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Some Iroquois Artifacts


A second set of twenty 35mm color slides with narrative, shows Iroquois artifacts that are on display or in the collections at the New York State Museum. This set is available for $15 from Museum Publications..

effigy

Our knowledge of the Iroquois culture of prehistoric times comes from various sources: Iroquois oral traditions; written descriptions by early European explorers of the region; artifacts from archeological excavations; and items still in use among the Iroquois during the past 200 years.

The great majority of objects archeologists recover from longhouse village sites of 400 years ago are of stone or fired clay pottery -- the "hardwares" of day to day Iroquois life. Artifacts of bone and antler are relatively uncommon; even though they are hard, they frequently deteriorate in the acidic soils common in the northeastern United States. In places where the alkaline content is high - in ash pits and ash beds - bone and antler tools are found in large numbers. Objects of leather, wood and other vegetable matter decay readily and are found only in rare sites where special conditions have preserved them.


Click on images to enlarge

lomghouse model

[Slide 21] The artifacts of stone, antler, bone and fired clay that you will see in these slides are thought to be 400 to 550 years old. Some of the slides are closer views of objects in this display. Iroquois clay pots in Artifacts of the Iroquois Longhouse, c.1450-1600, A Mohawk Iroquois Village. New York State Museum, Albany, NY.

Longhouse village

[Slide 22]An intact clay pot is a rare find for archeologists. The most common artifacts they find are fragments of clay pots called "sherds." Intact Iroquois clay pot, c.1450-1500, found in a rock shelter. Jefferson County, NY. Height: 14 inches

Longhouse village

[Slide 23] Iroquois potters were women. They frequently decorated the pots around the rim; here we see a simple human face. Detail view of the intact pot, showing a simplified human face within a decoration of repetitive lines on the rim.

Longhouse village

[Slide 24] Iroquois pots had rounded bottoms, as shown here in another intact example found in a rock shelter. In use, they were suspended over a fire, or put in the fire and propped up with rocks placed around the bottom. That shiny object at the base of the pot is a ring stand that holds it upright in the exhibit. Intact Mohawk Iroquois clay pot, c.1550-1600, found in a rock shelter. Hamilton County, NY. Height: 10 inches.

Longhouse village

[Slide 25] Detail view of typical incised decoration on the collar of the pot, made by incising the design into the moist clay with a wood, bone, or antler tool. Sometimes the potter made decorations with her fingernails. Intact Mohawk Iroquois clay pot, c.1550-1600, found in a rock shelter. Hamilton County, NY. Height: 10 inches.

Longhouse village

[Slide 26] Although sherds from a broken pot will last indefinitely when buried in the ground, the clay pot itself was fragile and easily cracked during use. This broken pot was put back together again by an archeologist. Reconstructed Mohawk Iroquois clay pot, c.1550-1575, excavated on the Klock site, Fulton County, NY. Height: 11 inches.

Longhouse village

[Slide 27] A close look at this pot shows that before it broke completely and was thrown out, it had cracked. Its owner attempted to repair it by drilling holes on either side of the crack to tie it together. Detail view of the reconstructed pot, showing the lashing holes drilled to either side of crack in an attempt to repair the pot.

Longhouse village

[Slide 28] The meaning of human effigies, sometimes found along the rims of Iroquois pots, is unknown; rarely are they as big and boldly made as this example. Human effigy decoration from below the rim castellation of a large Mohawk Iroquois clay pot, c.1575-1600. Fulton County, NY. Height: 4 inches.

Longhouse village

[Slide 29] Decorations on clay pots were most commonly made by incising, or scratching the design into the surface of the clay, before the pot was baked in a fire. The potter used the pointed end of a bone tool like the one shown here. Iroquois bone pottery incising tool, c.1500-1550. The sides of the pointed upper end have been worn flat by grit in the clay. Notice the incised decorations on the tool which resemble those found on some clay pots. Height: 3 inches. Jefferson County, NY.

Longhouse village

[Slide 30] Bone and antler objects, such as this antler comb, are not frequently preserved on an Iroquois village site because the material disintegrates when buried in acidic soil. Oneida Iroquois antler comb, c.1500-1550. Early Iroquois combs had few teeth, usually three to four, unlike those carved after the introduction of European metal tools in the late 1500s. Height: 3 inches. Madison County, NY.




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