Temixwten Artifact: 45-WH-5-1632
Description: The ancient Salish enjoyed puzzles and pieces that included multiple faces that the viewer can discover.
Faces within faces, faces that turn into other faces depending on how you turn the piece -- this trait is seen in everything from the largest Salish stone statuary like Temixwten's famous T'xwelátse (the larest known Salish stone statue) down to small, thumbnail-sized charms like 45-WH-5-1632.
Here the primary image is a savage looking, green-eyed serpent with open mouth at left. There is also a smaller face nested inside that looks like a mountain lion.
This green-eyed Serpent is also the One-Eyed God, with a long White Dragon making the nose, while another White Dragon makes the mouth. A third White Dragon at the top is blowing a cloud of smoke that is the celadon green circle that makes the eye on the One-Eyed God.
The visual centerpiece to this view, though, is actually front and center. The lower jaw of the larger One-Eyed God is also the head of a FOURTH White Dragon that is made of translucent glass, which has been incised to add details like the dragon's eye.
Then if you turn the piece clockwise 45 degrees, the bridled serpent with the green eye becomes a bridled horse with a green eye, and the transluscent glass dragon's head becomes... the horse's bit!
In fact (as the closeup at right shows), the bit is actually where the heads of two little White Dragons (numbers five and six) meet. This is a significant detail because it announces the arrival of -- and simultaeously signals the perceived importance of -- the horse bit, which was a huge deal in the Neolithic world because it completed the human rider's control of the domesticated horse.
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ALMOST AS significant as the horse bit shown in 45-WH-5-1632 is the new ceramic technology used to portray the bit.
The bit at the corner of the horse's mouth is shown as where the nose of the of White Dragon that forms the horse's nose piece touches the nose of a small, tranluscent glass dragon.
Celadon appears to have been used to create the ghostly green eye. A white Kaolin clay slip appears to have been used as an overglaze to create the horse's white mane, which is also a coiled white snake breathing the green eye of the One-Eyed God.
The white snake is on top of the head of another serpent, and both of them are on top of the horse's head -- a stacking motif of three with the white snake on top that is also seen in 45-WH-5-1050.
The craftsmanship of the manmade jade here is outstanding, but there are several clues that 45-WH-5-1632 is not natural jade or nephrite.
The first is the Kaolin clay slip which visibly overglazes the celadon green circle, like whispy clouds scudding across a ghostly moon. This opaque white is also used to provide highlights to the white snake and white dragon on the horse's face.
The second is the presence of glass as a part of the piece. Glass does not naturally occur embeded in jade or nephrite, but it can in ceramics.
The third is the deep, parallel abrasion lines on the face of the fierce cat. Jade and nephrite are very hard. When you cut, grind or polish nephrite, you don't get deep gouges that you polish out later. This suggests these marks were made when the ceramic jade clay was still leather hard.
The fourth is sharpness of the cutting edges, which are still sharper to the touch than is possible with jade or nephrite.
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45-WH-5-1632 is both a charm and a handy pocket blade that could be carried almost anywhere. This configuration is also seen in 45-WH-5-1415 and 45-WH-5-1629 in The God That Man Forgot exhibit.
In this case, the pocket blade is actually a multi-blade, delivering four cutting edges in one quite compact packages. The edges are still sharp.
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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.
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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.
Furthermore, I believe the white Kaolin slip on 45-WH-5-1641, 45-WH-5-1691, 45-WH-5-1629 and 45-WH-5-1632 is the oldest known use of Kaolin in Chinese ceramics.
Technology: ceramic jade stoneware cut and sculpted when leather hard, then fired atleast twice, once to apply the opaque white Kaolin clay slip overglaze.
Approximate Age: 5,500 years ago
Basis for Age Estimate: I date this piece based on the appearance of the domesticated horse bridled with a bit, as well as the extremely high artistic and ceramic quality evident here.
Since the horse was apparently domesticated in Northest Asia around 6,000 years ago, I estimate this piece was made sometime not too long afterwards.
Provenance: Collected at Temixwten by the property owner. Museum of the Salish Collection.