Unusual object in the Mayne Island Museum, and two celts.
The above is maybe the most unusual object I saw in the archaeological cases in my visit to the Mayne Island museum. As you can see, it’s labelled as a “large stone abrader” and may well be, I suppose. It’s thin, an the reddish cast and sort of laminate structure of the rock makes me think it is schist, a material commonly used for flaked “slate” as well as for saws. If it’s an abrader, I’d say it’d be a saw, since no sign (on this face) of any smooth abraded areas. However, the general shape seems pretty elaborate for any abrader or saw from my experience. Maybe an elaborate ulu-style knife intended to be hafted across the neck. Or, what I was wondering when I was there, maybe triggered by a false association to the shape, was something like the ground slate mirrors from the North Coast. These would be polished to a sheen, then wetted, thus providing a reflection, and if memory serves (and it often doesn’t) were used in rituals more than for popping blackheads. But it doesn’t seem polished enough for that. All the same, the shape rings a bell and rather than spend too much time looking through old Syesis’s (Syeses? Syesisis?? ‘copies of the journal Syesis’ – phew) I’m throwing it out here for comment.
There’s a few other pictures form the museum below.
Posted in Archaeology, First Nations, Northwest Coast, Technology, Vancouver Island
Tagged Archaeology, artifacts, canoes, Coast Salish, Helen Point, mauls, Mayne Island, museums, Salish, Salish Sea, Woodworking
The only thing better than small town museums are small town thrift shops, but it’s close. I stuck my nose into the Mayne Island — a small island in the Salish Sea — Museum a day or two ago, which is housed in the former gaol (that’s “jail” for my diverse readers). These museums can be fun, but you do have to put on your “this place is historically situated” eyeglasses. As in, there is usually an enormous preponderance of Settler material, and often there is a fairly reductionist, colonialist or otherwisely unfortunate depiction of First Nations. The Mayne museum doesn’t escape this altogether. The First Nations display is probably 5% of the total, both in material display, and in the timeline presented (I didn’t take a picture but it is typed out pretty much verbatim here, compare to my pie chart timeline). Anyway, I don’t want to focus on any negative vibes from the museum, they share the general issues of almost every community museum I’ve been to, but neither do I want to ignore them completely. To their credit they have a good section the Japanese Internment Camps and the fate of Japanese-Canadian islanders during World War II. Anyway, I took a few lousy pictures with my phone and I’ll share these below and in a subsequent post (since really who wants to read 2,000 words of pontification in one sitting?) We’re going to start with my favourite artifact type.
Posted in Archaeology, archives, Cultural Resource Management, history, Miscellaneous, Northwest Coast, Technology, Uncategorized, Vancouver Island
Tagged Adzes, Celts, Chisels, Coast Salish, Gulf Islands, Mayne Island, museums, Salish, Salish Sea, Woodworking
Tlingit war helmet recently rediscovered in Springfield Science Museum. Source: SSM.
This is the kind of cool story that makes me want to poke around in all the community museums I see. A fantastic Tlingit war helmet has been recently rediscovered in the backroom of a museum in Springfield, Massachussests. The helmet was accessioned in 1899 as an “Aleutian hat” and the designation was never questioned until now. The news article about it suggests only 95 of these helmets are known, with the largest collections found in Russia. They are part of an elaborate system of armour known from the contact and early historic period in Tlingit territory (Southeast Alaska – Alaska Panhandle).
Posted in alaska, anthropology, Archaeology, history, Northwest Coast, Technology
Tagged alaska, armor, armour, helmets, museums, southeast alaska, Springfield, tlingit, Tlingit Art
Part of the Charles Sampson collection from Salt Spring Island. Source: saltspringarchives.com
Salt Spring Island is a large island in the Salish Sea, close to Vancouver Island’s southeast corner (map). Quite a while ago I highlighted the photographs of the “Bob Akerman” museum, which comes via the comprehensive Salt Spring Island archives. There are a few other photo records of archaeological collections there which I thought were worth a quick look. For example, the picture above from the Charles Sampson Collection shows some fairly spectacular ground slate points to the left, and what may be a Charles phase (ca. 4,000 year old) contracting stem point to the bottom right. It’s not just archaeological collections that the archives has going for it, though. Continue reading
N'laka'pamux Basket undergoing conservation treatment. Source: LangleyMueum.org
I know I occasionally grumble about how regional, publicly funded museums in B.C. are almost devoid of archaeological and aboriginal substance, especially on the web. A happy exception to this is the Langley Centennial Museum near Vancouver, which has an unusual and interesting virtual exhibit of N’laka’pamux basketry. The museum is in the possession of a large collection of these baskets, made by an interesting historical figure from the Yale-Lytton area of the Fraser River: one Kathleen Pearson. The exhibit consists of a number of pages, including a short essay (5 pages) which is strangely not clearly linked, based around Boas et al.’s 1928 Bureau of American Ethnology Publication. The museum goes beyond the historical frame by discussing recent named weavers such as Mary Ann James, and the continuing tradition of N’laka’pamux basket making.
It is really great to see a relatively small museum explicitly recognizing that the world didn’t begin in 1846 and going beyond the story of white settlers as if they were a self contained pod of culture beamed down from Queen Victoria’s forehead. The other thing I particularly like about this small web exhibit is that the museum highlights the activities of another group of unsung heroes in the world of heritage conservation: the conservators who restore, stabilize and protect the artifacts entrusted to museums.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, archives, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, history, Lower Mainland, Northwest Interior, Northwest Coast, Technology
Tagged basketry, baskets, conservation, Langley, Langley Centennial Museum, museums, N'laka'pamux
Ground stone celts (adze and chisel blades). Source: Katzie.ca
Hmmm: the pictures are low resolution, there isn’t much annotation, many are of replicas, and the page design HTML is wonky, causing a lot of sideways scrolling. Yet I really like the Katzie First Nation’s artifact gallery. And no, its not only because they give ground stone its rightful pride of place. Though, in the image above, feast your eyes on the uppermost left specimen – an unusual yet definitive example of a broad celt being bisected to form two narrow ones. In essence, an adze is being turned into two chisels. Chew on that, Spaulding and Ford. Also check out the specimens in the centre-right, where the sharpened bits differ in colour from the bodies. These are either patinated specimens subsequently reground and recycled, or speak to a process of heat treating or oiling or similar to enhance the raw material. You could read all about this in my M.A. thesis if it were online, which it isn’t. Or wasn’t until five minutes ago. But I digress.
What I like is the text associated with these images.
Posted in Archaeology, First Nations, Lower Mainland, Northwest Coast, pics
Tagged british columbia, Coast Salish, Fraser River, Fraser Valley, Katzie, Katzie First Nation, museums
I’m a big fan of classic Northwest Coast art – it’s hard not to be. But there is also a large and highly talented array of indigenous Northwest Coast artists who work in a variety of media and contemporary idioms. One who recently caught my eye is Sitka Tlingit artist Nicholas Galanin. You probably recognize the figure in the foreground above: Bill Reid’s iconic “Raven and the First People” (if not from class, then from your 20$ bill), which tells the story of Raven-Travelling in ancient times, finding a clamshell, hearing noises inside, and releasing people and animals into a transforming world.
But wait, what’s that figure in the background, on the other side of the glass window, in the courtyard of the MOA?
Posted in alaska, First Nations, Haida Gwaii, Northwest Coast
Tagged art, Bill Reid, Haida Art, MOA, Museum of Anthropology, museums, Nicholas Galanin, sculpture, Sitka, tlingit, Tlingit Art