Artifact(s)!

Because I’m a little bit of a rebel, and because these objects clearly tied together in a lot of ways, I chose two artifacts: Tlingit raven rattles, or Yéil sheish óox (I apologize for not knowing how to pluralize–if anyone knows and would like to correct me, please leave a comment!).

IMG_1492IMG_1494 courtesy of Alaska State Museum – Juneau (top: II-B-66, bottom: gift of the Rasmuson Foundation. 2009-30-1)

There are a lot of clear similarities between these objects–the most striking of which is the human figures on the back of the ravens with their tongues sticking out. On top of that, their tongues are being bitten! I hoped to be able to do some research into the mythology these rattles represented; unfortunately, according to the museum signs, “the original meaning of this composition is not recorded.”

And yet the rattles are so similar, despite the perhaps vast differences in their ages, that it’s clear the more contemporary rattle was inspired by the former. The faded colors on the left rattle, the wear on the paint and to the wood, suggest an age to the artifact which the museum didn’t specify–only that it was from Wrangell, Shtax’héen Kwáan, Tlingit.

Meanwhile the right hand rattle is vibrant and fresh, and reflects the fact that it was made by Archie Cavanaugh Jr. (Tlingit) in 2009. I do find it very interesting that Cavanaugh Jr chose to change the tongue-biting animal from a frog to a bird, though clearly not another raven as the beaks are so dissimilar.

Overall I feel like the rattles really called to me because they reflect each other so well, that the echoes of tradition can still be seen in contemporary artwork. And who doesn’t love a good mysterious tongue-biting!

1 thought on “Artifact(s)!”

  1. Kluonie, those rattles caught my eyes as well. I thought the association between raven and frog was an interesting one. In Tlingit culture Raven is seen as a benevolent transformer figure who helps the people and shapes their world for them. On the other hand, Tlingit people have a high regard for frogs believing that they bring good luck and fortune. Good choice!

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