If someone out there in webland makes a link to my blog, and then someone else clicks on that link, I might be able to tell which site is referring to me. Sometimes this leads to unexpected discoveries. One of these incoming links is a query to an artifact collecting forum (boo) from a collector in southern California, who found the above small sculpture in Chumash territory. As is so common in the collector world, there is no other contextual information about this piece, which to my eye, appears to be an early historic Haida carving in argillite. Knowledgeable readers may wish to weigh in below in the comments section about the motifs and provenance of this sculpture – there are more fairly low-quality pictures here. How it made its way to the Santa Barbara area is anyone’s guess, it may have been a simple curio bought by a tourist, or it may be a now-lost bit of evocative human history like the one I suggested here for Haida argillite found on San Juan Island.
Posted in Archaeology, California, Cultural Resource Management, Haida Gwaii, history, Northwest Coast
Tagged Archaeology, argillite, art, british columbia, California, Chumash, collecting, Haida, Haida Gwaii, pothunting, sculpture
“The giant of Happy Valley Esquivalt(?) [sic]. Sent to Professor Flower at Nat Hist Mus and returned to the owner Left McCallum.” Source: British Museum.
When I was looking for more information about the Coast Salish grave houses I pictured a few days ago
, I ran into these images from the British Museum. They show the torso and head of a large human figure, carved out of wood. The height of the sculpture is 4 foot 9 inches, meaning the whole sculpture, assuming it once had legs, would have stood well over seven feet tall. So, a giant indeed. There is very little information about the sculpture, other than it comes from happy Valley, “Esquivalt” – clearly meaning Esquimalt – a neighbouring municipality to the west of Victoria. The next municipality to the west is Colwood, and indeed it has a prominent “Happy Valley Road” running through it into Metchosin
. While at the first glance the sculpture doesn’t appear to be a typical NW Coast sculpture, I think there’s reason to at least consider that possibility.
[edit: be sure to see the comment from Pete at the bottom]
Posted in anthropology, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged art, Coast Salish, Colwood, Esquimalt, Metchosin, Salish, sculpture, Songhees, Victoria BC
Hilary Stewart drawing of a fish weir. Source: bcheritage.ca
Sad news out of Quadra Island with the news that Northwest Coast archaeological legend Hilary Stewart passed away on June 5th, at the age of 90. The local newspaper the Discovery Islander has a full obituary (page 2) (PDF) written by her friend, anthropologist Joy Inglis.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, Northwest Coast, Teaching, Technology
Tagged Archaeological Society of BC, Archaeology, art, artifacts, ASBC, Hilary Stewart, illustration, Quadra Island
Interior of a Salish Longhouse, 1864. Watercolour by Edward Mallott Richardson. Locale uknown. Source: Canadian Archives. Click to enlarge.
Following on from the post about the Salish mausoleum, here is a companion painting by Edward Mallott Richardson from the same year, depicting the interior of a house. It’s a curious painting, seemingly devoid of close detail. Where are all the drying fish?! But at the same time it shows some features of interest which may be worth discussing. Note the fellow with the gun has a powderhorn, for example, and the basket behind him looks like one of those rectangular coiled ones, only with a tumpline, as shown by the woman entering on the left. On the far right is a semi-conical object that might be a hat, sitting on a platform within a small compartment.
Posted in archives, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged art, Coast Salish, First Nations, household archaeology, longhouses, Salish, Straits Salish, Victoria BC
A Salish Grave, 1864. Watercolour by Edward M. Richardson. No specific locale given. Source: CollectionsCanada.gc.ca Click to enlarge slightly.
“Grave House” is one of those archaeological terms which render slightly creepy a feature that is more or less an everyday experience: the mausoleum, a house for the dead, filled with coffins.
This is a fascinating image I hadn’t come across before: a very early image of a Coast Salish mausoleum. It highlights the artistry and vividness of these features better than the few sketches or early photographs do. The accompanying text at the Canadian Archives is:
Subject depicts grave boxes in a grave house with guardian figures. The grave house is covered with a roof of wooden planks but has no walls. At the front of the house stands six guardian figures. There are flags to the left and right of the house. On the left hand side of the house a tent is set up and clothes are hanging. A shotgun hangs from the front beam of the house. Item was up for auction in the September 28, 1970 Christie’s sale in Calgary. Lot 31.
The image isn’t very high-resolution but there are still some things to talk about – and there is another Richardson painting I’ll link to in a day or two. (edit: here) Continue reading
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, archives, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged Archaeology, art, Coast Salish, Esquimalt, graves, history, mausoleum, mortuary, Salish, Songhees, Victoria BC
Nootka island girl, 1787. by de Saint-Sauveur, source: LACMA.
I found some interesting images at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. These come from a book published in 1787: Costumes civils actuels de tous les peuples, volume 4: Americas by Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur (1757-1810). Needless to say, it’s one of the earliest publications with NW Coast content, comprising four plates and 14 pages of “customs” of Nootka Island (Nuu-chah-nulth territory). I’m not entirely sure where Grasset de Saint-Sauveur would have got his inspiration from – Cook’s journals most likely? You can see all the plates from the four volumes at the LACMA (great images from around the world), or you can read and download the entire book here. But why bother, when I extract the information for you below.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged armour, art, Captain Cook, ethnohistory, fish, history, Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Nootka, nootka sound, Nuu-chah-nulth, wakashan
Screen shot of human seated figure bowl on boardroom table. Is this a “wild and wacky [sic] object”? Source: Times Colonist.
This short piece
) in the Times Colonist caught my eye, and not in a good way. First, a private citizen apparently owns a large human seated figure bowl, an artifact of immense cultural significance, and is apparently willing to enter a process leading to its sale. That’s bad news and potentially extremely inflammatory, especially in the context of the CBC reality T.V, show “Four Rooms
: “four rooms. four buyers. four chances to make a fortune”).
It’s crass and disrespectful to treat these objects like this. The picture above of one casually manhandled on a boardroom table, apparent scrape marks down its side, is angry-making! These objects routinely have handling, viewing, and storage restrictions in museums and at cultural centres.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, Northwest Coast
Tagged Archaeology, art, auctions, Bowls, CBC, First Nations, repatriation, sculpture, Stone Bowls, television
Vero Beach, Florida, mammoth engraving. Source: National Geographic.
I’ve been vaguely aware that in 2009 at Vero Beach (map) near Miami, a sensational find came to light of a bone with a mammoth engraved onto it. So far there has not been a lot to say about it but now I read that Dennis Stanford at the Smithsonian has inspected it and found no reason to think it is not genuine (yes, that kind of double-negative convoluted opinion).
Anyway, the story is interesting in its own right and perhaps has some lessons for us on the NW Coast as well, which I’ll discuss at more length below.
The Skagit River Atlatl. Image © UBC Museum of Anthropology, Photographed by Derek Tan. CC Licenced.
, or spear thrower, is a device used to increase the velocity, and hence range or striking power, of a projectile. These are usually made of wood or other organic material, and hence they seldom survive in the archaeological record. Some years ago though, one was dragged up in a fishing net from waterlogged conditions in the Skagit River estuary in northern Washington State near Anacortes. As the UBC Museum of Anthropology describes
Made of yew, a hard yet flexible wood, the weapon survived 1,700 years buried in alluvium in the Skagit estuary until it was dredged from these silts by a seine fisher’s net in 1939 in the Lower Skagit between Townhead Island and Bald Head Island. It is believed that it hung in a fish shed, perhaps to dry slowly thus preventing some deterioration, until archaeologists became aware of it in the 1950’s.
Rather incongruously, the Southwest Archaeology blog Gambler’s House has had two in-depth posts about this artifact, here and here. It’s worth reading both as they give excellent background and tons of links.
Gwayasdums house under construction 1899. Source: SFU.
The Bill Reid Centre for Northwest Coast Art Studies is part of the Department of Archaeology and First Nation Studies at Simon Fraser University, although it is physically located in downtown Vancouver. It currently shares space with the Bill Reid Gallery on Hornby St., near SFU’s Harbour Centre Campus. They have a website that looks to be growing fast with some good content – and despite the name of the centre, it is not only about Haida Art, or even just about Art:
A major activity of the Centre is to visually document through photographs, drawings and other works, the depth and richness of Northwest Coast Art in the hundreds of communities in which monumental architecture and sculpture were recorded.
I’ll point out a few highlights and make some comments “after the jump”