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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."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

From Pacific Islands: Peabody Museum #7

Let's look at some more maritime-related objects from several Pacific cultures on display at Harvard University's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. (Earlier posts in this series on the Peabody looked at Baffinland InuitAleut, other Alaskan Eskimo, and Chinook, Coast Salish, et al, other Pacific Northwest exhibits, and a large stitch-planked monohull canoe from the Solomon Islands.)


Maori canoe model
This canoe model from New Zealand was collected prior to 1850. Its origin is probably Maori. The base of the hull appears to be carved from a single log, as would have been the real canoe that it represented. It measures approx. 108" LOA. (Click any image to enlarge.)
Moari canoe model stern decoration
Elaborately carved stern decoration on the Maori canoe model. 
bow decoration on Maori canoe model
Bow decoration on the same model. The carved washstrakes are stitched to the dugout hull, and a black half-round batten is captured by the stitches. On a real canoe, some kind of vegetable fiber and mastic would have been placed beneath the batten to make the seam watertight.
The museum has an impressive display of adzes from various Pacific cultures, most with stone blades. The adze is the primary tool for dugout canoe construction.
stone adze collection
This side-hafted adze from the Carolina Islands has a blade of sea-turtle bone and bindings of twisted coconut fiber.
New Guinea stone adze
This adze from Kirapuno, New Guinea, has a reversible stone blade held in place with nicely woven rattan binding.
Navigational stick chart from Marshall Islands
Navigation chart from the Marshall Islands, made of the midribs of palm leaves, shells, and hibiscus and banana fibers.
Phillipine double outrigger canoe model
Collected prior to 1903, this model Philippine double-outrigger sailing canoe has a squaresail rig, a dugout base and trifurcated ends, with two of the horns at each end turned up sharply. The outrigger floats are attached directly to the straight outrigger booms, placing the floats quite high -- possibly above the load waterline.
Hawaiian double canoe model
The struts on this Hawaiian double canoe model (wa'a kaulua) curve up between the hulls before passing through the washstrakes just above the gunwales of the dugout bases. Naturally-grown, curved timbers were used on real canoes. The curvature raises the struts above some splashing waves.
Hawaiian single outrigger canoe model
The unadorned simplicity of this single-outrigger Hawaiian paddling canoe model clearly identifies it as a workboat for inshore fishing and/or transportation.  
Indonesian canoe model
Whereas the two previous canoe models from Hawaii were representational, this delicately carved canoe-shaped effigy vessel from Indonesia probably had a ceremonial purpose. 
Sandwich Islands bone fishhook
Composite fishhook of bone, fiber and wood. The display card says it's from the "Sandwich Islands": one wonders why the museum chose to use this antiquated name for Hawaii. A leader is bound to the shank of the hook, the bindings tightened by an inserted wooden wedge.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Solomon Islands Canoe: Peabody Museum #6

Here's an interesting canoe from the Solomon Islands in Melanesia, on display at Harvard University's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. The display card says it was given to the museum in 1898, but provides no other details, so we'll just look at the photos and make what comments we can. (Earlier posts in this series on the Peabody looked at Baffinland InuitAleut, other Alaskan Eskimo, and Chinook, Coast Salish, et al, and other Pacific Northwest exhibits.)


Solomon Island canoe at Peabody Museum
Starting at what we believe is the stern: the canoe is a sewn-plank monohull. The base is a keel-plank, laid on the flat, to which garboards and a second layer of strakes are added. The strakes amidships are lower than those at the ends. Very tall decorations added at both ends. The plank seams are sealed with black mastic, probably derived from the putty nut (Parinarium laurinum). Elaborate decorations under the stem/stern indicate a ceremonial function, as they would be highly impractical for a working boat. (Click any image to enlarge.)
Solomon Island canoe at Peabody Museum
The profile shows the sharp break between the amidship strakes and the end strakes, and the extreme height of the bow and stern decorations. The hull has a great deal of rocker, continuous from bow to stern. The general shape is that of a war or "headhunting" canoe, although headhunting canoes were commonly even more elaborately decorated. They could reach 55' LOA and hold up to 35 men, but this example is probably 25-30'.
Solomon Island canoe at Peabody Museum
Painted decorations near the stern. The object at the left appears to be a bird (facing right). I can't make a guess about the object to the right. The gunwale has small, detailed, chip-carved decoration. Cracks can be seen in the black caulking material. Canoes were typically stored in canoe houses to protect and maintain the sealant as long as possible.
Solomon Island canoe paddle at Peabody Museum
Amidships on both sides are two "medallions" made of mastic embedded with pieces of shell or mother of pearl at the garboard/upper strake seam. Also shown is a very long, narrow, pointed paddle with a T-grip.
dog decoration on stern (?) of Solomon Island canoe at Peabody Museum
Carved decoration on the bow extension: a dog?.
stern plank seam details on Solomon Islands canoe at Peabody Museum
Another detail near the bow. showing plank seams and decorations. The white decoration under the keel appears to be mother-of-pearl.
end view of Solomon Islands canoe at Peabody Museum
Throughout most of Oceania, hulls this narrow were usually supported by outriggers. But in the Solomons, monohulls were common. 
interior of Solomon Islands canoe at Peabody Museum
In addition to being lashed to each other with (probably discontinuous) stitches, the planks were lashed on the inside to curved frames of complex shape. The thinness of the planks is apparent from this perspective.


A few years ago, In the Boatshed reported on the restoration of a canoe of similar type, size and age.