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Bow moostatte

Bow moostatte

Place: Nootka
Category: Fishing & hunting

wood, Nootka Sound, northern Pacific, l. 129 cm, w. 4.8 cm (middle), d. 1.8 cm, Inv. Am 619

Humphrey No. 321: ‘a bow, from King George’s Sound, formed of fir wood, narrowest in the middle and ends.’

Almost completely straight bow with broad, flat shoulders, round in cross-section in the middle, and tapered towards the ends. The back is convex in cross-section and leads into a ridge towards the ends, while the slightly concave belly features a longitudinal groove bordered by low ridges. Both ends are notched for the fitting of the (missing) string. The wood is dark with a more marked patina on the inside than on the outside. The bow was described and depicted by Haberland (1979:206, (J-206).

Humphrey identified the wood as being from a fir tree. However, the reports of the Cook voyage and later sources unanimously named yew wood as a first choice. The form and size of the bow largely correspond to the usual Nootka standard. The 1-1.5 m long bows were normally fitted with a string made of seal gut, deer sinews, or bark bast cords. The Nootka held the bow horizontally when shooting, and were able to hit a target accurately at a distance of 30 to 45 metres (Beaglehole 1967, Illa: 320n1; lllb: 1101, 1102, 1410; Ellis 1783, I: 222; Ledyard 1963: 76; cf. Sproat 1987: 69; Drucker 1951: 31). Captain Clerke claimed that the Nootka did not use bows and arrows as weapons in battle (Beaglehole 1967, lllb: 1327). Drucker (1951: 31) refuted this, his informants claiming that the same bows were used both for hunting on land and at sea, as well as being used in battle. The Göttingen piece is similar in length and form not only to an illustration (shown in different versions) by John Webber (Joppien/Smith 1985-88, III/1: 93, PI. 111; II: 453-55), but also to a second Nootka bow collected on the third voyage, now to be found in Florence. The string of this bow is also missing (Kaeppler 1978b: 166, Fig. 249). By contrast, the somewhat shorter Kwakiutl bows collected by Vancouver shortly after have marked lower ends and no groove on the belly (King 1981: 86f., PI. 79; cp. Gunther 1972: 240). In 1868 however, Sproat’s informant referred to the lower ends as also characteristic for the Nootka. Christian F. Feest


Beaglehole, John Cawte, The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery The Voyage of the Resolution and Discovery 1776-1780, Hakluyt Society, Extra Series, 36, 1 u. 2. vol. 3, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1955-1967 IIIa and IIIb.

Drucker, Philip, The Northern and Central Nootka Tribes, Bulletin 144, Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, 1951.

Ellis, William, An Authentic Narrative of a Voyage by Captain Cook and Captain Clerke..., [1782], London, 1783.

Gunther, Erna, Indian Life on the Northwest Coast of North America as seen by the Early Explorers and Fur Traders During the Last Decade of the Eighteenth Century, Chicago and London, 1972.

Haberland, Wolfgang, Donnervogel und Raubwal. Indianische Kunst der Nordwestküste Nordamerikas, Hamburg, 1979.

Joppien, Rudiger and Smith, Bernard, The Art of Captain Cook’s Voyages, 3 vols in 4 parts, New Haven and London, 1985-1988.

Kaeppler, Adrienne L, Cook Voyage Artifacts in Leningrad, Berne and Florence Museums, Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, 1978b.

King, JCH, Artificial Curiosities from the Northwest Coast of North America, London, 1981.

Ledyard, John, John Ledyard’s Journal of Captain Cook’s Last Voyage [1783], JK Munford (trans.), Corvallis, 1963.

Sproat, Gilbert Malcolm, The Nootka. Scenes and Studies of Savage Life (1868), Vancouver, 1987.

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