Cypress Street

CY.P.8.98, plate, transfer printed scene “Picturesque Views of the Fishkill, Hudson River” from an etching published in 1823 by W.G. Wall in the Hudson River Portfolio.

CY.P.4, cup fragment, mid-nineteenth century, mocha ware.  Mocha ware, or dipped ware, is a machine turned slip banded pattern.  Here, the “worming” effect is the result of a multi-chambered slip pot.

From excavations at 310 Cypress Street.

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Shell money

TU2007.6-36, token, 14.5″L, 5.5″W, Bush Valley, Denise O’ Brien Collection.  The paper tag reads “Belium Valley NNG” and “Welimo luw from Dolimo”.

The token, shown above, is a form of currency made in New Guinea.  A closer examination reveals its intricate construction.  Once again, thanks to Heather – a more careful description can be recorded.

The piece is made up of many wrapped strips.  Each strip is made up of two thin pieces of wood which are wrapped with plant fibers.  Tiny cowry shells are attached to the front of the strips via a plant fiber thread in a running stitch.

The back of the artifact. Note the separate wrapped pairs of slim wooden strips which lend a braided effect.  Twine connects the strips in an irregular pattern.

In a running stitch, the stitch and the length between the stitches is equal.

Microscopic detail of the plant based fibers used in wrapping, stitching and twining the piece.


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Horn spoon

TU66.3-11, carved horn spoon, Northwest Coast, North America, 15″ long, University of Pennsylvania Collection.  The horn was shaped and thinned using hot water and was likely made for the tourist trade in the early 20th century.

Illustration by Muriel Kirkpatrick.

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Under the microscope

Before recently leaving Temple, Heather Veneziano visited Muriel and me in the Lab to look at a few artifacts made of fiber under a USB 200x microscope.

Heather spent nearly 5 years as the Technical Assistant in the Tyler Fiber Lab where her work was invaluable.  She has since moved to New Orleans where she is helping build sustainable housing.  She is also an artist specializing in fibers, with a background both in crafts and in fine arts.   Heather received a MFA in Tapestry from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.  She works with historical textiles and is presenting a paper with Temple graduate student Mara Katkins at a symposium of the Textile Society of America this week in Washington, DC.  (Congratulations Heather and Mara!)

With Heather’s expertise we were able to learn more about two bags from the Friedlaender Collection.  Both bags are similar in size, were collected in the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea, and incorporate animal hair into their textile design.  Heather examined and explained, in fascinating detail, how the animal hair and other commercially made materials were used.

JF2-15, Bilum with cuscus hair, 17″x22″, Eastern Highlands, New Guinea, 1998, Friedlaender Collection.

Microscopic detail of the cuscus fur wrapped around black commercial strand.

In the first bag (bilum), shown above, the cuscus hair is woven on the inside in order to produce the “tufted” effect on the outside.  The inside of the shoulder strap, however, has a flattened surface where the hair was spun around black commercial fiber.  Heather noted that this was a deliberate design choice, likely done because the inside strap is visible and the maker wanted to conceal the fiber underneath.  In the picture below, the spun hair covers the fibers except in an area that has been worn with use.

Microscopic detail of spun cuscus hair wrapping black commercial fiber; note wear on surface.

The second bilum, below, features a striped chevron design in which the maker alternated colors, including gray bands of spun cuscus hair (again wrapped around a commercial strand).  Both bags are netted, not woven.  This provides strength and flexibility and allows the bilum to expand for everyday use.

JF2-16, Bilum with cuscus hair band, polychrome, 20″x20″, Eastern Highlands, New Guinea, 1998, Friedlaender Collection.

A closer look at the workmanship shows the hair wrapped over the purple strands.

Microscopic detail of the spun cuscus hair wrapping commercial material. The even color and composition of the purple strands indicate that they are machine made and chemically dyed.

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Heather Veneziano, of the Fibers Department at Temple’s Tyler School of Art, recently visited the Anthropology Lab with her class, Intro to Fibers (see her blog post here).

During the class period we looked at many fiber-based artifacts in the collection and Heather very kindly pointed out various weaving techniques.  Here are a few of the highlights of traditional weaving from the Anthropology Lab’s ethnographic collections.


In plain weave, the warp and weft are aligned to form a basic criss-cross pattern.

TU2007.4-27, basket, woven, purse-shaped with handles, ties and secured flap lid, 5″ high, Chaco, Argentina, E. S. Miller Collection.


In coiled basketry, bundles of plant fibers are wrapped around in layers and held in place with interlocking stitches.

TU2007.4-26, basket, woven with attached lid, 4.5″ high, Chaco, Argentina, E. S. Miller Collection.


Plaiting is an over-under pattern that can be done on the diagonal.  The plaiting below gives strength and flexibility to the body of the costume and is decorated with painted stripes.

JH-06, Dancing Pig Costume, Sepik River, New Guinea, 52″ long, Friedlaender Collection.

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Beadwork: part IV

TU1966.3-44, miniature or child’s moccasin, Native American, 4″ long, glass seed beads sinew sewn in lazy stitch, separate rawhide cuff and tongue attached with cotton thread, rawhide lace.

TU1966.3-68, buckskin pouch with handle, Sioux, 7″x7.5″, beaded tree of life and bird design, possibly made as a tourist item.

TU1966.3-74, knife sheath, Native American, 2.5″x9.5″, leather with wool fringe knotted at ends, beaded design attached to plaid fabric.

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Beadwork: part III

TU1966.3-164, large saddle bag, Sioux, 10″x11″, glass seed beads and faceted metallic beads sinew sewn in lazy stitch.

TU1966.3-72, sash or belt, Native American, possibly Winnebago or Potawatomi, made in the western Great Lakes region,  4″x31″, loom woven glass seed beads on cotton thread, wool fringe knotted at ends, turn of the 20th century.

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Beadwork: part II

TU1966.3-70, beaded pouch, Sioux, 8″x8″, leather, beaded gold ground with floral design, red chintz lining.

TU1966.3-69, beaded pouch, Sioux, 10″x8″, leather and fabric, floral design, glass seed beads strung on thread and sinew, outside border trimmed with maroon satin ribbon, opening trimmed with a cotton ribbon.  Card on inside reads, “Bead bag South Dakota old French design, $7.50”.

Detail from above.  Metallic faceted beads were introduced after 1885.  This piece was likely made in the Great Lakes region and traded westward, possibly as a tourist item.

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Beadwork: part I

In the 1960s, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology donated a collection of more than 200 assorted objects from around the world, many with unknown or limited provenience, to the Temple Anthropology Lab for use as an ethnographic study collection.  Some of these artifacts are examples of Native North American beadwork.

TU1966.3-79, beaded moccasins, American Indian, 8.5″ long, native tanned rawhide, sinew sewn glass seed beads, white cotton lining sewn with cotton thread.

TU1966.3-75, beaded hide pouch with drawstring,  American Indian, 4″x7″, Sioux design in a traditional form, possible tourist item, tan buckskin, glass seed beads sinew strung in lazy stitch.

TU1966.3-75 reverse

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Knotted string body armor

The knotted string body armor, shown below, is made from the inner bark of a tree.  It was collected in Papua New Guinea (Irian Jaya), Indonesia by Denise O’Brien.

“The knotting uses variations on a continuous figure-8 technique. The string is twisted as the work progresses. The bands of different colors on the upper part of the vest are created from orchid vine wrapped around the central core of tree bark string” (from

Knotted string body armor, New Guinea, Denise O’Brien Collection

Detail of the body armor


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