Posts Tagged 'sam noble museum'

Photo Quiz!

Take a close look at this picture and then vote on what you think it is!

Take a close look at this picture and then vote on what you think it is!

Stay tuned….we’ll post the answer in one week, on June 7th!

In the meantime, be sure to stop by the Sam Noble Museum through June 30th for FREE ADMISSION!

[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

Photo Quiz!

Take a close look at this picture and then vote on what you think it is!

Take a close look at this picture and then vote on what you think it is!

Stay tuned….we’ll post the answer in one week, on April 5th!

In the meantime, take a look at some of the cool new things in the Ethnology Department!

[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

Object: Faience Necklace

Figure 1    Egyptian Faience blue beaded necklace from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Egyptian Faience blue beaded necklace from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Blue faience necklace
Africa: Egypt
Date: Modern
Materials: Faience (glass) beads on leather

This small blue beaded necklace is 12 inches long and comes from modern-day Egypt. The leather thong (or string) that holds the beads is tied together in one spot and can be adjusted to fit the person wearing it. The irregular shaped beads are made out of faience, a type of colored glass.

Faience (pronounced “fay-ahns”) has a long-standing history in many countries, especially Egypt. The ancient Egyptians used faience (known as tjehnet) beginning in 3500 BC to make beads, statues, amulets, bowls, and a variety of other objects. One theory is that faience was invented in Mesopotamia in 4000 BC and then brought to Egypt through trade.

Faience was originally developed by ancient Egyptians out of a desire to find a substitute for lapis lazuli, a highly valued dark blue stone. The royalty and nobles of ancient Egypt wanted to show how much power and wealth they had through the beautiful and expensive objects they put in their palaces, temples, and tombs. Lapis lazuli, however, was hard to come by. So, they developed faience, a much cheaper and easily manufactured material, as a substitute.

Faience, known as the “first high-tech ceramic” is made from finely ground quartz (or sand) mixed with lime, copper oxide, water, and a binder agent (such as gum arabic). When mixed together, these ingredients form a kind of paste that can then be put into a ceramic mold, dried, and fired in a kiln (or oven). Early on, it was discovered that adding different minerals (such as manganese) instead of copper oxide would result in different colors of faience including                                                           cobalt blue, purple, and yellow.

Today, the production of faience all around the world has expanded. Artists and scientists continue to experiment with and learn from this fascinating blue glass that experienced its beginnings in ancient Egypt and ancient Mesopotamia. This beautiful beaded necklace is only one example of how faience continues to be used today.

Take a look at this cool video that shows step-by-step out to make faience objects using ancient Egyptian molds from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology:

[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

Object: Bronze Head

Bronze Head
Dynastic China
Location: Asia, China
Unknown Date
Materials: Bronze

We can learn a great deal by looking at the details of objects to uncover the mystery of what they mean. This Chinese statue is an excellent example. It is a large 32-inch tall hollow cast bronze head of a woman. By looking closely at the head, we can see she has an elaborate hairstyle with an ornate headpiece. The headpiece has a miniature figure of Buddha in front, over her forehead. Her eyes are closed, as if asleep, and she has a slight smile on her lips. There is no evidence that there was ever a body attached to this head. So what are we to make of this unusual object?


First, we look at how it was made. The process of bronze casting is very old, beginning in China around 1600 BC, in what was known as the Shang Dynasty. Bronze is an alloy, or combination, of copper and tin and forms a very durable metal. While we do not know how old this statue is, it certainly developed out of this long-standing bronze working tradition.

With her serene facial expression, this head may represent the figure of Kuan Yin (Kwan Yin) or “She Who Hears the Cries of the World,” goddess of mercy, compassion, kindness, and love in the Buddhist faith. This Chinese Buddhist goddess is said to be based on a real woman. According to one legend, Kuan Yin’s father murdered her and she went down to the underworld. When she got there, she recited words from the Buddhist holy books, preventing the god of the underworld from torturing the souls of the dead. He was not pleased, so he sent Kuan Yin back to be alive once more. After returning to the world of the living, she spent all her time studying Buddhist ideas and teachings, learning from the Buddha. As a result of her dedication and her compassionate nature, the Buddha made her immortal, and she became the goddess of mercy and compassion.

In paintings, Kuan Yin is often depicted as wearing white robes and sitting on a lotus flower, which also symbolizes peace. Sometimes she is even shown with a thousand heads and a thousand arms, so that she can more effectively bestow her mercy on the world. Stories about Kuan Yin seem to have begun with stories about a male Indian boddhisatva (holy person) called Avlokitesvara. By the 1st Century AD in China, Kuan Yin not only changed names, she also changed genders! She is known my many different name all across East Asia, and a wide range of different stories are told about her.

If you want to see this bronze statue for yourself, come by the Sam Noble Museum! It is currently on exhibit in our Orientation Gallery, the first gallery to the right after you enter the main part of the museum!

Take a look at this great video by the San Diego Museum of Art on the history of Buddhism:

[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

Object: German Silver Stickpin

Stickpin by Murray Tonepahote
Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma
North America: Plains, Oklahoma
Date: 20th Century
Materials: German silver (aka Nickel silver)

This small German silver stickpin is only 3.25 inches long by 0.5 inches wide. It is in the shape of a tipi with a gourd rattle head on top and four slender pendants dangling below the base of the tipi. On the back, the pin portion is attached where the top of the tipi meets the bottom of the gourd rattle. This pin was made by master metalsmith Murray Tonepahote, a renowned Kiowa artist.

Figure 2    Navajo man wearing a German Silver Concho belt, photo by Don Blair in the 1950's

Figure 2 Navajo man wearing a German Silver Concho belt, photo by Don Blair in the 1950’s

German silver, also known as Nickel silver or electrum, is an alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel. Native American communities have used German silver in their jewelry and metalworking for centuries, ever since it was introduced into North America in the late 1800’s. Countless examples of German silver objects such as earrings, belts, conchos, tie slides, bracelets, and hair combs among others can be found throughout native communities today. To learn more about the production of German silver objects, take a look at a previous post from 2011.

Murray Tonepahote (1911-1968), a member of the Kiowa tribe, began his artistic training under the teachings of noted Kiowa artists Monroe Tsatoke and Harry Hokeah. An early member of the Oklahoma Indian Arts and Crafts Cooperative, Tonepahote excelled at designing religiously inspired jewelry such as stickpins and earrings, many of which have become masterpieces of Southern Plains Indian art.

Murray Tonepahote, along with George “Dutch” Silverhorn, Julius Caesar, Bruce Caesar, and Homer Lumpmouth, has become recognized as one of the greatest Native metalsmiths in the country. The work of these extraordinary artists is now widely collected and exhibited across the United States.

Many of Tonepahote’s objects, like this stickpin, relate specifically to the Native American Church, which traditionally incorporates many Peyote rituals. The Native American Church originated in Oklahoma in the 1800’s and spread to many different Native American tribes around the country. The use of peyote, a small cactus, in rituals such as healings and births is believed to allow communion with deities and spirits.


Take a look at this video to learn more about the history of the Native American Church and the importance of Peyote rituals to many Native artists:

[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

Object: Maguey Bag

Kogi (Kagaba) Indians
South America: Colombia
Early 20th Century
Materials: Maguey plant fiber

This fine mesh maguey fiber bag from Colombia is decorated with 6 brown bands, each approximately 1/2″ wide. The undecorated carrying strap allows for the bag to be worn over a shoulder.

The Kogi (also known as the Kagaba) Indians who created this bag live in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region at the northern tip of Colombia, in the mountains bordering the Caribbean Sea. The Sierra Nevada boasts a wide variety of ecosystems, allowing for the Kogi to be largely self-sufficient. The Kogi primarily practice slash-and-burn agriculture and raise domesticated animals such as oxen, pigs, and sheep. Bags such as this one are used to carry everything from food to children, and they are usually woven from the maguey (also known as agave) plant. The strong, durable Maquey  fibers are used across Central and South America by many indigenous cultures, including the Maya, for nets, bags, clothes, hammocks, and many other useful items.

The Kogi, descendents of the Tairona civilization, see themselves as the “Elder Brothers” of humanity. Anyone not living in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which they consider to be the heart of the world, is considered a “Younger Brother.” The Kogi believe that it is their responsibility to protect nature against the ecological damage wrought by modern society and “Younger Brother.” Maintaining a balance in nature is vital to the survival of the world, according to the Kogi.

Up until 1990, Kogi priests, called Mammas, worked hard to maintain a policy of isolation from the rest of the world in order to protect their cultural ideals. In the past 20 years, however, this policy has been undermined by a variety of factors including encroachment by large-scale banana plantations, marijuana and cocaine manufacturers, and paramilitary revolutionary forces. Today, the Kogi struggle to maintain their traditional way of life while also engaging in a wide-scale South American indigenous resurgence movement.

Take a look at the following National Geographic video documenting the daily life and beliefs of the Kogi people. If you look closely, you can even see several instances of people using a carrying bag very similar to the one above:

[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

Photo Quiz Answer!

Thanks to everyone who took the photo quiz last week! Now, what is this object?

drum photo quiz

Answer: A DRUM!

This is a wooden drum from Myanmar from the Ethnology collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Myanmar, also known as Burma, is a southeast Asian state bordered by China, Thailand, India, Laos, and Bangladesh. A drum like this is suspended by a cord around the neck and is used in a variety of traditional and modern dances.

Take a look at the following video to learn a little more about Myanmar drums:

[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

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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