Artifacts

Huichol Votive Bowl

This votive bowl from the Huichol culture was made in Jalisco, Mexico.  Huichol shamans make these bowls as offerings to the gods so they will hear prayers for health, luck, and well-being.  The bowl is created from a dried gourd which is lined with beeswax.  Multicolored beads are then impressed in the wax to create elaborate designs.  On this bowl, the design depicts a peyote cactus in the center surrounded by maize plants, jackrabbits, cattle, deer, and people.

Zulu Love Letter

Zulu Love Letters are beaded messages given as symbols of love and affection.  The Zulu are the largest ethnic group in South Africa, and are known for their beadwork, which can be used to convey many different messages.  In this love letter, the colors have the following meanings:

BROWN: My love is like the earth that gives rise to new life.
BLUE: Faithfulness.  If I were a dove, I would fly through blue skies to reach you.
YELLOW: Wealth (or lack thereof).  If we marry, I will be hungry as you own no bull to slaughter.

Southeastern Dugout Canoe

The Museum’s dugout canoe is a familiar object to long-time patrons, as it was on display for many years.  Now comfortably resting in the Education room, the canoe continues to fascinate thousands of school children each year.  The piece of a canoe was hidden beneath the Flint River mud in Georgia for centuries until it reappeared during a drought in the early 1970s.  Though incomplete, our example measures 20 feet in length.  Similar canoes often measure up to 40 feet long.

Southeastern Native Americans shaped their canoes by carefully burning and scraping large pine logs, as shown in these photographs from the MOA archives.  Radiocarbon (C14) dating of the charred inner surface of our canoe piece indicates that it was made close to A.D. 970, more than one thousand years ago!

Santa Monkey

This delightful little guy was a surprise slide. He was discovered in a box of old assorted slides while we were digitizing our archival collections in 2008. We don’t know his name or the circumstances of this picture but the label identified it as “Santa Monk”.

If you know anything about this mysterious Christmas visitor, please let us know!

Pima Ceramic Cup

This mid to late 19th century ceramic cup is from the Pima tribe in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.  While the Pima are recognized more for their basketry than their ceramic work, this piece demonstrates the cultural importance of their functional pottery.  Donated by the Smithsonian Institution to the Wachovia Historical Society in 1905, the cup was likely collected by an early anthropologist working for the Bureau of American Ethnology in the Southwest.  After a number of years on loan, the Wachovia Historical Society donated their collection to the MOA in 2005.  The cup is the only Pima object in the Museum’s permanent collection.

The cup is the featured object for this year’s Save Our Hide conservation fundraising drive.  Click here for more information on the Conservation Fund and how you can help!

Skull Candle holder

This candle holder from MeSkull Candle Holderxico is used during the Days of the Dead.  The skull imagery is typical of objects associated with the celebration.  Candles are an important element of the ofrenda, or altar, set up to honor deceased relatives and ancestors.  Four candles are placed on the top level of the altar signifying the four cardinal directions.  The light from these candles illuminates the way for the returning spirits of the ancestors.  One candle for each deceased family member is located elsewhere on the ofrenda.  One extra candle burns so that no one will be forgotten.  This object is on display in the Días de los Muertos (Days of the Dead) exhibit.