these bronze burners may be derivative, I would assert that these designs are unique to this particular burner, and exemplify the maker’s creativity and originality. The time put in to paint this complex design on such valued material denotes the importance of this object. [4]

 

((Kayla Grudzielanek))- Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

Works Cited:

  1. Department of Asian Art. “Shang and Zhou Dynasties: The Bronze Age of China.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. 2004, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/shzh/hd_shzh.htm.
  2. Kim, Minku. “CLAIMS OF BUDDHIST RELICS IN THE EASTERN HAN TOMB MURALS AT HORINGER: Issues in the Historiography of the Introduction of Buddhism to China.” Ars Orientalis, 44, 2014, pp. 134-154., http://www.jstor.org/stable/43489801.
  3. Milburn, Olivia. “Aromas, Scents, and Spices: Olfactory Culture in China before the Arrival of Buddhism.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 136, no. 3, July 2016, pp. 441-464., http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7817/jameroriesoci.136.3.0441.
  4. Stone, Elizabeth Rosen. “A Buddhist Incense Burner from Gandhara.” Metropolitan Museum Journal, 39, 2004, pp. 69-99., http://www.jstor.org/stable/40034602.

Picture:

“Ancient Chinese Dynasties: Advancements and Achievements.” Ancient Chinese Dynasties: Advancements and Achievements – The Zhou Dynasty, anchientchinesedynasties.weebly.com/the-zhou-dynasty.html.

E/1955/18/139 in the Sam Noble Museum Ethnology Collection

 

Additional Reading:

Maguer, Sterenn Le. “Typology of Incense-Burners of the Islamic Period.” Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, vol. 41, July 2010, pp. 173-185., http://www.jstor.org/stable/41622131.

 


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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