Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bird-shaped artifacts from British Columbia

1. Zoomorphic miniature pestle 
Antler. H 11.1 cm
Marpole site, Fraser River Delta, British Columbia. 
Marpole phase.
Carving in the round of male Great Blue Heron.
University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

2. Grave monument
Wood.  H 60.5 cm, L 91 cm
Bella Koola,  British Columbia.
Bella Koola Indian. Collected by H.I. Smith, 1921.
Large carving of an eagle, made from one piece of wood, wings outspread, short tail behind. The undersides of the wings are painted black and white, the breast, throat and eyes white. The lower beak shows traces of black. The original legs of the eagle are missing and have been replaced with dowels. The ensemble probably represents the upper section of a funerary monument.
National Museum of Man, Ottawa.

3. Mask
Wood. L 71 cm 
British Columbia.
Haida Indian ? Collected by A.A. Aaronson.
Wooden mask, representing an eagle with long, hooked beak. The lower jaw is manipulated by strings. Eye-holes have been cut out. There are traces of blue paint around the eyes and along the beak. The nostrils and lip line are painted red. Nails protrude around the top of the head.
National Museum of Man, Ottawa.

4. Transformation mask
Wood. D 68,5 cm, Hawk L 33 cm
Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia.
Haida Indian. Collected by I.W. Powell, 1879.
The outer shell of this mask is in the form of a hawk painted black and white with red beak and brows. Eye pieces are of copper and there is a fringe of brown hair. The beak opens down the center and the crown folds out to reveal an interior human face painted green (brown hair, black brows and moustache). The double human - animal nature of this mask is probably associated with clan-origin myths.
National Museum of Man, Ottawa.

5, 6. Transformation mask
Wood. H 30 cm, L 44 cm, open L 99 cm
British Columbia.
Kwakiutl Indian, circa 1900.
When flaps are closed, it is a bird mask, probably representing the Thunderbird. The mask opens up in two side panels and one lower panel, all of red cedar, to reveal a human face inside, carved of alder. The inner surfaces of the side panels are painted with a bear design in red and black. Use unknown, but probably used in winter dances.
Centennial Museum, Vancouver.

7. Mask
Wood.   L  109 cm
Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia. 
Haida Indian. Collected by I.W. Powell, 1879.
Carved wooden mask representing bird's head with long, narrow movable beak. The edges of the beak are outlined in red, and there is a red, blue and black tail design at the widest end of the lower beak section. A bird's head projects from the crown. The beak is painted blue with black eyes and eyebrows. Two ear-like flaps are laced to bird's head with string and decorated with an animal head design in black and red on natural wood. 
The crown of natural wood is shaped to fit the head of the 
wearer. Two sets of thongs are knotted to the lower sides of crown which is perforated. There are traces of feathers and down inside the ear flaps, in front of the bird's head and on the crown.
National Museum of Man, Ottawa.

8. Zoomorphic club
Sandstone. L 34 cm
Hagwilget Village, Bulkley Canyon, British Columbia.
Prehistoric, Tsimshian (Gitksan)
Made of hard, fine sandstone, this club or baton was one of some thirty-five found together in a cache by Chief Johnny Muldoe of Hagwilget while he was digging a post-hole for a house in 1898. A local tradition held that some generations before, after a raid on the people of Gitanmaks (in whose territory the find was made), a woman of the village buried all the arms and insignias of the slain but was shortly thereafter killed herself. The front half of this specimen represents a bird's head, with a long pointed bill, the upper edge of which is perforated by grooves from either side to form a nostril. Upper and lower mandibles are completely divided for more than an inch, and the underside of the lower mandible has a deep groove dividing the jaws. Circular eyes are prominent. Beginning on the back of the head and extending back to the handle is a network pattern formed by a series of diamond-shaped depressions separated by diagonal ridges. The body tapers to a plain handle. 
There are traces of red paint on the body. Details of the beak and the feather pattern on the head and neck seem strikingly similar to those of a sandhill crane. It is of some interest that neither this club nor any of the others in this series shows any relationship in style to the classic Northwest Coast art which dominated the area in the historic period.
The Provincial Museum of British Columbia, Victoria.

9. Carved whale vertebrae
Bone. L 15 cm
Northern British Columbia and Alaska. 
Tlingit Indian, circa 1890.
Carved from one section of whale vertebrae. Convex surface has owl head designs. The top projections are carved to represent two raven heads. The concave under surface is drilled with twenty-four holes around the perimeter. The artist has skillfully adapted his design to the shape of the bone. This piece was probably used as a tobacco mortar.
Glenbow-Alberta Institute, Calgary.

10. Mortar
Stone. H 17.5 cm, L 31 cm 
British Columbia.
Haida Indian. Collected by Tolmie, circa 1852.
Stone mortar in the form of a bird, probably a raven. Evidence of the northern two-dimensional surface decoration is seen in the design on the wings of the bird. Although this particular piece is not documented as such, mortars of this type were used in pre-contact and early historic times to pulverize a native tobacco which was mixed with lime from burned clamshells and then chewed rather than smoked.
The Provincial Museum of British Columbia, Victoria.

11. Zoomorphic buckle (?) 
Antler.  L  6.4 cm
Beachgrove site, Fraser River Delta, British Columbia. 
Late Marpole phase, circa A.D. 200.
Outline carving of neck and head of predatory bird, projecting from ring.
University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

12. Zoomorphic miniature pestle 
Antler. H 6.8 cm
Marpole site, Fraser River Delta, British Columbia. 
Marpole phase.
Neck and head of female Great Blue Heron.
University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

1 comment:

Janas said...

Scans source: Chefs-d'oeuvre des arts Indiens et Esquimaux du Canada / Masterpieces of Indian And Eskimo art from Canada - Société des amis du Musée de l'Homme, Paris 1969. Bilingual catalogue of an exhibition of 186 works of art by Canadian Indian and Inuit artists held at the Musée de l'Homme in Paris and the National Gallery of Canada in 1969 and 1970.