Violence and ritual



This Kaxinawa (formerly Cashinahua) dagger or kapa nupa, literally “squirrel knife”, was collected in 1966 by Kenneth Kensinger.

The following is an excerpt from a book co-authored by Kensinger entitled The Cashinahua of Eastern Peru.

When attending fertility rituals in a village other than their own, Cashinahua men wear short bamboo daggers suspended from their foreheads and hanging down their backs.  Both sides of the daggers are decorated with beeswax and achiote designs, and may be carved with lateral notches.  The black or red fur of a squirrel is fastened to the handle, and the blade is concealed by the long tail feathers of a macaw…Although the daggers are mainly ornamental, they are a reminder that other villages are potential enemy camps and that one must be prepared to fight.

The feathers of the dagger are attached in such way that they would shoot upward if the dagger were used.  This upward motion of red feather and fur is meant to look like blood shooting from a wound.

Kensinger, Rabineau et al.  The Cashinahua of Eastern Peru (The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, 1975).

More on the Kaxinawa:

Monkey teeth necklace


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This Thursday…


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The glass bottle above, although difficult to read in the photo, is stamped “Dr. D. Jayne’s Tonic Vermifuge 242 Chest. St. Phila”.  Vermifuge, a tonic for “worms, dyspepsia, piles and general debility” was a popular remedy of the very successful Philadelphia company, Dr. Jayne and Son.

From the Cypress Street collection, this patent medicine bottle dates to the middle or late 19th century and is a reminder of the importance of the Jayne family in Philadelphia.

The Jayne Building, formerly located at 242-244 Chestnut Street, was built in 1850 and demolished, despite efforts to save it, in 1958.

Here are two images of the Jayne Building, once considered a prominent Philadelphia landmark.

The Jayne Building, Philadelphia, circa 1870

(Credit: Hagley Museum and Library)


(Credit: New York Public Library)

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1930s industry: A world in miniature

In the 1930s the Commercial Museum and the American ceramics company Lenox made a series of miniature dioramas to illustrate the process of making the company’s popular wares, step by step.  The Temple Anthropology Lab acquired 6 of the 8 models as part of the Commercial Museum collection.  Some of the dioramas were featured in the museum’s  periodical, Commercial America in 1936, which was “published monthly… for the purpose of carrying to buyers throughout the world reliable information concerning American products.”  There was also a Spanish version of this publication.

Commercial Museum artist C. Isabel Campbell made the dioramas, which are approximately 24″ long, 15″ high, and 8″ deep.  Scale is consistent in each scene and all human “models” are approximately 7″ high.  Careful attention was given to even the smallest details,  including the various tools used by the workers.

Each diorama depicts a particular aspect of the manufacturing process, including “Slip House,” “Jiggering,” “Firing,” “Glazing,” “Casting,” and “Decorating.”  “Decorating” is shown below.  The models and their furnishings occupy the foreground.  The background, painted carefully to maintain an accurate sense of perspective, is raised in sections to ease the eye from front to back and to maintain the integrity of the life-like scene of Lenox at work.

Lenox decorating

Here are detailed images taken from left to right:

lenox transfer

Here an employee has all the tools she needs to apply a transfer printed design.

lenox banded

This worker applies the popular painted bands. Notice the paint splattered water bottle to his right.

lenox painted

Floral motifs are painted by hand. Notice the gilded edge on the finished dinner plate.

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Here is more of Muriel’s description of her time in the field (Metepec, Mexico, 1970):

Doing fieldwork is difficult.  Often, I would climb the hillside to look out over the town and to contemplate.  The steep rutted climb was precarious.  Every hand-hold would dislodge more remains from the ancient Aztec temple that had long ago been destroyed by Spanish settlement.

Metepec sherdsP

I was instantly struck by the scoring that was on some of the sherds as it was evidence that the molcajete was a form that had been used for centuries and is still used.

Chili Grinder 2

Ceramic molcajete, TU1969.1-17.  Note the tripod legs.

Everyday People, Everyday Pots

(Located on lobby level of Gladfelter Hall right outside of the Anthropology Lab.)

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Everyday People, Everyday Pots

pots and kids

Please come and see the current exhibit in the lobby level of Gladfelter Hall in the cases outside of the Anthropology Lab!

Everyday People, Everyday Pots was curated by the Lab’s Director, Muriel Kirkpatrick and features pottery from two of the Lab’s collections.

I spoke with Muriel about the Metepec collection.  Metepec is a municipality in Mexico famous for its pottery tradition.

Muriel, tell me about your time in Mexico.

It was the winter of 1970 and I went to the field as part of my Master’s Thesis.  Another student, David Strug, was doing an ethnology of Metepec potters and putting together a collection that would eventually come to Temple.  We sort of crossed paths as he wound up leaving during my field work.  My goal was to go the homes of the potters and see the pottery in their houses – what they themselves used.


A potter stands with his wares (an example of Muriel’s Metepec field photography). She remembers that the potters lived mostly on the outskirts of the village and worked in the yards in front of their houses.

My research was informed by a Maya typology developed by James Gifford.  [The Temple professor who edited CeramicaAlthough ultimately, I wanted to know the potters’ own classification of their works in order to get an emic view of this aspect of their culture.

everyday pots

TU1969-1-67, cazuela de ocho. An example of domestic ware used in Metepec homes.

I spoke very little Spanish but as an artist – the pottery becomes a means of communication.  And I made drawings to record their technique.

potter group

A group of Muriel’s drawings show the potter at work.  The bottom illustration shows the making of preforms, an initial step in this molded pottery tradition.

female potter

A female potter sits with pottery equipage.  The molds, shown on the far left and far right, were used to press the preforms into a vessel.  The temper used in the clay for these wares contained cattails which contributed to it’s unique consistency.


This pitcher was made to serve pulque, an alcoholic beverage with ancient origins that is made from the sap of the agave plant. It was made for sale.

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Exposition Ephemera: Models from South India

Painting Story of the Floating Desert: Contemporary Indian Miniatures from Jhalavad, India is currently on exhibit at CHAT (The Center for Humanities located on the 10th Floor of Gladfelter Hall).  Also on display as a complement to this show are a number of models from south India belonging to the Anthropology Lab.

These pieces are from the Commercial Museum collection and may have been exhibited in the 1900 World’s Fair, the Exposition Universelle, in Paris, France.  Both England and France had pavilions at the fair representing their colonies in India.



The label on the bottom of this figure indicates that it was made in French India for the Exposition Permanente de Paris in 1866.


Please visit CHAT to see the entire show!

Other entries on the Commercial Museum collection in the Lab:

Philadelphia Commercial Museum

Eitokusai’s dolls in Japan

Photographic detail

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Here are two more examples of ethnographic textiles from the Anthroplogy Lab.

woven belt

TU1966.1-123, chinaxeti (belt)

This Kaxinawá hipband was collected by Kenneth Kensinger in the 1960s.  The Kaxinawá live in the Amazon jungle of eastern Peru.  This piece was woven by the wife of a chief and is made of natural, raw, white cotton.  The design, called meander, is a repeated geometric pattern that was decided upon in advance by the weaver. A wrapping technique produced the raised design elements which add to the overall texture of the piece.

woven belt detail

detail of weave


TU1966.1-36, chinaxeti xetaya (belt, with teeth), decorated with 120 monkey teeth

The hipband shown above is also cotton.  The band woven pattern produces a striped effect along which the weaver attached monkey teeth.  The teeth were drilled and attached with the same material.  This piece, also from the Kensinger collection, was made by a man named Didu and his wife.  The teeth are from the capuchin monkey and are a symbol of hunting skills.

hipband detail

detail of band weaving

Special thanks again to Heather Veneziano who supplied much of this information. 

Related entries:


Working with animal hair

Monkey teeth necklace

The Fibers Studio at Temple

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“Orange peel” flakes and a look at Colha, Belize

The Maya site of Colha, located in Northern Belize, is known for its lithic workshops.  At its height, stone tools made at the site were traded with communities as far as 160 km (100 miles) away.  The site is located geographically along a large seam of flint-like chert.  The making of stone tools emerged initially as a cottage industry during the Middle Preclassic (1000-400 BC).

By the Late Preclassic (400 BC-AD 250), previously undeveloped swamps and hillsides were transformed into farmland yielding several crops a year.  Population in Colha grew rapidly to accomodate the now large-scale lithic production carried out in workshops near the center of the site.  Formal plazas, temples and a ball court at the site also date to the Late Preclassic.


The ruins at Colha, Belize

Colha ceremonial group2

Plan of the monumental center at Colha, Belize.  The ball court is in red.  (Corozal Project, 1973)

The Colha workshops produced a limited range of tools, which were likely used primarily for the clearing and working of land.  The three utilitarian tools produced included large oval bifaces, tranchet bit implements, and long parallel-sided bifaces.  A smaller number of microblades and biface eccentrics, which appear to have been used as prestige items by elites, were also made at Colha.

Colha stone tools

From “Ancient Chert Workshops in Northern Belize, Central America” by Harry J. Shafer and Thomas R. Hester. In American Antiquity, vol. 48, no. 3 (July, 1983), p. 528.

The technique of biface thinining used in making the tranchet adze, or axe, was unique to Colha and required a skilled hand.  Blanks or cores produced in the chert quarries were transported to the workshops where craftsmen further shaped each tool.  Interestingly, the bit end of each adze was formed by removing a large rounded “orange peel” flake through hard-hammered percussion.  The orange peel flake itself is very distinctive in its smooth curved appearance.

orange flakes

TU1977.3.3 (8.5 cm), TU1977.3.4 (11 cm), TU1977.3.2 (11 cm)

orange flakes 2

Another view of orange peel flakes from Colha, Belize.

The Temple Anthropology Lab accessioned a surface collection of 64 pieces of lithic material from the workshop site of Colha, Belize in 1977.  The artifacts were collected during a 1976 lithic conference at the site by Juliette Cartwright, a former Temple undergraduate student.  Permission was granted for the donation by the Archaeological Commissioner of Belize for the purpose of adding to the lab’s comparative collection and increasing accessibility to those who wished to study them.


Hammond, Norman. “Preclassic Maya Civilization”.  In New Theories on Ancient Maya, edited by Elin C. Danien and Robert J. Sharer (Philadelphia: The University Museum, 1992)

Shafer, Harry J. and Thomas R. Hester. “Ancient Maya Chert Workshops in Northern Belize, Central America”. In American Antiquity, Vol. 48, No. 3 (Jul., 1983), pp. 519-543

Sharer, Robert J. and Loa P. Traxer. The Ancient Maya, 6th Edition (Stanford University Press, 2006)

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Projectile points

In 1969, a collection of projectile points from Virginia was given to the Anthropology Lab by Clifford Evans of the Smithsonian.  The collection includes 117 points catalogued according to the 1955 artifact typology devised by C.G. Holland, who analyzed the lithic materials from Evans’ multi-sited project.  Holland originally created a Type A through O typology, which he later updated in a broader 1970 survey of the archaeology of southwest Virginia.  Here are a few Archaic and Woodland Period points selected from this collection.  

Virginia 1r

Top row: TU1969.3.1, Type A, Small Triangular (Clarksville Small Triangular), Middle row: TU1969.3.2, Type B, Medium Triangular (Madison Point), Bottom row: TU1969.3.3, Type C, Large Triangular (Levanna Point).

plate 17

Plate 17, An Archeological Survey of Southwest Virginia, C.G. Holland. Note the first three rows are Clarksville, Madison and Levanna Points respectively.

The transition from the Archaic Period to Woodland Period varies regionally.  In Virginia, the Archaic Period dates from approximately 8000 BCE  to 1200 BCE and the Woodland Period begins around 1200 BCE and ends with the onset of European contact.  The triangular points from this area appear during the Woodland Period with the larger points being older and points becoming smaller with the progression time.  The Levanna Points (bottom row) date to the Middle Woodland with a tentative start date of 700 CE.  They were later supplanted by the Madison Point (middle row) around 1350 CE.  The smallest, Clarksville Points, are from the very Late Woodland into the Historic Period. 

Top and middle rows: TU69.3.7, Type G, Notched Base (Bifurcate Based), Bottom row: TU69.3.9, Type I, Notched Stemmed (Halifaxed Sidenotched).

Top and middle rows: TU1969.3.7, Type G, Notched Base (Bifurcate Based), Bottom row: TU1969.3.9, Type I, Notched Stemmed (Halifaxed Sidenotched).

The  points shown above are possibly earlier, with the Halifaxed Sidenotched points dating to approximately 3500 BCE.  The Bifurcate Based points are given this general classification as a more precise date is not known, sometimes due to their incomplete appearance.

In his earlier article in 1955, Holland notes that “stratigraphic evidence of change was meager” and that he often had to rely upon “thin deposits and surface collections”.  However, by 1970, knowledge of Virginia prehistory was expanding and through his extensive survey, the work of other colleagues, as well as access to the collections of local collectors, Holland was able to incorporate his prior typology with their more updated and preferred names.  And despite the limitations he faced in the 1950s, Holland’s early report did include an in-depth flake analysis which examined the seemingly antithetical relationship between the appearance of white quartz and chert in the region.  White and clear quartz and quartzite were often locally abundant in Virginia.  Inhabitants often favored white quartz, in particular, in lithic production where it was plentiful.  However chert was favored where white quartz was not found.  As can be seen in the photos, the colorful and often crystalline qualities of these small artifacts make them a visual treasure while their archaeological and cultural origins provide a fascinating resource students and scholars.


Holland, C.G. 1955 An Analysis of Projectile Points and Large Blades, Appendix 2 in A Ceramic Study of Virginia Archaeology by Clifford Evans.  The Smithsonian Institution of Washington, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin, 160, pp. 165-191.

Holland, C.G. 1970 An Archeological Survey of Southwest Virginia, Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology, Number 12.

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