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Bald eagles and the Thunderbird myth: Birds in pre-contact ceremonialism on Martha's Vineyard, USA

TitleBald eagles and the Thunderbird myth: Birds in pre-contact ceremonialism on Martha's Vineyard, USA
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsWatson, JE
JournalQuaternary International
Date PublishedJan-03-2020
ISSN10406182
Abstract

Ceremonialism is an integral part of human life but difficult to recover from archaeological remains. Among Native groups in Eastern North America, skins and feathers of birds were commonly used as part of ritual feast ceremonies, including those of the Thunderbird, a mythological creature associated with thunder, lightning, and the upper world. Physical evidence for the Thunderbird has been limited to ceramic, lithic, copper, and petroglyphic artifacts, but the recent discovery of a series of Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) wing bones from the Frisby Butler site may present the first faunal evidence for the myth in Native North America. Patterns of skeletal part representation within the assemblage and across the site suggest that the deposit is the remains of a ritual feast and the presence of multiple wings indicates intentional curation of eagles. If so, this is the earliest known Thunderbird association on the island of Martha's Vineyard, showing the spread of extant Algonquin cosmology to this area by at least 2,000 BP.

URLhttps://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1040618220301026
DOI10.1016/j.quaint.2020.03.017
Short TitleQuaternary International