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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Northeastern Amerindian Canoes: Peabody Museum #8

As the final installment in the series, let's look now at boat-related exhibits of Northeastern American Indian cultures at Harvard University's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Earlier posts sampled the Peabody's exhibits of Baffinland InuitAleut, other Alaskan Eskimo, and Chinook, Coast Salish, et al, and other Pacific Northwest cultures, a large stitch-planked monohull canoe from the Solomon Islands, and items from several cultures of Oceania.)
Northeast Amerindian dugout canoe building model
Detail of a diorama depicting American Indian culture of Southern New England in late 17th and 18th centuries. The paper birch rarely grows to adequate canoe-building size in Southern New England. Although Amerindians further north would trade sheets of canoe bark with Southern New England tribes, the dugout was the region's most common, and only indigenous, watercraft. Rectilinear lines as shown were the norm. In hollowing the hull, the top surface would be burnt to a char with a small, carefully regulated fire, then adzes with stone or shell blades were used to chip and scrap away the charred material. Although dugout canoes are often thought to have been heavy and awkward affairs, one can see from the model that the sides were hewn to a thinness that would make the canoes reasonable agile and capable of being portaged when necessary. (Click any image to enlarge.)
Maine Indian canoe paddle blade
Blade of an Eastern Algonkian canoe paddle, collected prior to 1899. From the display card: "The blade of this elaborately decorated paddle is painted green. The double-curve design was executed by removing the paint while it was still wet. The stepped motif and crosshatching are suggestive of Penobscot or Passamaquoddy manufacture. The handle exhibits graceful carving and shows much indication of use." The Penobscot people lived (and still live) in Maine; the Passamadquoddy in Maine and New Brunswick. [Addition 1/27/14: further discussion of this paddle appears on Murat's excellent blog Paddle Making (and Other Canoe Stuff).] 
Maine Indian canoe paddle handle
Shaft and handle of the above paddle. 
Montagnais crooked canoe model
A model of a "crooked" canoe from the Montagnais people of eastern Canada, made around 1852. The "crooked" name derives from the sharply rockered bottom, designed for quick maneuvering on tight and rocky streams.
Passamaquoddy canoe model
Another Passamaquoddy canoe model, but of a different style, and collected in the early 19th century. The double-curve design on the bark is executed by scraping away one layer of the bark. When applied to full-size canoes, such decoration was usually confined to the ends and topside areas amidships, and not below the waterline as was done on the model.  
Micmac canoe model
A model Micmac sea canoe, made in 1904. The double-curved gunwales raise the sheer amidships, making the boat drier in ocean waves, while the lower sheer toward the ends allowed easier paddling. 
Eastern Algonkian canoe model
Eastern Algonkian canoe model, collected in 1794 and described as "very accurate." From the display card: "Although originally attributed to the Micmac, the form of this canoe is suggestive of Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, or Penobscot manufacture [all Maine tribes; ed.]. the flared ends are of a very early style. Note that the thwarts are carved and the seams have rod ochre applied over pitch."
bark canoe model at Peabody Museum
Canoe model built in 1904. From the display card: "The unusual ends make attribution difficult. The bottom profile is slightly concave, or 'hogged,' as is typical of northwestern canoe types, but the U-shaped end treatment is not characteristic of that area in general."

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