Rediscovering Lost Heritage

Jacob Coffey and Scott Delaney
Boyden Cases
March 18 - September 30, 2019

Since fall 2018, we have been researching, documenting, and arranging an inventory of Pre-Columbian archaeological artifacts from the Joan Pearson Watkins Revocable Trust, donated to the anthropology department by the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton. These items, as well as a Native American Projectile Point collection donated by Taunton’s Old Colony History Museum and artifacts from Bridgewater State University’s own field school excavations, teach the importance of provenance and context.

For seven months we researched each piece, using collections in museums and other universities, as well as museum transfer auction houses, to determine what each Pre-Columbian artifact was, where it may have come from, and its purpose. In doing so, one piece was found to be a reproduction, several pieces were found to be sacred objects from burial sites, one piece was determined to be a reproduction for the tourism economy, and one piece was determined to be a Neolithic effigy from the Vincan culture of Eastern Europe.

Among the collections are unique pieces created to reflect individual priests, vessels created for spiritual purposes and others used for cooking, projectile points and sharpening stones, and even decorated drinkware. One piece, a tequila drinker from Nayarit, Mexico, became our favorite and made us consider the connections between these ancient artifacts and the things we use in our daily life today. Can you think of any ceremonial drinking vessels you’ve used, not realizing you were acting in a ceremonial way?