Temixwten Artifact: 45-WH-5-1050
Description: ALTHOUGH THIS piece is a small charm that would fit in the palm of your hand, it contains the seed of all the towering totem poles that have made Northwest Coast Indian art famous.
In 45-WH-5-1710, we saw an Asian-made ceramic charm with two stacked serpent heads which were paired with two stacked human faces -- one with the Asian eye and one with the Caucasian eye. Now 45-WH-5-1050 ups the ante to three stacked reptilian figures.
On the bottom is a sullen-looking lunker, which resembles the bottom serpent in 45-WH-5-1710. In the middle is a wide-eyed, shocked-looking Chinese dragon (isolated in photo at right), complete with white tenacle trailing back above the eye. And finally on top, we have a laughing, delighted looking white snake.
45-WH-5-1050 is the oldest example of three or more stacked figures ever found on the Northwest Coast of North America. And it conclusively demonstrates that one of the central compositional characteristics of Northwest Coast Indian art -- the stacking of figures vertically -- came out of Northeast Asia with the ancestors of the Salish.
Small as it is, this piece is a big deal. Early anthropologists such as Charles Marius Barbeau, "the father of Canadian anthropology," noted the similarities between Pacific Northwest Coast Indian art and the art of ancient China. He and others speculated that Northwest Coast Indian art had developed from ancient Chinese art.
Their theories were rejected for "lack of evidence," but now 45-WH-5-1050 provides concrete, irrefutable proof that Barbeau and all the others were correct. There is no more room for doubt. Northwest Coast Indian art developed out of the art of China, and much more recently than is generally believed, which Barbeau also maintained.
* * *
45-WH-5-1050 is almost as revealing from a ceramic standpoint as it is from an artistic one.
Close examination of the bottom serpent shows that the Neolithic ceramic artist who created the piece got the effect of green, scaly skin by weaving fine threads of green clay into a mat, and then pressing it onto the sculpted clay substrate.
The long snout of the dragon in the middle, on the other hand, was created with roping of lighter colored clay laid down at a 45 degree angle to the snout. The snout of the middle dragon also reveals curious hairs or what could be crystal stalks coming out of the roped clay, especially around the eye of the middle dragon, visible in photo at right.
There is little glazing apparent on this piece, appart from a few white accents -- the eye and tenacle of the dragon in the middle, and the features of the white snake on top.
* * *
CHANGE IN the presentation of the One-Eyed God continues with 45-WH-5-1050. Not only are three serpents stacked on top of each other here, but the horse is completely gone from this piece. By the time this piece was manufactured in the late Neolithic, Northeast Asia was over the domesticated horse.
And even bigger from the standpoint of The God That Man Forgot exhibit, the One-Eyed God has been diminished to a sub-plot on the side of the white snake, where two tiny White Dragons blow out red flame and white smoke to form the eye of the One-Eyed God and a white snake for a mouth (the white snake is also the white tenacle above the eye of the dragon in the middle).
Fundamentally, this piece is really not about the One-Eyed God. It's about the Serpent in its various forms.
* * *
LIKE ALL the ceramic artifacts from Temixwten, this piece helps time the rise of the Salish in what we now call the Pacific Northwest, beginning 7,000 or more years ago.
A Temixwten charm in the form of a C-dragon -- complete with the "ancestor in mouth" motif -- indicates that the Salish migrations out of Asia to the Pacific Northwest began before the domestication of the horse became a huge, world changing development.
However, based on the evidence at Temixwten, it apears that there was a much bigger influx of immigrants to Temixwten after the domestication of the horse, maybe 6,000 years ago, and then another influx during the early Dynastic Period in China, maybe 3,000 years ago, at the dawn of glazed ceramic stoneware in China and Northeast Asia. This correlates to the so-called Charles or St. Mungo Culture Phase when the Salish expanded and conquered most of the Pacific Northwest, as well as the subsesquent Locarno Beach Culture Phase observed at Salish sites in British Columbia.
The thousands of Asian-made charms and other artifacts found at Temixwten clearly demonstrate that the Salish had numbers at the time they exploded on the North American scene, but they also had superior technology.
The thing that makes this kind of ceramic tool exceptional are its edges, both their number and their sharpness. It is possible to produce a ceramic stone blade that is significantly sharper than almost any natural stone blade, except volcanic glass.
* * *
NOTE: Because the Chinese apparently do not possess any stoneware from the earliest lithic phase of their long and glorious history of ceramic manufacture (namely from the very beginning when stoneware was an exciting new material for making stone tools), I believe that the Asian-made ceramic pieces in the Museum of the Salish collection are the oldest Chinese ceramic stoneware artifacts ever found anywhere in the world, including China.
Technology: different colors of ceramic stoneware clay woven, cut and sculpted when leather hard, then fired with Kaolin clay accent slip on areas like the middle dragon's wide open eye. There are also some curious hairs or crystals on stalks around the eye of the middle dragon.
Approximate Age: 2,800 years ago.
Basis for Age Estimate: I base this age estimate on the fact that there is no horse iconography apparent on 45-WH-5-1050 at all. By the time this piece was made, the domestication of the horse (in fact, the domestication of ALL animals) was old news, and the horse was just a beast of burden for an increasingly arrogant mankind.
Provenance: Collected at Temixwten by the property owner. Museum of the Salish Collection.
Piling On: Here the stacking of figures already seen in Temixwten artifact 45-WH-5-1710 is taken one step further on 45-WH-5-1050 with three heads stacked one on top of each other. The top figure is a seemingly laughing white snake. Under the snake is a wide-eyed, shocked-looking Chinese dragon (isolated in photo above), complete with white tenacle trailing back above the eye. Beneath the Chinese dragon is a savage and sullen-looking bottom lurker serpent, which resembles the bottom serpent in 45-WH-5-1710.
Fish Eye: The eye of the bottom of the three stacked reptiles on 45-WH-5-1050 resembles a fish. The surface of the creature has a wonderfully green, scaly look -- as if it was made of fine threads of clay which were woven together and then pressed into the sculpted clay form underneath.
The Face Of God: here not one but two two white dragons on the nose -- one large one small (top right) -- breath white smoke and orange fire which forms the eye of the One-Eyed God, while a white snake forms the mouth and the diety’s full beard rages below like some sort of wild salmon stream. Note the strange, glass-like “hairs” on the face of the Chinese dragon, especially around the eye.