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21 Faces of
From the Charm Altars at Temixwten

by Bruce Brown

Table of Contents
21 Temixwten Artifacts Presented in Apparent Chronological Order

introduction thumbnail Introduction to the Exhibit
by Bruce Brown
45-WH-5-1205 thumbnail
1) Charm
7,500 years ago

45-WH-5-1691 thumbnail
2) Charm

6,500 years ago
45-WH-5-1641 thumbnail
3) Pocket Blade

6,300 years ago
45-WH-5-1556 thumbnail
4) Charm
6,000 years ago

45-WH-5-1182 thumbnail
5) Ceremonial Celt
6,000 years ago
45-WH-5-1491 thumbnail
6) Pocket Blade
6,000 years ago
45-WH-5-1476 thumbnail
7) Pocket Blade
5,800 years ago
45-WH-5-1201 thumbnail
8) Charm
5,800 years ago
45-WH-5-1552 thumbnail
9) Charm
5,500 years ago
45-WH-5-1632 thumbnail10) Pocket Blade

5,500 years ago
45-WH-5-1656 thumbnail11) Ceramic Core

3,500 years ago
45-WH-5-1506 thumbnail12) Pocket Blade

3,300 years ago
45-WH-5-1415 thumbnail13) Pocket Blade
3,300 years ago
45-WH-5-1629 thumbnail14) Pocket Blade

3,300 years ago
45-WH-5-1513 thumbnail
15) Charm
3,300 years ago
45-WH-5-1477 thumbnail16) Charm
3,000 years ago
45-WH-5-1436 thumbnail17) Pocket Blade

3,000 years ago
45-WH-5-1710 thumbnail18) Charm

3,000 years ago
45-WH-5-1050 thumbnail19) Charm

3,000 years ago
45-WH-5-1050 thumbnail20) Charm

2,800 years ago
45-WH-5-1281 thumbnail21) Charm

2,500 years ago
With a Selected Online Bibliography.  

21 Faces of
The God That Man Forgot
From the Charm Altars at Temixwten

5) Ceremonial celt

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Temixwten artifact 45-WH-5-1182 side 1

Ancestor In Mouth: Side 1 of this exquisite Temixwten ceremonial celt features a beautiful little tableau of a human body / skeleton in the mouth of a snake or serpent, the jaws of which are formed by two salmon that seem to be swimming in the blue green “water” of the blade (isolated blowup at right). This is the progenitor of the Mexican “ancestor in mouth” motif later seen among both the Aztec and Maya. Recent translations of Maya texts have revealed that this figure represents a conjure serpent, which the Maya believed could enable the living to communicate with the spirit of a dead ancestor.

Temixwten Artifact: 45-WH-5-1182

Description: THIS VERY special blade or celt that was never intended for anything but ceremonial use. A beautiful object d'art, it was conceived, crafted and finished to the highest levels of Neolithic ability, further underscoring its importance in its time.

Both sides are completely finished out, but to different effects. Side 1 is polished like a stone blade that simultanously portrays the One-Eyed God with a deeply incised triangular eye and a chilling miniature tableau chiseled along the edge of the blade with is also the Serpent's tooth line.

Side 2 is not polished. Instead, it is finely sculpted to reveal two Serpents' heads, one on each end. So like 45-WH-5-1493, this blade appears to be an ancestral progenitor of the Sisiutl, the double-headed Serpent of later Northwest Coast Indian iconography.

Side 2 of 45-WH-5-1182 also depicts the One-Eyed God with beautiful blue-green salmon stream flowing across his knife-shaped face. The eye of the One-Eyed God is formed by a leaping salmon that is part way out of the water on the left side.

The two heads of the Serpent on Side 2 wear the same sort of free-form Chinese macrame bridle seen in the 45-WH-5-1556, as well as several other not shown here.

This Temixwten masterpiece is nearly perfect and still sharp.

* * *

The dramatic motif of the serpent with the dead man in its mouth seen on Side 1 of 45-WH-5-1182 may be a precursor of the familiar Mexican "ancestor in mouth" motif seen in both the Maya and Aztecs between 700 A.D. and 1500 A.D.

We know from recent translations of Maya texts that the Maya believed that a supplicant could conjure the spirit of the dead by burning strips of paper soaked in his or her own blood. The smoke from this fire would produce a conjure serpent, which could in turn produce the spirit of the dead.

Interestingly, one of the earliest known depictions of the great Mexican serpent manifestation, Quetzalcóatl or Quetzalcoatl, is in the guise of a Mayan conjure serpent, according to The Rise and Fall of Maya Civilization by J. Eric S. Thompson. This is at Copan, circa 800 A.D.

So Quetzalcoatl may in some sense also derive from the distant Asian concept of the conjure serpent seen in artifacts at Temixwten like 45-WH-5-1182.

* * *

Although at first glance this beautiful blade appears to be crafted from nephrite or jade, I believe it is actually manmade ceramic.

I base this judgement on serveral factors in the appearance. First, there is apparent cracking segmentation into pieces and layers on Side 1 near the handle. This simply does not happen with nephrite and/or jade.

Second, the fineness of the carving here, like 45-WH-5-1641 and 45-WH-5-1556 is too fine for stone tools working jade. Jade can be cut and polished with stone tools, but not cut or carved.

Third -- and this factor alone is enough to dictate the ceramic call -- the strange, recessed and beveled triangular eye of the On-Eyed God on Side 1 is absolutely impossible to achieve working an extremely hard stone like jade with stone tools. In fact, it is impossible without power tools of some sort.

I believe the whitish areas which are intended to look like natural maculations in nephrite -- such as the White Dragon on the nose of the bridled serpent on Side 2 (in photo at right) -- may have been created with Kaolin clay, either as a slip as in 45-WH-5-1691 or mixed into the imitation jade clay.

* * *

LIKE ALL the ceramic artifacts included in The God That Man Forgot, this piece helps time the rise of the Salish in what we now call the Pacific Northwest, beginning 7,000 or more years ago.

Both C-dragon and pig dragon charms have been found at Temixwten, indicating 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 6,600 years ago, and then another influx during the early Dynastic Period in China, maybe 3,500 years ago, at the dawn of glazed ceramic stoneware in China and Northeast Asia.

* * *

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.

I believe Temixwten artifact 45-WH-5-1182 is important, not just in terms of Temixwten or the Salish Indians, but in terms of the fundimental -- and long debated -- relationship between Neolithic Asia and the paleo-Indian colonization of the New World.

This gorgeous greenish blue blade is -- in itself -- the missing link between the two worlds, since it has a Chinese dragon on one side and what later became a Mexican serpent on the other. Two other charms in The God That Man Forgot exhibit, and 45-WH-5-1281 and possibly 45-WH-5-1678 also have imagery from both China and Mexico.

I believe Temixwten artifact 45-WH-5-1182 is also the oldest known Sisiutl image, the oldest example of the "ancestor in mouth" motif, and oldest known example of manmade jade known anywhere in the world.

Technology: ceramic stoneware apparently sculpted when leather hard and fired with a white Kaolin clay slip or admixture to the claybody on parts of Side 2. The ceramic clay has been colored to closely immitate natural jade or nephrite.

Approximate Age: 6,000 years years ago, or contemporary with the so-called Charles or St. Mungo Culture Phase, which marks the beginning of the Salish explosion across much of what we now call the Pacific Northwest.

Basis for Age Estimate: I base this age estimate on the appearance of both the Chinese dragon and the domesticated horse with a bitless bridle on this piece. Since the big wave of horse domestication occurred in Northeast Asia about 7,000 year ago, and the bit appeared there about 5,600 years ago, this piece must date from the approximately 1,400 year period in between.

Because there is no evidence that ceramic stoneware was ever produced anywhere in the New World by Native Americans, I believe this blade was made in Neolithic Asia and carried into the New World by Paleo-Indian immigrants.

Provenance: Collected at Temixwten by the property owner. Museum of the Salish Collection.


Aztec serpent with ancestor in mouth from the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Same Motif: this pre-Columbian Aztec sculpture from the Philadelphia Museum of Art shows the same “ancestor in mouth” motif seen on Temixwten artifact 45-WH-5-1182.

Temixwten artifact 45-WH-5-1182 side 2

White Dragon On Nose: Side 2 of this still perfect ceremonial blade from the late Neolithic presents another dazzling array scenes and faces. In one sense, it is a beautifully rendered salmon stream with a fish leaping out of the white water in the middle left. In another sense, it is a double headed serpent, with a pointed dragon head on the left and a blunt snouted dragon on the right. And in another sense, the face on the handle of the blade is the One-Eyed God with a long-necked, long-snouted White Dragon on its nose that is turning its head to look at the viewer (blowup above). And in yet another sense, the One-Eyed God is the domesticated horse in an archaic Chinese macrame bridle with a nose band instead of a bit.


© Copyright 2011 - 2015 by Bruce Brown and The Museum of the Salish.

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