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Sara Cromwell

Inca Ceramic Container

This type of Inca ceramic vessel from the Peruvian Andes is known by a variety of names.  Often referred to as aryballos (or aribalos in Spanish) because of their similarity to jars of the same name used in ancient Greece, they are also known as Cuzco bottles or urpus in the indigenous Quechua.  Dating from the 15th to early 16th century, these containers were used to store and transport chicha, a fermented corn beer, as well as water and other foods.  To transport the vessels, ropes were pulled through the handles and wrapped around the central lug, which is marked with a stylized animal face, allowing the container to be easily carried on one’s back.  The two rings under the lip of the jar originally held a cover in place, while its pointed base allowed it to stand upright when set into the earth.  Incan aryballos are almost always decorated with polychromatic geometric designs like this one.  You can currently view this container in Professor Deacon’s Cultural Cabinet.

Japanese Belt Ornament


Popular in 17th and 18th century Japan, belt ornaments such as this one are known as netsuke.  Used to fasten belongings to a belt, the elaborately carved ornaments also served as symbols of the wearer’s class, wealth, and taste.  This example, which is slightly more than an inch tall, is made of ivory and represents a pair of guardian figures known in Japan as shishi, which are represented as having the features of a dog and a lion.  Shishi are used to ward away malevolent spirits outside of Buddhist and Shinto shrines.  A wide range of netsuke are currently on exhibit in Playing with Spirits: Pokémon and Shintoism.

Artists Find Inspiration in MOA Collections

The Museum of Anthropology’s collections of nearly 30,000 objects provide an outstanding resource for people, both in the Wake Forest community and the general public, interested in investigating any number of cultures through ethnographic and archaeological artifacts. Research in the collections has been increasing recently with a 2016 anthropology honors thesis about one of our Yu’pik belts and a number of recent exhibits featuring Wake Forest student research on individual objects. The MOA collections, however, can also serve as inspiration for artists in their own work and in the revival of traditional crafts.

A WFU Art student poses with her drawings and the mask that inspired them.

A WFU Art student poses with her drawings and the mask that inspired them.

One such project came from a collaboration with Leigh Ann Hallberg, a faculty member in the Wake Forest University Department of Art. This past fall, students in Hallberg’s Intermediate and Advanced Drawing classes used objects from the Museum’s collections as inspiration for their works of art. The students selected objects including a Japanese kimono, a Tibetan horse bridle, an African rat trap, and a mask from Papua New Guinea as models for their charcoal drawings. The art was later displayed at Wake Forest’s START Gallery in Reynolda Village, showcasing this special partnership.

The MOA staff has also worked with metalsmith William Rogers, who specializes in reproducing historic hammered copper.  As part of an effort to revive metalworking among members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Rogers collaborated with the Cherokee Historical Society on a project to add metalworking to the demonstration offerings of the Oconaluftee Indian Village, a living history museum. The site is a re-creation of a typical village in the 1750s, with members of the Eastern Band as interpreters demonstrating a variety of traditional activities and crafts.

TOP: A copper bell from the MOA collection. BOTTOM: A new Cherokee copper piece with similar bells.

TOP: A copper bell from the MOA collection.
BOTTOM: A new Cherokee copper piece with similar bells.

Rogers first focused on research to determine what types of metalwork were done by Cherokee people.  It was during this phase that he visited the Museum of Anthropology to examine NC Native American copper artifacts in our collection. Rogers also visited several other museums and together these prehistoric and historic copper pieces provided the inspiration for Cherokee designs that are being taught to the demonstrators, reproduced, and sold in the Village gift shop.  Thanks to the opportunity to study MOA’s artifacts, Rogers’ project ensured that the revival of this traditional Cherokee craft is authentic and produces interesting and beautiful pieces. Rogers will present a workshop teaching these methods of creating copper designs at the Museum of Anthropology on October 9, 2017.


The Museum is proud to be able to offer these opportunities to inspire artists and provide examples of authentic artifacts. At any given time only approximately one percent of the Museum’s entire collection is on exhibit. So, for those interested in exploring it in depth, the collection is showcased in the MOA’s comprehensive online database, providing an easily accessible introduction point. The Museum is also in the process of hiring a collections manager, which will make the collections even more accessible to researchers, artists, and any other interested parties.


LECTURE: The Silk Road and its Multicultural Legacy

Cave shrines in rock face, Dunhuang, Sir Marc Aurel Stein, 1914

March 30
The Silk Road facilitated centuries of cross-cultural interactions through a network of trade routes that stretched between east and west.  Accordingly, the oasis cities of the Silk Road were important centers of religion and commerce.  The Mogao Buddhist cave shrines located near the city of Dunhuang in Gansu Province in northwestern China are comprised of nearly five hundred man-made caves carved from the mountainside and installed with mural paintings and sculptures.  Professor Michelle C. Wang from the Department of Art and Art History at Georgetown University will discuss the multicultural legacy of the Mogao site by examining select examples of mural paintings from the cave shrines as well as manuscripts and portable paintings recovered from Cave 17, known as the “library cave.”

This event is cosponsored by the Silk Roads Series, the WFU Departments of History and East Asian Languages and Cultures, and the Humanities Institute with support made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Admission is free.


Closed for Easter

April 14 – 16
The Museum will be closed Friday, April 14 through Sunday, April 14 for Easter Weekend.



Visions of Home Exhibit Closes

April 22
Visions of Home: A Celebration of Gullah Art and Culture closes.