Alexander Goldenweiser.

Early civilization; an introduction to anthropology online

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Another equally remarkable process characteristic of the
entire area is sewing wood whenever two pieces are to be
joined. 2

The preparation of fish-hooks is also of great interest.
The following is a close translation of the Indian text :

"When the fisherman gets ready, when he first goes to
fish red cod, he takes a branch of driftwood of fir and splits
it into four pieces. The length of each is one span of our
fingers and four finger-widths. Then he shaves them so that

l lbid, p. 331.

"For a description of this interesting device see Boas, ibid, pp. 334-337-


they are thin and round. As soon as he has finished, he
takes kelp and puts into it the split branches which are to
be the four (branch) hooks for cod. He has also four
pieces of kelp. When night comes, he digs a hole in the
ashes of his fire and puts into it the four pieces of kelp in
which the (branch) hooks for red cod are. Then he covers
them over and leaves them the whole length of the night
until morning. As soon as he finishes covering them over,
he takes a short board and carves out a rounded mould the
same thickness .as the thickness of the (branch) hook for
the red cod, and the carved mould has the same depth as
the size of the hook that is to be made. After he has
finished four of them, he puts them away.

"Now he is ready, when day comes the next morning. In
the morning, as soon as day comes, he digs up what has
been covered over, and he rips open the pieces of kelp
while they are still warm, and he takes the round branches
and bends them into the carved moulds in the short board,
and he pushes them into it. He does so with all four of
them. As soon as he has finished, he puts them away in a
cool place in the house; and when they get cold, he takes
his hooks and takes them out; and he takes tallow (of the
deer) and chews it; and when it is soft, he heats the hooks
by the fire; and he only stops heating them when they are
scorched. Then he rubs them with the tallow, and he puts
them back again into the place where they had been, into the
carved moulds in the short board. The reason why he
puts on tallow is that they become stiff and that they do
not open again. The next day, when they are cold, he takes
them out again from the carved moulds in the short board.
Now the hooks are brittle.

"Then he takes the hollow-sided bone of the foreleg of
the elk and breaks it in pieces, and he sharpens thin pieces.
They become round, and one end is sharp. They are to
be the bone barbs of the hooks. As soon as he has finished,
he ties them on to the hooks. He has as his means of
tying them split spruce-roots.


"When he has finished, he takes sea-weed from the beach,
and spruce, and puts them into a small kettle. Then he
pours salt water over them and puts it over the fire of the
house. They boil for a long time, and then he takes them
off. When the water gets cold, he takes his four branch
hooks and puts them into the kettle. They stay in the ket-
tle for four days. Then he takes them out and hangs them
up in the corner of the house." 1

In their houses the Kwakiutl use heavy logs to support the
wooden framework. The handling of these with their lim-
ited mechanical equipment is not an easy task, but the
Kwakiutl have overcome the difficulties by a number of
ingenious contrivances. When a house post is to be raised,


FIG. 27
Boas, "The Kwakiutl, etc.," p. 338

(see fig. 27) a hole is dug at the place where the post is to be
erected, which extends in the form of a slanting ditch toward
the center of the house. The outside of the hole where the
post is to stand is protected by heavy planks driven into the
ground. Then the post is shoved into the hole and is raised
gradually, being supported by logs of increasing size as it is
being raised.

For the raising of the long and heavy roof beam, an-
other device is employed. The illustration (fig. 28) shows

*lbid, pp. 332-333-


the method employed. When force is applied to the end
of lever , beam c is raised. At the same time it is
guided so as to slide along the slanting pole (b). Tem-
porary support (h) is used to keep (c) in this position.
Then the parts are readjusted and the process is repeated.

FIG. 28
Boas, "The Kwakiutl, etc.," p. 339

When the end of the beam approaches the top of post (a),
a heavy plank is tied to the opposite side of the post extend-
ing above it so as to prevent beam (c) from rolling down
on the other side. When beam (c) is in place, another
plank is tied on the side of post (a) on which the beam
was rolled up. The opposite side of the beam is raised in
a similar way.

Another description of the making of one type of horn
spoon is translated by Boas from the native text:

"Now I will talk about the making of the horn spoon,
the black spoon. When the head of the mountain-goat is
taken off, it is kept in the corner of the house for four days,
and it is placed not far from the side of the fire of the
house; and when the heat of the fire strikes it, the spoon-
maker turns the head over all the time; and when it gets
warm, he places it nearer the fire. He watches it all the
time so that it does not get burnt. When he thinks it is
warm through and through, he takes hold of the head and
tries to pull the hair off. When it gets loose, he knows
that the horns are also loosened. He takes hold of the
horn with his right hand, and with his left hand he holds
the nose of the head. Then he twists the horn a little and
pulls it off. Now the horn has been blown off by the steam.


He also does the same with the other one. When he has
them off, he takes his hand-adze and a block of wood and he
adzes it. He adzes it at the concave side of the horn,
placing the thick end on the block of wood, in this manner :

FIG. 39

As soon as he has it off, he adzes off the 'mouth' of the
spoon so that it is round, in this manner:

FIG. 30

After he has done so, he measures three finger-widths,
beginning at the top of the horn, and he adzes it so that
it is notched in this place, and it is in this way when he has
finished it:

FIG. 31

"He puts away his hand-adze and takes his straight-knife.
In former times the people rubbed them down with rough
sandstone when they were making black horn spoons. Now
there is water in a dish, and the man puts it down at his
left-hand side while he is rubbing the horn. He puts the
thick end into the water, and he holds it by the small end
with his left hand. With his right hand he holds a rough
sandstone and rubs the horn. Nowadays the modern men
adze it. They shave it down to smooth it after they just
begin cutting it. After all this, he puts a small kettle half


full of water over the fire, and he takes two cedar-sticks,
each one span long and half the thickness of a finger. He
takes split cedar-bark and ties the ends of the cedar-sticks
together with the cedar-bark. Then he gets another piece
of cedar-bark ready to tie the other end after having put
the spoon in between. Then it is this way :

FIG. 32

(That is, two straight sticks tied loosely together at one
end.) When the kettle boils up on the fire, he takes the
spoon and puts it in. He does not leave it in a long time
before taking it out again. Then he puts the spoon near
its 'mouth,' between the cedar-sticks, in this manner, and
he takes the cedar-bark and ties it on near the end of the
spoon-spreader into which the spoon is put. He bends back
the point, and holds it by putting it into cold water, so that
it sets. Then it does not bend back again, but is kept in
position as it gets cold. Next he takes off the spoon-opener,
and he takes dried dog-fish skin and rubs it all over it, so
that it becomes very smooth inside and outside. When it
is quite smooth, it is finished. Now the black horn spoon
is finished after this." 1

The gathering, preparation and eating of eel-grass is
described in the following passage :

"In springtime, when the winter is past, then all the
women get ready to twist eel-grass .... The man's wife
who is going to twist eel-grass first takes her eel-grass twist-
ing paddle and her anchor-line of cedar-bark rope, and also
her eel-grass twisting hat, for generally they wear a hat

'Boas, "Ethnology of the Kwakiutl" (35th Report, Bureau of Ethnology,
pp. 102-104).


when they twist eel-grass, because generally sea-water
splashes into their faces when the women pull up the twist-
ing-stick with the eel-grass twisted around its end. Then
it splashes into their faces when they wash the eel-grass;
and therefore (the woman) wears an eel-grass twisting hat.
She carries down every thing as she goes down to the beach
to her little old canoe for twisting eel-grass, and she also
carries her bailer and her eel-grass twisting-stick. She
launches her small old canoe, and puts into it what I have
named. When it is all aboard, she sits in the stern of the
small eel-grass twisting canoe. She takes up her eel-grass
twisting paddle and paddles, and she goes to a place where
she knows that there is thick eel-grass and that the eel-grass
is growing in soft sand. When she arrives at the place
where the eel-grass is, she takes the cedar-bark rope and
ties the stone to its end and throws it into the water; and
when it touches the bottom so that it is vertical, she ties
it to the stern-seat. After doing so, she takes her twist-
ing-stick and puts the tip into the water. She pushes it
down into the sea-water and strikes the sandy bottom where
there is much eel-grass. Then she begins to twist it. Then
the eel-grass is twisted around the twisting-stick. When she
cannot turn the twisting-stick any more, she pulls it up. The
twisting woman pulls up the twisting-stick. As soon as
the eel-grass comes in sight, she untwists it to get it off
from her twisting-stick, and then the eel-grass comes off;
and she squeezes one span around it, beginning at the
head-end. That is what we refer to as the roots. She
washes it in salt water, so that the sand comes off. When it
is all off, she measures two spans from the upper end of
the roots, and she breaks off the lower end. When it is all
off, she puts it in front of herself, and she puts the twist-
ing-stick back into the water, and she does the same as she
did before. When she has much of it, the tide rises, for
they only twist at spring tide. As soon as the tide comes
up, she hauls up the anchor and goes home; and when she
arrives at the beach of her house, she gets out of her old


canoe for twisting eel-grass. She takes out her anchor and
carries it up ; and when the anchor-line gets taut, she puts it
down. Then she sends her husband to go and invite his
tribe to come and peel eel-grass. The man immediately
obeys his wife. He invites his tribe. When he comes
back, he clears out his house, and spreads the mats around
for those who are going to peel the eel-grass to sit down on.
As soon as he has done so, he takes his oil-dishes and oil
and brings them, so that they are ready. Then those who
are to peel the eel-grass come in; and when they are all
inside, the man asks the young men of his numaym 1 to go
and carry up the eel-grass. Immediately the young men go
and carry it up. They carry it into the house and put it
down in front of those who are to peel it. The man takes
the oil and pours it into the oil-dishes; and when the oil
is in every one, (the young men) place them in front of
those who are to peel the eel-grass, at the outer side. There
are four men to each oil-dish. Then the eel-grass is scat-
tered in front of those who are to peel it. When this is
done, the men take up four pieces of eel-grass and pluck off
the small roots. When they are all off, they peel off the
leaves of the tail-end. They begin at the upper end of the
thick root; and when they have peeled it as far as the
soft part in the middle of the eel-grass, they do the same
with the other three pieces. When this has been done with
all of them, they put the roots together so that they are
three finger-widths in length, and then they break them off ;
and they break them off again so that they are all the same
length, in this manner:

FIG. 33

'"Subdivision" of the tribe. A, A. G.


Then there are eight pieces in all. They tie them to-
gether with the leaves, in this manner :

FIG. 34

and they hold them at i. Then they dip (the bundle) into
the oil and eat it, and all the others do the same. After they
have finished eating, they pick up what they did not eat
and go out of the house; and they go into their houses and
put down in front of their wives the eel-grass that they have
taken along. They never drink water before they go out
and when they go into their houses. That is the eel-grass
peeling feast given to many tribes, for it is the food of the
first people in the time of the first Indians of the mythical
period. Therefore an eel-grass feast is a valuable feast
given by a man. That is all that is to be said about eel-
grass, for there is only one way of eating it and of get-
ting it." 1

pp. 510-514.


INDUSTRY (Continued)

Hopi Pigments

Another example of applied experience and technical
mastery is supplied by the Hopi handling of pigments.
In their ceremonies the Hopi require a large set of colors,
to which they ascribe symbolic significance. Colors are used
for the costumes of the participants, the ceremonial para-
phernalia, the bodily decoration of priests, and most of all,
the designs in color on the sand and the painting of the
katcinas, doll-like representations of supernatural beings.

Space does not permit to discuss here the elaborate and
often beautiful designs made on the ground by permitting
narrow streams of different colored sand to fall from the
hand over the surface of the ground, thus forming designs. 1

Stephen enumerates some thirty odd pigments used by
the Hopi for these various purposes. One pigment known
as "green bread" is prepared in the following way:

"About ten ounces of pinon gum is put in an earthern pot
and set on the fire, a very little water being poured in to
keep it from burning and it is then allowed to roast. A
large basin is set conveniently with about a gallon of water
in it, and over this basin a yucca sieve is laid, and in the
sieve a quantity of horse hair, or shredded yucca fibre.
After the gum has melted and boiled for about ten minutes
it is poured upon the hair lying in the sieve and allowed to
strain through into the water, where it accumulates in a
white mass. The operator then puts about three ounces

'For illustrations of these sand designs see James Stevenson, "Navajo
Ceremonial of Hasjelti Dailjis," Bureau of Ethnology, Eighth Report, plates



of fragments of blue and green copper carbonate into a small
muller and rubs them into a pulp, then pours a little water
in the muller and rubs the pulp into a liquid. He then turns
to the gum, which is stiff but still pliable, and after kneading
and stretching it back and forth, doubling and twisting and
pulling, it becomes soft and of glistening whiteness. After
manipulating the gum for about a quarter of an hour, he
folds it up compactly, dips it lightly in the blue-pulp liquid,
and puts it back in the roasting pot, which has been filled
with water, and sets it on the fire to boil. As the water
heats, the gum melts, and just before it comes to a boil he
pours in all the blue-pulp liquid, then, as the mixture boils
he maintains a constant stirring with a long rod. He dips
up some of the mass from time to time on the rod to examine
its color, and the longer it boils the darker it grows, and
after about twenty minutes he takes the jar off the fire,
pours off the hot water and pours in some cold. He then
takes the blue-green mass out, and works it around in his
hands, forming a cake of about eight ounces." 1

Another pigment called "bright yellow paint" is prepared
by a priest, as follows :

"A small fire is made at any convenient court nook, or
on the roof of a house, and two or three flat stones set on
edge around it support an earthen pot of about two gallons
capacity, and about half a gallon of water is poured into it.
The expert then puts in about two ounces of Si-una, an im-
pure almogen (alunogen?), rubbing it to a powder between
his fingers, and in the same way adds about the same quantity
of tu-wak-ta, a very fine, white calcareous sandstone. He
stirs frequently with a gourd ladle, and as the mixture boils
it foams violently, and having subsided, some more of the
two substances is added, and then as much of the dried
flowers of the Bigelovia graveolens as can be crowded
into the vessel, and then enough water to fill it. The con-
tents are allowed to boil for about half an hour, during
which they are stirred as much as possible. A yucca sieve

1 A. M. Stephen, "Pigments in Ceremonials of the Hopi," p. 263.


is placed over a large basin and the contents of the pot
strained through it, the flowers being squeezed dry and
thrown away, and there is thus obtained about two quarts
of a dull, yellow liquid. The process just described is re-
peated and the infusion is poured back into the pot, and
as it again comes to a boil more of the earthy ingredients
are added in small quantities from time to time.

"The tint of the liquid is tested on the skin occasionally;
should it prove too pale, another vessel is put on the fire
and another infusion obtained by the process first described,
enough of which is added to the liquid in the first pot to
bring it to the desired tint. Should the liquid be too dark,
more of the mineral substances and water are added. The
process occupies about four hours and the mixture has then
boiled away to about a pint, of a bright yellow color and
pasty consistency, which on drying forms a hard cake." 1

The way in which knowledge and superficial classifica-
tion, accurate observation and erroneous interpretation are
inextricably intermingled in early man's ideas of things in
nature is well illustrated by the botany of the Tewa.

The Tewa say that the leaves make the plant grow; after
the leaves have fallen, the plant stops growing. In the win-
ter the tree is not dead, it has merely stopped growing be-
cause it has no leaves. It remains in this condition until
the leaves come again. The real function of the root is
not understood. The Tewa do not know that it takes
up water, but they say, "The roots have to get wet or the
plant dies." The tree is said to sit on its roots and the
word for root is the same as for haunches, or the base, bot-
tom or foot of inanimate objects. The bark protects the
tree and the word for bark is the same as for skin. The

'Stephen, ibid, p. 262.

a This brief sketch is based on the meritorious contribution of John P.
Harrington and others, "Ethnobotany of the Tewa Indians," Bureau of
American Ethnology, Bulletin 55.


seed is believed to contain the little plant. "The plant is
in the seed," said one informant, "but you cannot see it."

All nouns denoting plants and most nouns denoting parts
of plants have vegetal gender. While plants are thus sep-
arated linguistically and conceptually from the rest of nature,
some other things, for instance a mountain, also have vegetal
gender. On the other hand, the Tewa observe very closely
even minute differences in the plants of their region. They
have, for example, a separate name for every one of the
coniferous trees in that locality, the differences between
which are so slight that the average white man readily over-
looks them.

Some linguistic classifications tend to mislead the white
student insofar as they might be taken to imply deeper in-
sight than the Tewa really possess. Thus, one term is used
by them for leaves, the petals of flowers and the needles
of coniferous trees. There is a word for flower or flow-
ering plant which is also used figuratively in the sense of
pretty. Young men use it toward their sweethearts, mean-
ing "my flower." Women and girls are often designated
by this term. A cumulus cloud is called "white flower
cloud." An eagle down is called "eagle flower." There is
a word for bud which is used for any bud or young sprout,
whether a flower, leaf or stem. Of a flower bud that has
not burst, the Tewa say, "The flower is enveloped or cov-
ered," or "The flower has not yet burst," or "The flower
is an egg."

Of all fruits which are green when unripe a term meaning
green is used when they are in this condition. On the other
hand, of gourds, squashes, pumpkins, muskmelons and
watermelons, a term meaning hard is used to indicate ripe-
ness and one meaning soft to indicate unripeness. 1

The interest taken in leaves is reflected in the terms used
about them. Thus there is one term for leaf, another for

'As the actual condition of these plants in the state of ripeness and
unripeness is the reverse of that indicated, it seems that the investigator
has in this case misunderstood the situation.


leaf surface, still another for leaf edge, as well as terms
for leaf point, leaf vein (or fibre), leaf juice (or water) and
leaf stem. Even more instructive as revealing the minute
attention paid to leaves are the terms describing the sur-
faces of leaves, there being terms for smooth, shiny, rough,
ridged, grooved, veined, hairy, course haired, downy or
fluffy, prickly, thorny and sticky.

The words for color are white, black, red, yellow, blue,
watery green, brown and grey, with the corresponding
nouns, but there is no word meaning color. To find out the
color of a man's horse, one asks, "How is your horse?"
and if that is not definite enough, the question follows, "Is
it red or is it white?"

There is a word for grass. It may be used for all true
grasses and grasslike plants. 1

These descriptive sketches of Kwakiutl industry, of the
preparation of Hopi pigments and of the botanical stock-
in-trade of the Tewa, bring evidence of the possession and
utilization of knowledge. These, however, are but dis-
jointed fragments of what is in fact an incoherent and dis-
organized but, withal, enormous stock of concrete informa-
tion amassed by early man in the course of his contact with
things and utilized by him for his purposes.

Without devoting to this important aspect of the life of
primitive man the space it deserves, we might roughly
indicate the range of his command of objective data which
the study of early civilization discloses. The pursuits of
hunting, fishing and the gathering of the wild products of
nature imply an ever increasing familiarity with the shapes,
qualities and habits of animals and plants. The utilization
of these animals and plants or of parts of them for food,

'A similarly instructive sketch on "The Ethnozoology of the Tewa In-
dians" by the same author is available (Bureau of American Ethnology,
Bulletin 56).


for clothing, for shelter, involves further knowledge, re-
vealed everywhere, of at least the principal anatomical
elements of animals and of the properties of plants, such
as durability, greater or less resistance to water, pliability,
hardness, and the like. The familiarity with animal life
often goes further than this, rules being passed against the
killing of young animals, and periods of the hunt being
adjusted to the seasons of the maximum availability of a
particular species. It goes without saying that the two later
achievements, the cultivation of plants and the domestica-
tion of animals, involve processes in the course of which this
knowledge of the static and dynamic qualities of the rep-
resentatives of the two great domains of nature becomes
vastly extended.

Another important addition to knowledge, involving of-
ten detailed information utilized with minute care, is im-
plied in the industrial field. The properties of the ma-
terials used become known and the knowledge is judiciously
applied. Where wood is used for building, different quali-
ties or ages of trees are selected for particular objects or
parts of objects. In the making of baskets more pliable
materials are utilized where needed, while at points where
greater strength is required, such as the bottom or the
edges, tougher materials are used. The scraping, tanning

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